Blessings in the Valley

In life we will all cross different hills and valleys. Most of us probably much prefer the hills. When we are on top, life is wonderful and things are going well. We have joy and blessings overflowing in our lives.

On the other hand, in the valleys, we might be facing a difficulty that we would rather not face. Instead of joy, we might be suffering in some way. And the pain overshadows the blessings in life.

But if we change our perspective, the valley can also be a beautiful place. In the valley, we have the opportunity to learn, grow, and strengthen our character. Think of Moses who originally felt he was not qualified to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3). But God strengthened him along the way.

In the valley, God might use the obstacle to display His glory and everlasting love. Think about David as he brought down a giant. Goliath was nine feet nine inches tall. Through God’s power, David defeated the giant with a rock and a slingshot (1 Samuel 17).

Also, when we are in a valley, this might be a rich time for strengthening our relationship with Jesus. When we are deep in a pit, this can be the most peaceful time, if we choose to run into the arms of Jesus. Think of Paul and all the trials he faced in his life. Yet while in prison, he wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation.” (Philippians 4:12)

I am not making light of the valleys. I know life can be extremely painful and challenging at times. I am just saying that God is there to help us through it, if we turn to Him. And Romans 8:28 reminds us “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We have to make a decision. Will we continue to allow the suffering to torment us? Will we allow the fear to keep us trapped? Will we allow bitterness to hold us hostage? Will we hide from the world?

Or will we run into the arms of Jesus? Will we allow Him to restore us? Will we hand our problems to Him? And will we cling to Him like never before?

In her book Nothing to Prove, Jennie Allen relays how her sister went through some difficulties. She doesn’t give all the details, but it sounds like she hit rock bottom, lost almost everything, and had to start over. Sounds awful, right? But I am awestruck by Jennie’s sister’s response.

She said, “How blessed am I to lose everything all at once? To know that with nothing else on earth, God is enough? For the rest of my life, I will know I only need Him and that He really is that good.” (Taken from Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen. Copyright © 2017 by Jennie Allen.)

Wow. These words simply amaze me. But she has a solid point. I pray that we don’t have this level of heartache that she did. But I do pray that we all can keep this perspective the next time we face something difficult. We can run into the arms of Jesus and allow Him to be our strength.

I wanted to end with a song. But I couldn’t decide between two. So I will leave you with both. Enjoy!

In the Arms by Terrian

Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells

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Girls, I Owe You an Apology

Through the years as a Christian I’ve taught VBS and Sunday School. I’ve helped at youth group and even facilitated a group for girls. I’ve poured into my daughter and her friends.

Even as an author, my heart is with them. I think of them picking up my books and reading them. I even have a series I’m writing with my daughter with a message to them, and mentors like me, to surrender the lies. Because we’re God’s girls. We’re beautiful. Amazing. And Brilliant.

I’ve shared my high school and college experiences in hopes they would learn from my mistakes. Over and over I’ve told them how precious they are. How beloved by God. And the world will not tell them the truth. The world will have them believe they will be enough with that makeup. Those clothes. This guy. —Julie Arduini

So imagine my surprise when I opened Instagram and saw Jennifer Aniston. A Friends fan, I noted it was her birthday. Her 51st. I looked at the image. A cover of a magazine.

My heart sunk and the lies started.

Next month, I turn 50. And I assure you, people would be able to tell which one is me and which one is her. I fixated on her perfect hair, her youthful features, and her glow.

Then I obsessed over my attributes, or lack of them.

I never know each day if my hair will want to be curly or straight. I do know it’s gray.

When I diffuse my hair, I also have an ice pack to manage the circles under my eyes and help my skin appear youthful.

Last year I remember confessing to applying Aquaphor on my face so I could have a Markle Sparkle, and all I did was break out.

Then my mind went to the recent Super Bowl half-time show where I was so disappointed. It was nothing but an advertisement for things that do anything but respect our gender. Yet the whisper through my mind was, “JLo is 50. You look nothing like her.” And then there’s Mariah Carey. We were born on the same day. And that’s where our things in common end.

I was filled with self-loathing. Even though I’ve lost some weight, it’s no where near the size those women are. I couldn’t find anything positive about myself as I kept staring at that Instagram picture.

Finally I shut my phone off and started working on my Bible reading and study time. The whispers died down and wisdom came to mind. God’s loving reminders.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

I am clothed with strength and dignity. I can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

I am God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10

I am altogether beautiful. There is no flaw in me. Song of Solomon 4:7

How quickly I forgot the truth I’ve spent years praying into other women and girls. I don’t know those celebrities beyond what I see online, but I know they are in tabloids all the time. They have had all their marriages up for fodder, and laughter from the world when they ended. My sense is with their public persona, they probably struggle knowing who is a true friend and who wants to use them for their celebrity. And as beautiful as they are, I forgot the most important thing: those magazines are airbrushed and edited.

In other words, not real.

I hope those ladies, and all women in that industry, know or soon come to know what I forgot. That they are God’s creation. So precious to Him. And comparing themselves is such a game from the pit of hell. How they can only be fulfilled in a relationship with Christ.

I pray the women and girls I pray with and encourage never struggle with the lies from the true defeated one. God has such an amazing plan for all of them. For all of us.

Even when we’re about to turn 50.

***

Here are a couple resources I use that encourage me in God’s promises:

Free Resources from The Passion Translation

Loop for Women

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Wait for it…

They say prayer has three answers: yes, no and wait.  This weekend, I got to see one of those long “wait for it” prayers answered.  I did not have a successful marriage and I have prayed and worried about my children in their relationships for years.  What a blessing it has been to me to see them in relationships and work things out when life gets tough.

My second son got married in December (he’s a Marine and had to do it on government time after deployment) and the reception was this weekend.  Watching my son love and care for his wife — and her entire family — filled me with such a sense of pride.  I felt like, “I get it, God.  It wasn’t my marriage that would be the answer to my prayer, it would be my children’s.”

Alyssa + Jonah Elopement Preview PhotosAnd I’m good with that.  It’s so satisfying to see all they’ve been through already. (Long distance relationship while he was in Okinawa.  Barely any communication while he was on the 8-month ship deployment, making two families blend and merging households.) They both love each other through the good and the bad.  They compromise.  They take care of one another and they have a great time together.)

So my answered prayer for a godly marriage may not have been mine, but I feel like God’s answer was ultimately more satisfying for me.  My kids did not learn dysfunction.  They learned FROM the dysfunction and that is an amazing answer to prayer.  Well done, God.  I did not see that coming.

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Lessons From a Writer's Retreat by Nancy J. Farrier

This past week I attended my first ever writer’s retreat. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but had an idea of what I hoped for. I wanted time to write, to get a decent start on a new book idea running through my head, and to connect with other writer’s. Most of that didn’t happen.

Life interfered, and I didn’t get the planning in that I needed prior to the retreat. Being unprepared threw me off. Plus, I was sick one night and much of the next day after eating something that disagreed with me. I certainly hadn’t planned for that. Who does?

Still, something amazing happened at the retreat. There were over twenty of us, all women, from younger single women, to those married with young children, and some in their later years with grandchildren. But, we all had one thing in common—we were Christian writers, writers interested in sci-fi and fantasy, or as some call the genre-speculative fiction. These were my people.

On the final evening of the retreat we all sat in a large room and each took a turn sharing what the retreat meant to us, or a bit about ourselves and why we were impacted. As I listened and shared, I was astonished. Despite all our varied backgrounds, we all were gifted or called by God to become writers, and almost all of us were struggling with major issues in our lives. 

Those hurtful issues meant a box of tissues was passed from one to the next as we spoke. We stopped to pray for one woman, and I continue to pray for her and her situation and for some of the others who touched me so deeply. During the sharing and time of prayer, I could feel the connection to these women. A connection that amazed me and one I hope to keep. 

After returning home, I couldn’t quit thinking about the struggles and pain we were going through and what that means to us as writers called or gifted by God. I thought of 2 Corinthians  1: 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted.”  (NKJV) 

We are all called to comfort one another, especially when we see someone experiencing a trial we have gone through. But, as writers, we have a special opportunity to reach many with our words. We may not be able to share the exact circumstances of our struggle, but we can share the emotional turmoil we went through: grief, loss, loneliness, anger, abuse, etc. 

My hope, and the hope of many other writers, is that through our words, others might find hope in their situation. We all have that commonality of suffering. 

James 1:2 says, “…count it all joy when. You fail into various trials…” (NKJV)

It is easier for me to “count it all joy” when I consider the possibility of helping someone else. When I can write about my difficulty and have a reader connect because they’ve faced that same problem. 

I am so thankful for the retreat, and the plan God had for me there. I didn’t get that great start on my book, but I did receive encouragement, enlightenment, and new friends that understand my weird way of thinking. I love them all and am so thankful.

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NORA’S REVIEW OF The Love Letter

Nora St Laurent, Book Reviews, Christians Read

 

 

Book review, love letter, rachel hauck

The Love Letter

By Rachel Hauck

Published by: Thomas Nelson

ISBN#987-0310351009

352 Pages

Clean Wholesome Romance, Hamilton, Chloe, Jesse, Revolutionary, Hollywood, Time Slip, Historical, Contemporary

 

 

NORA’S REVIEW: Outstanding! Rachel Hauck’s best novel so far. This time-slip story has it all from hero’s past and present, getting a behind the scene tour of a movie set and a peek at the creative process of making a film. Then there’s the battles that took place in South Carolina that will rip at your heart. There are characters you can cheer for, cry with and feel not only their agony but their triumphs as well!

 

It was an engaging read in both time lines right from the start with actress Chole trying to break out of being the “Queen of death scenes.” Would Hollywood ever see her as something more? She wants to break their type casting; when Chole reads a script, she seeks to audition for. The movie is Bound by Love written by a new scriptwriter. She wanted the part of Esther Kingsley, a woman facing tough times during the Revolutionary War. She’s torn between being loyal to her father and/or following her heart and be with the man she loves, Hamilton Lightfoot. They learn that, “Bravery is fighting in the midst of your fear, not in absence of it.”

 

All the leading characters Chloe, Jesse, Esther and Hamilton face some hard truths about their life’s choices, faith, and forgiveness not only for the people they’ve hurt and/or hurt them but for themselves as well. It was refreshing to see that none of these characters were running off to get involved physically and then wonder about all the ramifications of their relationship later. Chloe had done that. Everything she rushed into died like the many roles she played.

 

I liked both leading lady’s loyalty and their search for true love. Chole and Esther ask themselves the question, what is real love.? What does it look like? Would their soul mate ever be found? Did it really exist?

 

I liked what Chole says this about marriage, “Marriage is the one place where no one can go but you and your spouse. One man. One woman. In a union that has baffled humanity since the beginning of time. It’s a treasure, something to be guarded with every part of your being…joined by God.”

 

I liked that they were flawed characters testing the waters of faith, church and their struggle with trusting God and His best plan for their lives. So far as they could see things weren’t adding up to be so great. It was down right horrific in some of the things they experienced. Many discovered that forgiving others was easier then forgiving themselves

 

I relished hanging out with these characters past and present. I enjoyed all the twists, turns, and surprises I experienced with them on their journey. Don’t rush through this, you’ll want to savor every word. This makes for a great book club pick. The author includes ten discussion questions to help make your book club experience lively! I highly recommend this novel for a great read and for your next book club pick. This is a keeper to be enjoyed over and over again!

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

 

Nora St. Laurent

TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! www.bookfun.org

The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

 


A NOTE from all the authors at Christians Read:

We wish you a joyful, safe and blessed Valentine’s Day!

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Perfect Love by Bridget A. Thomas

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Many people around the globe will celebrate by giving their loved ones sweets, flowers, or cards. Depending on what country you are from, it might be a day strictly for lovers, or it might also be a day for friends as well. (Here is an interesting article that explains different Valentine’s Day traditions around the world.) For the most part, this can be a day filled with fun. But there are people who dread Valentine’s Day as well. If someone does not have a significant other, it can be hard to see the world celebrate this day of romance. And even if someone does have a significant other, there is no guarantee that this day will be a special one. Unfortunately, we often look to other people to fulfill us, love us, and make us happy. But another person can never do all of these things perfectly all the time. No matter how you view Valentine’s Day, I have good news. If Jesus is your Savior, then you can look to Him for a perfect example of love. Not only on Valentine’s Day, but every day.

No matter what tomorrow holds for you, here are some things you can count on:

  • God loves you so much that He sent His only Son to die for you. (John 3:16)
  • God is love. (1 John 4:8)
  • He calls you His child. (1 John 3:1)
  • You are a joint-heir with Jesus. (Romans 8:17)
  • Nothing can separate you from God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39)
  • His perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
  • He loves you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • God hears you. (Micah 7:7)
  • God is merciful and gracious. (Psalm 86:15)
  • He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:17)
  • His steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:26)
  • God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • He has great love for you. (Ephesians 2:4)
  • You used to be far away, but Jesus pulled you near. (Ephesians 2:13)
  • You are a member of God’s household. (Ephesians 2:19)
  • He chose you. (John 15:16)
  • You are God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
  • God’s thoughts about you cannot be numbered. (Psalm 139:17)
  • God sees your heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
  • He laid down His life for you. (John 10:11)
  • He left the ninety-nine sheep to go after you. (Matthew 18:12-14)
  • God knows you by name. (Exodus 33:17)
  • He rejoices over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

I hope these reminders help brighten your Valentine’s Day. Remember that when you feel lonely, you always have a Friend who you can turn to. He is always there and He loves you with a perfect love.

art beach beautiful clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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How We Did It by James R. Coggins

A little while ago, my wife and I quietly celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. Many friends our age and many people at our church just accepted this milestone as a normal part of married life. The week we were celebrating our 37th anniversary, the man sitting next to me in church was celebrating his 73rd anniversary.

Some people we have met elsewhere have found this news remarkable. They look at us as if we had just climbed Mount Everest barefoot or found a cure for cancer, demanding, “How did you do it?!”

Frankly, it wasn’t that hard. Some of those 41 years have even been enjoyable. In fact, from our point of view, our 41 years of marriage feel more like a blessing than an achievement. But, for those who may still be wondering, here are some of my thoughts on what makes a successful marriage.

1. Gratitude

Here is what I have discovered. Men, if a woman has agreed to marry you, committed to live with you for the rest of your life, and granted you the extraordinary privilege of being intimate with her, you ought to be overwhelmed with gratitude. You should wake up every morning in utter amazement at your good fortune—unless you think that you are such a wonderful person that lightning is likely to strike twice. Don’t count on it. I know many wonderful, loving, intelligent people who have never been fortunate enough to find one spouse. What makes you so special? If you have been lucky enough to have acquired a wife, you should value her and treasure her as the remarkably precious gift she is. She may well be irreplaceable. And women, you should feel the same level of gratitude if you have been fortunate enough to have found a good man willing to marry you. 

2. Giving and Serving

When my wife and I went to school, we were taught about virtues such as serving others and being useful to others. Nowadays, school children are taught to follow their dreams, with the promise that they can achieve anything they want. Accordingly, many people now enter marriage with a long list of the things they expect to receive from marriage. That is not love. That is selfishness. Many in the Me Generation are not equipped to think in terms of the other or even in terms of “us.” Any marriage in which the two partners are focused on what they will receive is doomed to failure. If they have real love, spouses enter marriage focused on what they can do for each other. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your spouse can do for you. Ask what you can do for your spouse.” I remember once being at an informal party with my wife. She finished eating first, went to get a coffee, and asked if I wanted one too. Some others watching were appalled that she would lower herself to serve a man. The thing is that if I had finished first, I would have offered to get her a coffee and not thought twice about it. Two people in a constant battle for supremacy will never make a successful marriage. On the other hand, two people trying their best to serve each other will receive far more than the two of them can ever give.

3. Realistic Expectations

The media do not help us here. Many movies, popular songs, and romance novels teach women to expect a husband who is “tall, dark, and handsome” when the reality is that many men are short, bald, and ordinary. Besides looks, women expect a man who is sensitive, cultured, romantic, compassionate, generous, and rich. Men expect to marry a beauty queen who cooks like their mother, keeps the house spotless, and does most of the work of raising the children while holding down a well-paying job. Even more than that, many spouses expect their mate to meet all of their needs, provide their purpose for living, and fulfill all of their dreams. Popular songs say things such as, “You are my reason for living…You mean everything to me…You are my everything…You are all I need…” Such statements are not compliments or expressions of love. They are demands for perfection. That is a role no human being can possibly fill. Human beings are not God. Even on the human level, marriage is a wonderful relationship, but it is not the only human relationship, and a spouse cannot be expected to be all things. If your husband won’t go with you to chick flicks or if your wife won’t go with you to football games, then it does not matter. These things can be shared with friends with similar tastes. Many marriages fall apart under the burden of unrealistic expectations.

4. Tolerance

After a couple get married, they soon begin to discover that there are flaws and weaknesses in the other person that they had never expected. My wife certainly did. Maybe couples should have anticipated these things, but often they have not. Now, each spouse should act considerately, try to give the other person what he or she needs, adapt, and even compromise. There is no excuse for inconsiderate behavior or lack of effort in a marriage. But there is a limit to how much a person can change. It might be that a spouse is simply not capable of being neat, thinking up beautifully romantic gestures, being comfortable in a crowd, or any number of other things. It is impossible to turn a slob into a neat freak or a recluse into a social butterfly. The little irritants that wreck many marriages include annoying habits, disagreements over housekeeping, and different tastes and styles. When one spouse discovers a flaw in the other, he or she will have to make a decision. He or she can end the marriage, spend the next few decades trying to change the other person and arguing about it—or simply accept reality and learn to live with it. There are certain things that should not be tolerated, including unfaithfulness, abuse, addiction, and criminal behavior. But most marriages do not break up over serious issues but over an accumulation of little irritants. A successful marriage requires keeping in mind the big picture and being tolerant of small failures and annoying habits.

5. Teamwork

It is also helpful for spouses to compensate for each other’s weaknesses. A friend of mine said marriage is not a 50-50 proposition but a 100 percent proposition. For a marriage to be whole, there must be a 100 percent effort. If, in one area, one spouse, when doing his or her best, is only capable of providing 10 percent, the other spouse must try to provide the other 90 percent. Doing only “my share” is simply not good enough. A marriage is a team, not a contract between two perfect people.

6. Faithfulness

Nowadays, when people are sexually promiscuous before marriage and unfaithful during marriage, sexual purity seems like a quaint concept. But a couple who have only ever had sex with each other have a unique and powerful bond. There is a level of trust and intimacy, unburdened by baggage from previous relationships.

7. Help

My wife and I got married in our church, surrounded by relatives and friends. Due to distance, many were not able to attend, so shortly afterward we made a trip to have further celebrations with more family members and friends. Many modern couples get married in Las Vegas or on a tropical beach with at most a handful of people they know present and sometimes none at all. The difference is symbolic and significant. Many couples nowadays think that all they need is each other. That attitude speaks of arrogance and overconfidence. If it takes a village to raise a child, a village can also help with a marriage. My wife and I have received much helpful advice and good modeling from parents and grandparents and other older, more experienced couples. Even other couples the same age have provided support, a listening ear, and helpful suggestions. At times, we have found pastors and professional counselors to be helpful, not necessarily to provide help with the marriage relationship itself but with other issues we encountered. We have also benefited from marriage courses and various other types of teaching on marriage and family life offered by churches.

8. God

My wife and I are committed Christians. If God is love and the source of love, then it makes sense to seek His help. Marriage has been much easier because we have tried to live our lives God’s way, prayed for His blessing, and been guided and helped by God’s Holy Spirit.

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Ladies Only, Please (by Hannah Alexander)

I never thought I’d be posting this message at this stage in my life. I mean, many of us are no longer in our teens or twenties. Some of us are much older, and would never dream that we might become a stumbling block for men. We’re past that, right? Well, my husband doesn’t think I am, but that’s different.

My friend Deb, in the middle in the picture above, is a genius with style. She always wears something she has designed when we have our class reunions. One thing she does is dress conservatively. Of course, at our age, we all do. Pretty much. But from time to time, especially in winter when I wear my snow boots–which is all SEVEN months of winter–I like to wear leggings with those boots so they don’t wrinkle and bind. This means they are quite form fitting. I will wear a long sweater or shirt over it that covers pretty much everything. Pretty much. And besides, I’m old now. What man besides my husband would consider me seductive?

However, I was dressed this way the other day when I was out and about, and realized too late that the top I wore did not cover every inch it need to cover. And I noticed this in the eyes of a boy who appeared to be coming of age. I was astounded and very sorry.

My mother tried to tell me when I was a teenager that boys reacted to visual stimuli more than girls. She should know, since she had eight brothers. But it was difficult for me to understand since I wasn’t wired that way, and so like a typical teen, I tuned her out.

Now I remember my mother’s words, and those of my wise stepson who long ago warned me that most teenaged boys had very little control of their imaginations. He was a teen at the time, and so he did know what he was talking about.

I had thought that there would come a time when, due to age, I could dress however I wanted and not worry about becoming a stumbling block to men. I don’t worry about grown men now, but I would like to protect those younger ones who haven’t learned control over their observations. They are still children trying to figure out the world. If I were the mother or grandmother of one of those young ones, I would appreciate it if other women would respect their struggle and help keep their minds pure.

 

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Christians Read: Reader Appreciation Contest by Vicki Hinze

Reader Appreciation ContestAt Christians Read, our authors work hard to make sure you get quality content to read in our articles. And we appreciate your reading our work very much every day.

To celebrate that appreciation, we’re sponsoring a Reader Appreciation Contest.  Here are the details:

  1.  Enter to win a $20 Gift Card.
  2. Click on Rafflecopter below and enter your email address.

Be sure to use your email so you can be notified if the winner!

Winner notified by email on 2/28/20.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blessings and gratitude!

Christians Read Authors

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Replace Stress With Peace by Bridget A. Thomas

Stress is a reality of life. We all will encounter stress from time to time. Unfortunately we often allow stress to get the best of us. But we don’t have to. We can replace stress with peace by using five specific Bible verses which will remind us that God is by our side. And the first letter of each of the Bible verses spell out PEACE, making them easy to remember!

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

Jesus gave us a gift of peace. But this is something we quickly and easily forget when we are faced with trouble. The mountains in front of us will seem so immense, that they overshadow our peace. Remembering that Jesus gave us this gift, and choosing to accept it when we are facing obstacles, will help us have peace in the midst of stress.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4

No matter what we are facing, we can remember that the Lord is our Shepherd. This means He is there for us at all times, He guides us down the right path, He protects us from danger, and He makes sure we have everything we need.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

We will all face difficulties when we are on this earth. But we don’t have to handle them on our own. We can hand them over to God. When we allow God to handle our worries for us, we can have a peace that transcends all understanding. This makes me picture a person standing in the midst of chaos. Yet while there is pandemonium all around them, they have peace, as they stay anchored to God. How amazing!

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

This is a reminder that we can cast all, not some, all of our anxieties on Jesus. And what a beautiful promise that He cares for us. I love thinking about the fact the King of kings cares for us. This shows how loving He is. And this means that He will want to help us in stressful times.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:30-31

When we place our hope in the Lord, we can face anything. Our troubles might tire us. But God will renew our strength. He will hold us up and help us overcome. But we have to remember to face life in His strength, not our own strength.

I hope these five Bible verses help you to replace stress with peace. God is a faithful and loving Father. He is always there. We can turn to Him and seek His help with whatever we are facing. No matter what lies on the road ahead, remember that God is with you.

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Recalibrating by Julie Arduini

Recently I listened to a live worship experience where the drummer was on one page and the rest of the band was on another. When I explained it to my son, a drummer, I said it was like the one was playing Billy Joel’s “Pressure” and the rest were playing a praise song.

And I felt a little nudge from God.

That image was much like my past few years. I adopted the pace much like the Billy Joel song, pushing through the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. If I stopped, it was more like a pause. Emotions? I stuffed them down and kept moving.

The Lord’s pace wasn’t the same beat. Where I was insisting on living at something akin to walking through a hurricane, He was a gentle breeze, in the meadow, on a beautiful summer day.

Julie Arduini

Meshing the two together was exactly like the song I heard.

The fact is, pain has to go somewhere, and all my stuffing and running might have looked brave, but I fell and fell hard. I spent most of last year in adrenal fatigue and that was a learning experience. Where I once could tackle events and issues back-to-back-to-back, I had to say no to the easiest of tasks and rest.

Today, I feel much better. Although I’m not at the pace I once was, I’m in rhythm with Christ, and that feels like a beautiful symphony. When I have emotions, I’m expressing them through lamentations. Not the book in the Bible as much as the physical act of pouring it all at the feet of Jesus and leaving it there. No more stuffing. No more avoiding. No more running.

I sense I’m not the only one who was in need of a recalibration. The world doesn’t stop to ask if we need help or if we’re okay. @JulieArduini #WednesdayMotivation

There’s always more work, more fires to put out, more, more, more. If you feel red flags popping up because you know you’re out of sync, I pray this post encourages you.

I know my schedule is one where I can move things around with more flexibility than those with a 9-5 job. Beyond the literal rest my body demanded, I went to the doctor for lab work and added supplements to my life. I became disciplined with bedtime and found with my hormones in a better range, I’m actually tired at that time anyway. I practice yoga, and that has helped more than I ever thought. I find myself breathing better when stressed. I also used the rest to really dive into His word and different studies.

One book that really helped me was Rhythm of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons. Studygateway is offering this study now with limited time free video sessions, and they are a great way to stay in harmony. Although the study started, it’s not too late to join.

From Amazon:

Daily struggles with anxiety and stress make it difficult to receive God’s peace. Rhythms of Renewal will help you trade your anxiety for the vibrant life you were meant to live through four profound rhythms: rest, restore, connect, and create. With encouraging stories and practical steps, Rebekah Lyons will help you begin an intentional, lifelong journey toward sustained emotional, relational, and spiritual health.

Rhythms of Renewalis your guide to daily rescue and a way forward into the peace your soul longs for. 

As a society, we are in the throes of a collective panic attack. Anxiety and loneliness are on the rise, with 77% of our population experiencing physical symptoms of stress on a regular basis. We feel pressure chasing careers, security, and keeping up. We worry about health, politics, and many other complexities we can’t control. Eventually we find our minds spinning, trying to cope or manage a low hum of anxiety, unlike ever before. 

But it doesn’t have to stay this way. 

Rebekah draws from her own battle with depression and anxiety and shares a pathway to establish four life-giving rhythms that quiet inner chaos and make room for a flourishing life. By taking time to rest, restore, connect, and create, you will discover how to: 

  • Take charge of your emotional health and inspire your loved ones to do the same
  • Overcome anxiety by establishing daily habits that keep you mentally and physically strong
  • Find joy through restored relationships in your family and community
  • Walk in confidence with the unique gifts you have to offer the world

If you feel like you’re living at the pace of Pressure, and the Lord’s calling you to slow and heal, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Stay healthy!

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A Day Off by Tara Randel

Right now I’m in-between books. During a break like this, I enjoy a day off to regroup and be inspired by the world around me before diving into a new project. Last week, my daughter and I went to Epcot’s Festival of the Arts. It was wonderful day to be outside, crowd-watching and eating some of the culinary delights. And walking. Lots of walking. Which was needed after a dessert like this.

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Mostly, I love getting away from the every-day routine for a few hours. Having a annual pass to the Disney parks is a splurge my daughter and I invest in every year. It’s an outing we look forward to together. There are so many creative and inventive things to see in the parks, so it appeals to the writer in me. Everyone has their favorite place to get inspiration. Besides the parks, it is the mountains or camping for me. It’s important to have a free day here and there to spend time with loved ones and just catch your breath from the busyness of life.

So imagine my surprise when a sky writer left this message in the blue space above the park.

 

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When we first saw love being spelled out, I figured it would have something to do with an attraction or advertisement. But when God came next, my daughter and I were shocked. And pleased. Lots of people were taking pictures and commenting on the message. Imagine, God being a part of a day at the park! I was thrilled that someone wanted to make a statement above a very secular industry and people gazing up at the sky were touched by the words.

Our time spent getting away turned out to be a very special day indeed. Don’t you love it when God shows up!

New Book Release

I’m so excited to announce that my February book, Always The One, is available today!

9781335889577

 

She’s the love of his life…

…but is he still hers?

FBI agent Derrick Matthews has finally found his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life—but she isn’t exactly happy about it! Years ago, Hannah Rawlings disappeared overnight when her family went on the run, and she blames Derrick. She tells him she’s moved on and he should, too, but Derrick fears Hannah’s still in danger. He vows to protect her—even if that means betraying her trust…again.

Amazon

Harlequin

B & N

Nook

iTunes

Kobo

 

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her Harlequin Heartwarming romance, ALWAYS THE ONE.  For more information about her books, visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

 

 

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ROMANTIC MOMENTS by Yvonne Lehman

ROMANTIC MOMENTS

… consists of 57 stories, written by 43 authors, of those special feelings, romantic relationships and true love.

The literary genre, Romance (which about 30 of my 59 novels are labeled), is often referred to as being Happily-Ever-After and some scorn the idea, implying that the stories are unrealistic. However, these novels do not claim lifelong happiness any more than we can assure anyone that theirs will be a lasting marriage.

True, there’s a fairy tale world in which a mythical Knight in Shining Armor rescues the Damsel in Distress, they marry, and he supports her while she raises the children. (Frankly, that sounds ideal to me!)

And that describes one of the main aspects of my 40+ years of marriage. In a sense, my husband rescued me from the unattached life into an attached life, which I preferred. Being 17 years older than I was is perhaps what made him my ideal knight in shining armor. He was my friend, mentor, lover, provider, counselor, and teacher.

Seem rather unequal? Not at all. He recognized potential gifts and talents within me and supported my attempts at reaching my life’s goals. He was a good, moral, intelligent man with a strong belief in God Jehovah, but was not a Christian. As we journeyed in our life together, attended church, and discussed faith, he eventually realized his need for a personal relationship with Christ and gave Jesus his heart. Our good marriage resulted in the blessing of four wonderful children.

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This is me, when in Paris, with my current Knight in Shining Armor!

Regardless of how romantic or in love a couple may be, in fiction or in real life, they encounter difficulties that may weaken or strengthen their relationship or marriage. A romance novel ends with a commitment of love, and sometimes a wedding, which is among one’s happiest days with a hope and intent of maintaining marriage vows. In Romantic Moments, some authors tell of personal experiences, others talk about their novels and the romance/relationships included.

One might expect a book about romance would be written primarily by women. However, many men contributed to this book. They have intriguing outlooks about romance, love, and marriage. These stories vary, from humorous to serious, sad to happy, hope to disappointment, idealism to realism, and the myriad of emotions one experiences, human and divine.

This is the 15th book in the Moments Series, written by hundreds of men, women, and children who have a story to tell, a poem to share, a thought to ponder. Some are written by experienced authors. Others have never been published, but have a story to tell. And none get any monetary payment since all royalties go to Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.

You’re invited to share your story. We’re now accepting for Christmas 2020 Moments (Santa, Jesus, experiences), Grandma’s Cookie Jar Moments (warm, cozy articles), Can, Sir! Moments (anything about cancer), Broken Moments (serious or humorous), and Lost Moments (serious or humorous).

These stories sometimes change lives…forever. Others bring a thought to ponder. Some present a lesson learned. Many are experiences to share. While others give us a moment of entertainment, bring laughter or a smile.

I’d love to hear from you. Contact me for details or send your story attached to an email: yvonnelehman3@gmail.com.

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Surrender by Bridget A. Thomas

Something I feel the Lord has been laying on my heart lately is the word “Surrender.” Full surrender to Him. As Christians we might think we have given God full control of our lives. But often this is not the case. Surrender and obedience go hand in hand. When we fully surrender to God, we will be obedient to Him, no matter what He asks of us. And this works the opposite way as well. We will not do things that the Lord doesn’t want us to do. As Christians, it is vital to follow the will of God, no matter what. But many of us make big decisions without seeking God’s will first. Or we might have certain things in our lives or heart that we just don’t want to let go of.

Throughout the pages of the Bible we see so many stories that illustrate how important full surrender and obedience to God is.

Sometimes fully surrendering to God can be difficult. In Genesis 22, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, the son he had waited a hundred years for. Any of us would have been devastated. And I imagine there are not many of us who would have obeyed. Abraham did obey, though. But of course this was just a test. God stopped Abraham from following through. We too can fully surrender to God even when it is difficult. When we learn to trust Him, we will see that He always has our best interest in mind.

There will be times when fully surrendering to God might not make sense. We might even be asked not to do something that appears to be a good thing. In 2 Samuel 7, David wanted to build a temple for the Lord. This was a great and honorable wish. But God said no because David’s son Solomon would be the one to build the temple. We too have to seek God’s will with big decisions. Even if it seems like a good thing, it might not be God’s will for our lives.

When we don’t surrender to God, we will suffer the consequences. But on the other hand, when we do surrender to God, we will reap the rewards. In Numbers 13-14, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, they reached the Promised Land. It was God’s will that they would inhabit this area. They sent twelve spies in to check out the land and to assess the people who were living there. When they returned to the camp, ten out of twelve men came back with a sense of fear. They felt that the people who lived there were too strong and powerful for the Israelites to defeat. Yet there were two men, Joshua and Caleb, who had faith that they could take possession of the land. Unfortunately, the ten men spread fear among the rest of the Israelites. Now the whole camp believed the lie that they could not defeat the people living there. In the end, the only two adults out of all the Israelites that entered the Promised Land were Joshua and Caleb.

Just like these men, we have a choice every day. Will we fight the will of God and suffer the consequences? Or will we fully surrender to God and reap the rewards? I hope we can choose the latter.

By the way, if you want to learn more about fully surrendering to God, here is a great sermon by Dr. Charles Stanley. Enjoy!

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A Darkness More Than Night by James R. Coggins

“You don’t go into the darkness without the darkness going into you,” Michael Connelly says in his novel, A Darkness More Than Night. It is one of the very interesting and highly successful murder mysteries Connelly has written. In this book and several other books, Connelly’s characters also talk about “lost light,” an unexpected and unexplained light that allows them to see and find their way in the dark.

The darkness that Connelly is writing about is more moral than physical. He is writing about evil.

Connelly certainly shows no evidence of Christian faith in his books (although he apparently went to a Catholic high school), but in A Darkness More Than Night his characters talk about looking for “the hand of God” and the possibility of divine retribution coming to evildoers even if they escape human justice. The hero of many of his books is Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch, named after an enigmatic 16th-century Christian artist who often depicted the judgment of God on sinful humanity.

Other semi-religious images also occur in Connelly’s books. For instance, in City of Bones, Bosch is disturbed by seeing a pile of bones, all that is left of an abused boy. Connelly writes, “He bent down and used his hands to cup cold water against his face and eyes. He thought about baptisms and second chances. Of renewal. He raised his face until he was looking at himself again. I’m going to get this guy.”

Bosch also talks about “blue religion” (the moral code and sense of purpose of police officers). He has a sense that he has been “called” to his profession, that his purpose in life is to catch murderers, although who it is who has done the calling is never made clear.

In City of Bones, a medical examiner named Golliher tries to convince Bosch that it is necessary to believe in God and that the badly abused and murdered boy is now in “a better place than this.” Golliher continues, “This is why you must believe…If this boy did not go from this world to a higher plane, to something better, then…then I think we’re all lost.”

Golliher later says that he has come to believe that there is an invisible framework to life that “holds us together.” He says, “When I meet someone who carries a void in the place where I carry my faith, I get scared for him.” I doubt if any Christian could have said it better.

Bosch does not become a believer in God. But he does say, “You’re wrong about me. I have faith and I have a mission. Call it blue religion, call it whatever you like. It’s the belief that…those bones came out of the ground for a reason. That they came out of the ground for me to find, and for me to do something about. And that’s what holds me together and keeps me going.”

At the end of City of Bones, Bosch resigns from the police force, fearing that he will be “lost without his job and his badge and his mission.”

However, in the next book, Lost Light, Bosch realizes, “My mission remained intact. My job in this world, badge or no badge, was to stand for the dead.” And Bosch eventually returns to the police force.

One of the reasons that I write and read murder mysteries is that they are one form of writing that takes the existence of evil and the reality of right and wrong seriously. As Agatha Christie’s hero, Hercule Poirot, used to say, “Murder is wrong.” In our age of moral confusion, that is refreshing. It is itself perhaps “lost light.”

Michael Connelly does not profess faith in God any more than Bosch does. But, like Bosch, he has a sense of having a mission and a calling, in his case to writing. The writing process, he said in an interview, “comes out of the mystical element…In many ways I’m not really sure how it happens, how that mystical element of creating works. It’s sacred and, therefore, I work at it and safeguard it.”

Incidentally, A Darkness More Than Night was published in 2001, City of Bones in 2002, and Lost Light in 2003, but I only read them recently. Most books written today make almost all of their sales in the first six months. After a couple of years, you can’t even find them in bookstores.  But they continue to hang on in libraries and used bookstores. It is a reminder that while fads quickly come and go, good books—especially those that deal with eternal and cosmic themes—are timeless. They are worth reading even if they are old.

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