Fun Christmas Giveaway (by Hannah Alexander)

Twelve novelists–including me–have decided to gang up–no, wait, that’s not the word–we have decided to come together in a spirit of fun and offer some blessed person a gift card for Amazon. I will be speaking live on Facebook today at 12:00 Mountain time (2:00 Eastern, etc…) at https://www.facebook.com/author.HannahAlexander/

Each of us will also be giving away a book to whomever makes a kind comment on the page either during or after the live facetime.

Come join us and have some fun. Our other authors are Cara Putman, Beth Vogt, Robin Lee Hatcher, Colleen Coble, Denise Hunter, Julie Lessman, Deborah Raney, Rachel Hauck, Katherine Reay, and Tamera Alexander. I’m number eleven in the line-up, and Julie Lessman is number twelve, but you can go back and view us all, find the clues we hold, and enter to win!

If nothing else, you’ll have a better idea about what we are like with our hair down, because we’re having a lot of fun with this and we love our readers.

Deadline for the contest is Dec. 13. You’ll be most welcome.

 

 

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Christmas 2018 by Tara Randel

Christmas(1)           I  wanted to take this time to wish all the wonderful readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas. It’s a beautiful time of the year to wish others well, spend quality time with family and friends and maybe surprise a special someone with a gift under the tree.

This year will be quiet for my family, but we’ll all gather on Christmas day to visit, share a meal and open presents. I hope you have a lovely day with your loved ones and are able to share with those less fortunate. After all, that’s the spirit of the season.

I’ve included an excerpt from my newest release, Our Christmas Promise. I hope you enjoy reading it. There’s nothing better than taking a few minutes out of the holiday rush to sit down with a book and escape into another world.

Merry Christmas!

Excerpt:

He picked Melissa up at the store at two-thirty to head up the mountain. Despite the heavy snow the night before, the roads had been cleared and a crowd had braved the frigid temperatures to mill around, waiting for the festivities to begin.

“Quite a turnout,” Melissa said, her smile as bright as the sun.

“My dad always draws a crowd.”

Her brow wrinkled. “Don’t do that. You deserve some recognition too. That maze didn’t paint itself.”

“Hope Dad doesn’t insist on going inside since I changed a few things from his original plan.”

Melissa hooked her hand through his arm as they trooped through the fresh snow. “You only made it better, Justin.”

“Says the woman who believes in everything I do.”

“Guilty.”

Her words made his chest squeeze tight.

Kids ran around, throwing snowballs and enjoying the cold weather with an innocence and joy only children possessed. As Justin and Melissa walked up to his parents, Ash Kincaid stepped forward to face the group.

“It’s long been a goal of mine to have a dedicated children’s area here at the resort. I’d like to thank James Caswell for his designs and the construction team who pulled it together.” He spread his arms out wide. “Welcome to the Blue Spruce Resort Christmas Zone.”

He’d barely stepped aside when about twenty kids, ranging in what Justin figured had to be ages five to thirteen, stampeded toward the golf course. Parents of the younger children followed close by, while the older children took their own paths. Feeling like a kid himself, Justin led Melissa toward the maze entrance, sidestepping children as they went.

Snow had gathered along the edges, but in no way impeded the children from making their way through the maze. Justin made sure the lights he’d previously set up were plugged in. Ohhs and ahhs from the first brave souls to enter the maze told him he’d been right about adding the blinking lights along the path.

“Care to join me?” he asked as Melissa stood beside him.

“Will we fit?”

“May have to bend down in some sections, but it’ll be fun.”

“You’re on.”

Taking her hand, they lowered their heads and went inside. The maze was a combination of the outdoors as they moved among the trimmed bushes, then to small covered areas of plywood. His North Pole drawings of a laughing Santa, busy elves lugging presents and the reindeer hooked up to the sled, were captured in the twinkling lights, adding a magical quality.

“Justin, this is beautiful,” Melissa said as they made their way along the twists and turns.

“I’ll be honest. When I started drawing, I didn’t think I’d get sucked up in the spirit. Guess you were right all these years when you tried to convince me Christmas Town holds a certain magic.”

She stopped. Made a show of cupping her ear. “What? Did I hear you say I was right?”

His breath caught in his chest as he viewed her smiling face. “You did.” He tugged her closer, as much as the narrow path would allow, and they continued through the maze. At one point when they reached a fork in the path, he stopped to ask, “Which way?”

Her face grew serious when she whispered, “You lead and you know I’ll follow.”

The gleam in her eyes told him that maybe the friends-only thing was off the table. He leaned into her, his eyes on her lips when a muffled cry caught his attention.

“What was that?” Melissa asked as she peered around the close quarters.

The cry came again, now mingled with loud, sharp breaths. Justin backtracked to the whimpering sounds. A little girl was hovering in the shadows, tears on her cheeks. Melissa hurried over and knelt before her.

“Oh, honey, are you okay?”

“I… l…lost my brother. He was ahead of me and then…he was gone.”

“You sweet thing.” Melissa wrapped a comforting arm around the small form. “What’s your name?”

“Molly.”

“You know what?” She pointed to Justin. “This man is my hero and I bet he can get us all out of here.”

“A…are you sure?”

She looked straight at him and said, “Without a doubt.”

Justin reached out his hand. “C’mon, Molly. Let’s show everyone how brave you are.”

Already knowing the layout of the maze, Justin had them in the frosty afternoon air in no time at all. When Molly saw her mother she ran over and hugged the woman’s legs.

“Looks like you saved the day,” Melissa said in a low voice.

He shot her a sidelong glance. “Hero, huh?”

She shrugged but tucked her hand in the crook of his arm and rested her head on his shoulder. He pulled her closer, inhaling her sweet scent and savoring this special moment. They watched the children run around, content to remain on the sidelines.

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nineteen novels. 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 next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS HONOR, HER FAMILY, available February 2019 and her Christmas Town story, OUR CHRISTMAS PROMISE, available now.  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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Father Brown versus Father Brown

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Watching the BBC’s Father Brown on Netflix on my computer.

Opinion by Jim Denney

I’ve been reading G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown detective stories while also viewing the BBC television series Father Brown on Netflix. That’s probably a bad idea.

If I had simply watched the BBC adaptation without consulting Chesterton’s original tales, I would probably be satisfied with the BBC’s mostly harmless version of the priest-detective. But the BBC version of Father Brown, with its a cozy, escapist “Murder She Wrote” feel, suffers by comparison with Chesterton’s brilliant original.

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Illustration by Sydney Seymour Lucas from Chesterton’s The Innocence of Father Brown (public domain).

Chesterton’s stories have considerably more satirical bite and conviction. They express, with Chesterton’s trademark wit, his strongly held moral, spiritual, and social beliefs. We find a consistent moral concern expressed in both the Father Brown stories and in Chesterton’s works of Christian apologetics (Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man) and social commentary (Eugenics and Other Evils).

For example, in his story “The Duel of Dr. Hirsch” (in Father Brown: The Complete Collection), Chesterton offers a portrait of a militant French atheist named Maurice Brun. Chesterton’s atheist character gained fame by waging a one-man war against the French expression “Adieu,” which commonly means “Goodbye,” but literally means, “I commend you to God.” Brun wanted to scrub the name of God (“Dieu”) from the French language by imposing a fine on citizens who said “Adieu,” and censoring the word from all French literature.

(This is an excellent example of Chesterton’s well-known ability to foretell the future of society. Chesterton’s Maurice Brun foreshadowed today’s militant “new atheists,” such as Richard Dawkins. In his bestselling book The God Delusion, Dawkins proposed that Christian parents who raise their own children in the faith are guilty of child abuse and should have their children removed from the home. In his own way, Dawkins, like Brun, seeks to scrub the name of God out of existence.)

In another story, “The Invisible Man,” Chesterton spun a tale about a murder that took place inside a building with a single entrance. Not only was the victim murdered, but the body was removed — seemingly under the noses of many witnesses. There were numerous bystanders around the entrance at the time of the murder, yet they all swore that no one went in or out of the building. How was that possible? The body had disappeared — and there were footprints in the snow on the stairs. Was the murder committed by an invisible man?

Father Brown solved the mystery when he learned that the footprints belonged to the mailman. The mailman walked right past the bystanders, went into the building, murdered the victim, stuffed the body into his large mailbag, and carried the corpse out without attracting any attention from the bystanders.

In this story, Chesterton was making an understated but incisive point: There are people in our society who are “invisible” men and women. They pass among us, they are human souls with needs and passions, and in our self-absorption we are oblivious to their existence. They are not people to us; they are just part of the landscape and beneath our notice. Chesterton wants us to stop overlooking the “invisible” men and women among us. He wants us to see them as people.

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Illustration by Sydney Seymour Lucas from Chesterton’s The Innocence of Father Brown (public domain).

Chesterton was fond of paradoxes — seemingly self-contradictory statements that reveal a deep truth. Father Brown is a walking (and bicycle-riding) bundle of paradoxes. He is a man who lives by faith, yet he solves crimes through the application of reason and logic to cold, hard evidence. Because he is a celibate priest, people often underestimate him, thinking he is sheltered and unaware of human passions and temptations — yet he demonstrates an unerring grasp of human sinfulness, worldliness, and depravity.

The BBC’s version of Chesterton’s Father Brown is winsomely portrayed by actor Mark Williams (best known as Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter motion picture series, and as Brian, the father of Rory Williams, in the BBC series Doctor Who). The casting of the show’s various quirky characters is spot-on, especially Williams as Father Brown. He amiably wanders through each episode in a seeming state of preoccupation and bewilderment. No one suspects that behind that beatific smile, a calculating mind is assembling clues — click, click, click — into an airtight case against a suspect no one suspects.

Yet the BBC’s Father Brown would have horrified G. K. Chesterton on several levels. The BBC television writers repeatedly put words in Father Brown’s mouth that don’t belong there, and that violate everything Chesterton himself stood for. There are numerous examples, but I’ll just cite the worst example I’ve seen, from an episode called “The Eve of St. John.”

In that episode, a witches’ coven, led by a Wiccan high priest named Eugene Bone, moves into the village of Kembleford. When the local Christian clergy meet together and express their alarm over the presence of practicing witches in their midst, Father Brown speaks up — in defense of the witches.  

“Witchcraft,” says the BBC’s Father Brown, “is a spiritual path which is rooted in nature and the cycle of the seasons.” He adds that he expects “we have nothing to fear” from the coven. When one of the local ministers refers to the witches as “evil,” Father Brown says, “They worship other gods. It doesn’t make them evil.”

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Mark Williams as Father Brown. Photo by Adrian Beney, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Chesterton’s Father Brown would never have defended witchcraft, idolatry (worshipping other gods), or any other practice that the Scriptures condemn. The Old Testament repeatedly and consistently condemns witchcraft in all its forms. It condemns King Manasseh of Judah because he “practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger” (2 Chronicles 33:6).

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G. K. Chesterton, drawing by Paul Henry, 1904.

In Leviticus 19:31, God warned Israel, “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” And if worshiping other gods does not make the witches of Kembleford evil, as the BBC’s Father Brown would have us believe, then why is the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me”?

Most episodes of the BBC series are a pleasant hour’s diversion, no more, no less. A few episodes, like “The Eve of St. John,” are so anti-Chestertonian and un-Christian that they are difficult to appreciate on any level. It’s hard (for me, at least) to enjoy watching a character spout nonsense that completely violates that character’s world-view.

If you really want to enjoy a good, mind-stretching, soul-enriching mystery, I recommend you stick with the genuine article, Chesterton’s one-and-only original Father Brown.

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Note: Don’t miss my interviews with Christian romance writer Robin Lee Hatcher (author of Who I Am With You and An Idaho Christmas: Past and Present), and Christian science fiction writer Kerry Nietz (author of Amish Vampires in Space and Fraught). Visit my website at Writing in Overdrive. See you there!

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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A Season of Giving

They say it is better to give than to receive. And isn’t it true? Giving someone that perfect gift can fill us with much more excitement than opening a gift ourselves.

On Tuesday I was at the mini mart and the cashier oohed and aahed over my Christmas purse – red with a green, plaid bow. She mentioned that her daughter would love it, since she recently acquired an interest in purses. I asked how old her daughter was and she said ten. We chatted for a few more minutes about it before I headed home.

What that lady didn’t know was that I just so happened to have a second purse like this at home, which I had never used. (That is another story!) I had thought about giving this purse away before. But because I loved it so much, I wanted it to go to the perfect home. Now I had an idea. I am sure you know where this is going. I wanted to give the second purse to the cashier for her daughter.

I don’t live too far from this store, and I mulled over the idea on the drive. My initial thought was to come back another day. But how was I to know what days and times this lady would work? Perhaps we wouldn’t cross paths again over the next few weeks.

And due to my introvert nature, I shy away from this sort of stuff. I am not one to put myself “out there.” Therefore, I decided it was best to just do it that day, if I was going to do it at all. Otherwise I would have time to talk myself out of it. I went home, retrieved the twin purse, and went straight back to the store. The lady was so delighted and said that her daughter would love it.

But what was even more astonishing was how ecstatic it made me as I headed home for a second time that day. And this prompted a decision. I decided to keep giving. From now on I will look for opportunities to bless others. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a gift, per se. It could be anything thoughtful, such as helping someone with a dreaded chore. The ideas are endless. But I think the key for me might be that it will have to be outside of my comfort zone. Sure I might help my husband clean up the garage, but I would do that anyway. So I will try I find things that are out of the ordinary for me. And I can’t wait to see what lies ahead!

Christmas Purse 2

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Dog Bones and Baby Jesus by Julie Arduini

I’m always on the lookout for the simple things around me that God might be using to show me something. Through the years I’ve learned He is my loyal defender thanks to dive bombing cardinals, and that my dread opening a can of biscuits is a bit like needing to be prepared for the return of Christ (long story.) Most recently, a new snow globe with our daughter’s name at the Salvation Army is His way of letting me know He sees and cares.

Today, it was dog bones and Baby Jesus.

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Pixabay image

We have two Christmas trees downstairs. One is for the kids and contains all their ornaments through the years, a collection of memories and themes. Under the tree we have various nativity scenes from Veggie Tales to felt characters to an adult set. Our tree skirt is a beautiful, sparkly material my mom made years ago that looks like a gorgeous snow scene. For years I chased our cat, Gary, from using it as his seasonal residence where he’d also try to chew the fake needles and paw at the figurines.

This is our first year without Gary and I feel like he left last instructions with our four-year-old Chow Lab, Tucker. Tucker is a magnet to that tree skirt this year. If he can’t sneak to the back for a quick nap on the billowy softness, his new thing is to take his chew bones and leave them on the edge of the skirt.

At closer look, he’s leaving the bones with Baby Jesus.

I smiled at first, then realized beyond adorable, there’s a message there. At least for me.

Tucker is all about his bones. He’ll fight for them if he has to. But he took his most precious thing and laid it at the manger. Sure, he’s probably trying to get some tree skirt real estate, but the visual is what’s speaking to me.

Have you truly surrendered all?

Everything about my writing and speaking—even about my marriage and parenting—is built around surrender. I believe when we surrender what God’s asking us to through His Son, there’s freedom. My tag line is “Encouraging you to surrender the good, the bad—and maybe—one day the chocolate.” I’ve had to surrender things that weren’t sinful. I remember the day we moved away from everyone and everything I knew to start a new life in Ohio. Upstate NY wasn’t a bad thing, but I had to surrender it.

I’ve also been guilty of placing a burden on my husband that he can’t handle. Jesus truly needs to be my all, and too often, I withhold my “dog bones” of life from Him. Husband. Kids. Ministry. Loved Ones. Food.

There was a day we did have to place our most precious item at His feet. Our baby was dying and our rural hospital wasn’t equipped to treat her. The children’s hospital was two hours away and their ambulance had just left with another child. Our baby couldn’t be life flighted because they needed two teams to stabilize her and not everyone could fit. We had to wait for the ambulance to drive all the way to the children’s hospital AND drive all the way back to us. Once they arrived, I looked at the ambulance driver. He looked sixteen.

I called my best friend and we prayed. More like she called down the heavens and I sobbed. I could feel heaven and hell fighting for this child and I knew I had to leave her life, and possible death, into God’s hands.

It was the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

My hope is you never have to act on your faith like that, but seeing the dog bones at the manger was a good check in my spirit. Am I willing to surrender all to Him? Am I willing to give what He asks, when?

The praise is in our toughest situation, God healed her through doctor intervention and she is now a teenager. I know not every story ends that way, and I plan to spend half of eternity asking Jesus all sorts of questions.

For now, this Christmas season and beyond, I plan to challenge myself with visuals like the bones for Baby Jesus.

While I’m chasing the dog off the tree skirt.

***

45869366_10156186345209858_6328016771668246528_nJust a reminder, A Christmas to Remember boxed set will no longer be for sale after December 31. This is a collection of eight Christian romances from Kimberly Rose Johnson, Valerie Comer, Elizabeth Maddrey, Ginger Solomon, Lindi Peterson, Deb Kastner, Janet W. Ferguson and me. This is a great Christmas gift, and at .99, you can snag one for you, too. It’s also free for Kindle Unlimited.

 

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A Baby Changes Everything

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I love this time of the year. All the Christmas decorations are up. Presents bought. Christmas cards are ready to mail. Now, it’s time to sit back and enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

Christmas represents a time of new beginnings for me. A baby has a way of changing everything. The Babe born so lowly in a manger that Christmas morn certainly changed the course of humanity.

Though His birth seemed so uneventful to most of the world, can you imagine what the shepherds watching their flocks must have thought when the angels announced to them the birth of our Savior?

What must have been going through Mary and Joseph’s minds when the shepherds told them what they’d witnessed? I can imagine Mary and Joseph both remembering how the announcement of the Messiah had changed their lives already. Then, later, when the magi showed up with their gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh.

At this time of the year, I love to read the prophecies regarding the birth of Jesus and see all the ways God worked His plan of salvation out through human history. So miraculous.

So, before the Christmas frenzy begins at your house, take a moment to remember that little Baby in the manager and thank God for the Baby that changed everything.

Merry Christmas!

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

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Listening to the Spirit by Nancy J. Farrier

 

 

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As I’ve mentioned before, I take morning walks. I’ve done this for years, almost always alone – or without human company. I often use the time to pray, or to consider what I’ll be working on during the day. In the past few months I’ve had a couple of interesting experiences that gave me pause, and I thought I would share them with you.

 

In the spring, before we had finished moving back to Arizona, we were visiting and I went for a walk on a road where I used to walk. The dirt road follows the river near us and isn’t used much. Once in a great while I would see someone, usually hunters driving off to the hills to look for game.

 

The early morning was beautiful and the heat of the day hadn’t begun. So far, I hadn’t seen any wildlife. I was alone with my thoughts and perfectly content. Until, I heard a vehicle approaching.

 

Under normal circumstances, I would move to the side of the road and wait for them to pass. Because of the trees and undergrowth and the twists in the road, I couldn’t see the car yet, but could hear them coming. My heart began to pound. I broke out in a sweat. I had the overwhelming urge to hide. On the side of the road away from the river I noted a small trail. I raced up the path, around some dense brush and crouched down before the vehicle was within sight.

 

I held my breath as they drew closer. By this time, I was shaking and breathing as hard as if I’d run a long distance. The engine didn’t change as the car drew even with my hiding place. They weren’t moving fast but were going at a steady pace. I prayed so hard, unsure why I was so terrified. I am not easily scared and this made no sense to me. I’d seen people driving this road before and never felt the need to hide.

 

I didn’t leave my spot until the noise of the engine faded in the distance. Then I came out cautiously and hurried home, the fear receding as soon as the vehicle passed. I hadn’t seen the car or truck and had no idea of the make or color, or who might be driving. I filed away that odd incidence not sure what had happened and soon forgot the whole thing.

 

Two weeks ago, I was out hiking in the hills where I go now. I walk there every day and almost never see a person – and certainly never a vehicle. The terrain is very rough. Only a four-wheel-drive would be able traverse most of the road, some would be tough even for a four-wheel-drive. There hadn’t been any tire tracks since I’d started walking there so I knew it wasn’t.

 

At a point where I was about three miles from home, which means three miles from civilization, the sight of an oncoming vehicle surprised me. I stepped to the side of the road on the driver’s side of the vehicle and waited for them to pass. The driver stopped beside me and rolled down his window. The kids in the back rolled down their windows too. We chatted a few minutes and they offered me water, which I declined. They went on their way, and I continued on toward home.

 

On the walk home, I remembered that time months ago on the river road and the choking fear that came over me. This time there hadn’t been a hint of fear. None. Instead, I’d enjoyed the unexpected interaction and seeing the excitement on the children’s faces as they were headed off on an adventure.

 

Since then, I’ve spent time pondering the difference in these two experiences. I can’t shake the feeling that if I hadn’t listened to the inner nudge on the day I felt the fear, something horrible would have happened. I may never know the truth, but I do know something was off that day.

 

In the book of Acts, (13:4 and 16:7) the disciples are both sent out by the Holy Spirit and forbidden to go places by the guidance of the Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit is instrumental in watching over me. Jesus sent Him as a comforter and to help us. I want to always be receptive to what He is saying to me. Sometimes, listening to the inner voice as the Holy Spirit speaks can be lifesaving. I am grateful for the fear that made me hide and that He is with me every step of the way.

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The Proven Power of Prayer

Opinion by Jim Denney,
author of Answers to Satisfy the Soul: Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions

Some years ago, my brother Tim was driving on a two-lane highway after dark, returning home from college in Southern California. 

Teodor Axentowicz - The Anchorite

The Anchorite, a painting by Teodor Axentowicz

At that same moment, about fifty miles away, my grandmother was hosting a prayer meeting in her home. It was an eclectic group — a Catholic, several Mennonites, a Nazarene pastor, and a Baptist.

As they prayed, the pastor suddenly stood, a stricken expression on his face. He turned to my grandmother and said, “Anna, do you have a grandson who goes to college far from here?”

“Yes,” my grandmother said. “That would be Tim.”

“We need to pray for him right now! He’s in danger!”

So they prayed for my brother.

At that same time, out on the two-lane road, Tim came up behind a slow-moving tanker. He edged over the broken center line and saw no headlights ahead. It looked clear to pass. He pulled out into the oncoming lane and tromped the accelerator.

He didn’t know that there was a hill up ahead. Hidden below the crest of the hill was an oncoming car.

As Tim pulled even with the truck, the headlights of the oncoming car appeared in front of him. There was no time to react. The car was simply there, a glare of headlights rushing at him. In the next instant, the vehicles were three-abreast with the oncoming car on the left, the tanker on the right, and Tim sandwiched between them.

The next instant, the other car was disappearing in Tim’s rear-view mirror. Shaken, he swung around the tanker and pulled back into his own lane. He had escaped death by inches. 

Arriving home, Tim was surprised to find my mother frightened and alarmed. “Did you almost have an accident?” she asked. 

“About fifteen minutes ago. Mom, how did you know?”

“Well, for one thing, you look as white as a sheet. For another, I just got off the phone with Grandma. The pastor in her prayer group had a premonition that you were in danger, so they’ve been praying you.”

Tim was able to confirm that the pastor had voiced his fear for Tim’s safety mere minutes before his brush with death.

Coincidence? I think it takes more faith to believe my brother’s experience was a coincidence than it takes to believe that God answered the prayers of my grandmother and her prayer group. 

When I was about fifteen, my Uncle Chet was seriously ill with cancer. At that time, I had never lost a loved one before, had never thought much about death, and knew little about cancer. I could tell from my mother’s concern that the situation was serious. But we were all praying for Uncle Chet, and I knew that everything was going to turn out all right. I remember a conversation I had with my cousin Cliff (one of Chet’s nephews) about the situation. Cliff and I talked it over, and decided that, with so many people praying, Chet was sure to recover.

But it was only a few weeks after my talk with Cliff that Chet passed away at the age of 54. I was stunned and bewildered. How was that possible? We had prayed so faithfully. How could God say no to all of our prayers? How could God let such a terrible thing happen to such a good man? I’ll never forget what a blow that was to my young faith. Ever since that first disappointment with God, I have been seeking answers to this deep mystery called prayer.

Can the power of prayer be proven? Can prayer be studied scientifically? Does prayer truly call forth the active, dynamic involvement of God in human lives?

“Unequivocally, yes,” says Dr. Larry Dossey, an internist and author of Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and The Practice of Medicine. “I base this answer not just on faith, but on the outcome of scores of scientific studies.”

The most carefully documented of those studies was published by cardiologist Randolph Byrd in the Southern Medical Journal in 1988. Over a ten-month period from August 1982 through May 1983, Dr. Byrd randomly chose (using a computer-generated list) 393 patients from the coronary care unit at San Francisco General Hospital. These patients were divided into two groups. One group was prayed for by home prayer groups; the second group was not prayed for.

Prayer was directed to the Judeo-Christian God by prayer volunteers from both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. Each patient in the prayed-for group had from three to seven prayer volunteers, who were given the patients’ first name and diagnosis. Each prayer volunteer was asked to pray daily and specifically for a speedy recovery and for the prevention of complications.

It was a carefully constructed “double-blind” experiment: Neither the patients nor their physicians and nurses knew which group the patients were in—prayed-for or not-prayed-for. The results were startling. The study found that the prayed-for patients were five times less likely to require antibiotics than the not-prayed-for group; they were three times less likely to develop pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). Prayed-for patients also “had fewer episodes of pneumonia, had fewer cardiac arrests, and were less frequently intubated and ventilated.”

According to Dr. Byrd, the findings were so significant, the differences between the un-prayed-for and prayed-for groups were so dramatic, that the odds of those findings occurring by sheer random chance are 1 in 10,000. Very few scientific studies ever reach such a high level of statistical significance.

Nearly every parameter measured by Dr. Byrd’s study was shown to be affected by prayer. Additionally, Dr. Byrd noted that there was no way to know how many people in the “un-prayed-for” group were actually being prayed for by friends or relatives who were not part of the study. If it were possible to completely isolate the “un-prayed-for” group from all possibility of being prayed for, the results might have been even more dramatic.

Other double-blind scientific studies (such as a dramatic study conducted at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, published in 1999) have independently confirmed the results of Dr. Byrd’s study.

The scientific evidence is clear: Prayer really does work. The next obvious question is how does prayer work? What is the mechanism behind the power of prayer? Neither of these studies attempted to answer the question. “This trial,” concludes Dr. Harris, “was designed to explore not a mechanism but a phenomenon. . . . We have not proven that God answers prayer or that God even exists. It was intercessory prayer, not the existence of God, that was tested here. All we have observed is that when individuals outside of the hospital speak (or think) the first names of hospitalized patients with an attitude of prayer, the latter appeared to have a ‘better’ CCU experience.”

I want to underscore that patients should not abandon medical treatment in favor of prayer alone. These studies show that prayer works in concert with the best available medical treatment—not in place of medical treatment. Prayer is certainly not a substitute for bypass surgery or chemotherapy or an emergency appendectomy.

Prayer does not guarantee any particular outcome. Even though friends and family are praying for them and even though they pray for themselves, well people do get sick, sick people often get sicker, and eventually everyone dies. My grandmother prayed for my brother Tim, her grandson, and he escaped death. My grandmother prayed for my Uncle Chet, her son, and he succumbed to cancer.

Why does God say yes to some prayers and no to others? I don’t know.  

But I do know that prayer is not a form of magic, and it does not place the total outcome within human control. Prayer can influence the circumstances in many cases—and even when the circumstances do not change, prayer can often change us. God is sovereign, and we are in no position to command Him to do our bidding.

But our sovereign God often chooses to pour out his grace in our lives, and in the lives of people around us, through the power of prayer.

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

 

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My Yearly Reminder (by Hannah Alexander)

Does life seem a little high-pressure right now?  It often is, and we’re hitting the Christmas season with great gusto. As we deal with all kinds of circumstances in our lives, it’s nice to have a place where we can go where we know we will always belong. I did that recently as I’ve done for more than a decade–returning to my roots. Every year some of us girls from high school meet in Branson MO and we have a pajama party.

Some folks might shudder at the thought. Yikes! High school? But after a decade or two or three or…well, anyway, after quite a few class reunions, our small class realized we really like each other. We enjoy spending time together. We share a lot of memories, and being the same age draws us together. We’re buddies.

So when we girls get together every year in Branson, all we care about is spending as much time with each other as we can, catching up on the past year, and eating. Oh yeah, we choose a place where we can all be in the kitchen at once and talk and talk and talk. And we laugh a lot. I drove two days–one of those days through a blinding snowstorm–just to get there and see the girls.

We support and love one another and have wonderful time of laughter. It’s a time of grounding. When you spend time with the right members of a family–or in this case, friends who knew you through your teens–you can get a clearer picture of how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown from those awkward years.

Do you have people in your life who can connect you to your past in a good way? People who love and respect you, are proud of who you’ve become? I highly recommend you take the trouble to spend quality time with those people.

 

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Death and Destruction in Paradise

Opinion by Jim Denney

I have visited Paradise.

Years ago, we visited my wife’s brother and his wife in their home in the northern California town of Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Our kids played in the snow on a wooded mountainside a short distance from Paradise.

Earlier this month, on Thursday, November 8, 2018, most of the quaint little town of Paradise burned to the ground. One of the thousands of homes destroyed was the charming home where my brother-in-law’s family once lived (they moved to southern California a few years ago).

The fire that destroyed Paradise, officially known as the “Camp Fire,” is now the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. According to latest information, the fire has killed 84 people, trapping them in their homes or their cars as they tried to escape the flames. More than 600 people are as yet unaccounted for, so the death toll will certainly rise. The fire has destroyed more than 12,000 homes and 118 apartment buildings.

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This is not the fire that destroyed Paradise. I took this photo in September of last year, when the mountain across the street from our southern California home was on fire, threatening many homes. My wife and I loaded up the car with photos and family videos and we evacuated. Firefighters saved our home and the other homes in our area from the fire. (I wrote about that experience on this blog.) The people of Paradise were not as fortunate. The fire was upon them so quickly, they only had moments to decide whether to live or die.

It’s a tragedy that does more than break your heart. The horror of that fire sears the mind. Even a believer with a strong faith in God has to wonder why God allows such terrifying events to take place in our world. The question of why an all-good, all-loving, all-powerful God allows evil and suffering in the world is a question most of us grapple with from time to time.

Those who are at a safe emotional distance from such incredible suffering can say, “The Bible tells us that we live in a fallen world, and calamity and tragedy are the result of the Fall, the result of sinful human choices.” Yet that answer seems inadequate when an innocent child dies of leukemia or a city is devastated by a natural disaster. Couldn’t a loving and all-powerful and all-knowing God design a world in which innocent people aren’t overtaken by tragedy? I’m not going to try to solve that question here.

Instead, I want to offer this opinion: I believe most of the suffering in the world is a direct result of human free will. We choose to do wrong, or we choose not to do what we ought to do, and innocent people suffer the consequences of our choices.

Take, for example, the tragedy of famine. We tend to assume famines are the result of drought and crop failure. Yet the two worst famines in human history (in Stalinist USSR in the early 1930s and Maoist China in the early 1960s) were the direct result of government policy. Tens of millions died because of deliberate choices made by government leaders.

What about the destruction and death toll in Paradise? The fire that destroyed Paradise was not a natural disaster. It, too, was the result of bad human choices.

Since 2010, the northern California power utility Pacific Gas & Electric Company has caused a series of catastrophes that have killed scores of California citizens. On September 9, 2010, an aging PG&E natural gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco, killing 8 people, injuring 66 more, and destroying scores of homes. The explosion was so destructive that many witnesses thought an airliner had crashed into the neighborhood.

In October 2017, PG&E’s equipment started 12 separate fires in northern California, resulting in 44 deaths and billions of dollars in property losses.

Then, earlier this month, the “Camp Fire” destroyed Paradise, killing at least 84 people. So, over the past 8 years, a minimum of 136 people have died because of actions that PG&E took or failed to take.

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The “Camp Fire” that destroyed the town of Paradise, photographed at 10:45 a.m. on November 8, before it had reach the town. Photograph taken by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8.

Obviously, these deaths were not deliberately caused by PG&E. The power company isn’t trying to kill its customers. But the power company does not appear to be making a good faith effort to protect its customers either. I believe PG&E could do much more to make its natural gas pipes, power lines, and transformers safer and less prone to cause fires. But PG&E appears to be more focused on protecting its profits than protecting the lives and property of its customers.

Prior to the San Bruno explosion, the company repeatedly ignored warnings from its own employees that the gas pipes there were a catastrophe waiting to happen. After the disaster, PG&E cut a deal with a member of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to reduce a proposed $2.5 billion fine to a mere $375,000 — a secret deal that fell apart only after the city of San Bruno filed suit.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which is supposed to regulate PG&E, seems to have a crony relationship with the power company. The CPUC is supposed to protect the people of California, but it seems more interested in protecting PG&E. The giant energy company has enormous political clout with the government of California. In three months alone, from April through June 2018, PG&E spent $1.7 million lobbying California officials to reduce its liability costs and penalties for the fires the company has caused.

In September 2016, California governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 1463 — a wildfire-prevention bill that was passed by both houses of the state legislature, 75 to 0. That’s right, the bill passed unanimously, no opposition, and Governor Brown vetoed it. The legislature had 60 days to override Brown’s veto but didn’t. Why? I’m not sure. As near as I can figure out, state senate leaders decided not to challenge Governor Brown’s veto.

Governor Brown claimed SB 1463 duplicated actions already begin taken by the CPUC. That’s not true. SB 1463 was designed to accelerate the process and give city governments a greater voice in protecting their communities from wildfires. Governor Brown overturned the will of the people of California, as expressed by a unanimous vote of the people’s elected representatives, to concentrate all decision-making power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats who are closely tied to the power industry.

SB 1463 might have given cities like Paradise a chance to advocate for more aggressive forest management around the town (government policies have prevented clearing out dry, dead trees that provide abundant fuel for fires). The town of Paradise might have asked for improvement of the single two-lane road that was the only escape route from town. Local government is much closer to the problems and needs than a state bureaucracy — but Governor Brown’s veto left the bureaucrats in control.

Did Governor Brown’s veto cause the death and destruction in Paradise? No one will ever know. We do know that many California cities (including Malibu, which was also hard-hit by fires this month) wanted to have a greater voice in the state’s fire prevention policies. The Governor’s veto silenced those voices. It’s possible that Paradise might be standing today if not for that veto.

After the destruction of Paradise, state senator John Moorlach (who authored SB 1463), grimly observed that his bill was vetoed because it exposed “the madness of two state bureaucracies and their allegiance to the industry that they were mandated to oversee. They knew that there were serious dangers and calmly told everyone that everything was fine. Regretfully, even the Governor bought that line. Tragic.” Moorlach added that the bill was vetoed because it “crashed a cozy party enjoyed by utilities and state agencies” and would have put an end to their “lengthy foot-dragging behavior.”

When horrible things happen to innocent people, there are always those who ask, “Why didn’t God prevent this tragedy?” All too often, the question we should be asking is, “Why didn’t we?”

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Note: Don’t miss my interview with Christian science fiction writer Kerry Nietz, author of Amish Vampires in Space and Fraught. Kerry is a fascinating author who talks about the intersection of faith and imagination. Read “The Kerry Nietz Interview” at WritingInOverdrive.com.

___________________________________

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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Every Day is a Gift

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! What a glorious day. A holiday dedicated to giving thanks. It is one of my favorite days of the year. Although I do believe it is important to practice thankfulness all year, not just one day in late November. In fact, I feel so strongly about gratitude that I even wrote a book about it. And today I would like to share an excerpt from that book, Every Day is a Gift:

“Every day is a gift!” Since 2012 I have had that phrase as part of my email signature. That was the year when a friend from college died of sarcoma. It was only one week after Jennifer’s thirty-fourth birthday. She left behind a husband, a two-year-old daughter, loving parents, and countless friends. Jennifer had such a beautiful heart. She was always smiling, and always thinking of others.

I’ve often asked God why this had to happen. Why do some get to live and others die? Why would someone so young lose the battle? Why did a toddler have to lose her mom? Why would such a sweet spirit be chosen? This side of heaven, I might never know the answers to these questions.

Piercing moments in life like this can change us. Sometimes they will make us more resentful. But they don’t have to. We can choose to use these moments to cling to God, and ultimately to make us stronger.

When my friend died, this made me more thankful for Jesus. Why? Because Jesus gives me hope that I will see my friend again one day. And in the meantime, I want to cherish what she didn’t get – extra time on this earth. Extra time to love my family. Extra time to be a blessing to others. I want to remember that every day is a gift from God.

Happy Thanksgiving

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The “I See You” Snow globe by Julie Arduini

This isn’t your traditional Thanksgiving Eve day post, but my prayer is you find hope and a spirit of thankfulness through our experience I’m about to share.

Fifteen years ago on this very day, we nearly lost our daughter. Over time, God has closed off many of those horrific memories and I’ve been able to focus on the many blessings. She is with us. She’s doing well. We were able to forgive.

The challenge has been since that day, she’s endured a lot of medical stuff. It’s a delicate line to walk because it is not life-or-death as we once knew, but daily care is required. At first glance, few would see what she’s been through or still going through. That almost makes things harder.

The past year has been harder than it has been in awhile. I believe her age has a lot to do with it, and that one of her issues is a rare condition where puberty is new territory. We don’t know what to expect. What used to be predictable isn’t, and what we couldn’t count on, now we sometimes can. It’s been frustrating at the least and devastating at times to see her in pain or not feeling close to her best.

Recently she’s had a cluster of appointments. Now that she’s older, their questions are directed toward her to answer. It’s overwhelming. Add missing school, new medicines, new medical stuff and it just has been a stinker of a time.

One of the appointments ran later than the others because they added a new component to the routine. Although overall it was a good thing, at the moment we were both feeling over it all. So many questions. Appointments. Specialists. Lack of answers. Frustrations.

As I finally dropped her off at school and decided to browse around until it was time to get her again, I lamented to God. I vented. I explained how unfair it all felt, how it doesn’t seem like her prayers get answered, that this is too hard to watch and not have control over it, how isolating it all is, I just said everything I was thinking. I drove to the Salvation Army and just let my words rest at the feet of Jesus. My thought was, “You’re taking all this, cuz I’m tired and I’m going to shop and forget about life for an hour.”

I walked the aisles, not really searching for anything, but always on the hunt for a bargain. Toward the back are shelves full of knick knacks that if I’m being honest, is often just junk. Broken pieces. Chipped paint. Missing parts.

Until a flash of glitter caught my eye.

I walked over and found a snow globe that against all that junk, and they were sorting through stuff that looked like some was literally garbage, the globe looked brand new. Pink flawless base with a glitter globe full of water. Inside was a little girl praying. I turned it upside down and it was musical. The song was from a comforting Psalm. Engraved across the inside was Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Engraved on the base was a name.

Our daughter’s name.

I knew right then that was God letting me know He hears. He cries when our daughter does, and when I do. He hates this as much as I do, but He also has a plan so amazing that makes sense. I might not understand it, but I trust Him. That globe said to me, “I see you. I hear you. This is going to be okay.”

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It’s hard to see, but the engraving has our daughter’s name. A reminder God gave us that He sees, He cares.

Usually this time of year I wrap anything I find and call it a Christmas gift, but I made an exception. I shared my God moment with her, and her eyes lit up as she saw the globe with her name on it. In her favorite color. With sparkly glitter to add to the wonder of it all. Hours later I walked into her room and noticed as her and her brother put up Christmas decorations, they also re arranged things so the globe had a special place. She was receiving that gift for all it was intended to be.

If this holiday season has you burned out, over it, questioning, and just done, I understand. Your Heavenly Father is so specific and so present. Don’t be afraid to verbalize your fears, frustrations, the anger and the hurt. He can take it. He can take you asking for something that offers you hope and encouragement until you’re able to hug Jesus in the flesh. Look for the sparkles in the snow. The deer that locks eyes with you. That sunset. Or, like with us, that personalized snow globe.

I wish you the very happiest of Thanksgivings.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday of mine. By now, the weather has shifted from warm to crisp. The trees are still turning here in Texas, and it’s the kickoff of the holiday season. A time when families gather together to give thanks for all their blessings.

As I prepare the meal for this Thanksgiving, I plan to use my mother’s cornbread dressing recipe. I remember all those Thanksgivings past when I was growing up, watching my mother prepare the dressing for our family. Thanksgiving morning, the house would be filled with the mouthwatering aromas of turkey, dressing, pumpkin and pecan pies.

My grandfather lived close so most of our family would gather there with him to enjoy family and food together. After he passed, we’d gather at our home or my aunt’s. My uncle and aunt who lived out of town would come down as well. Through the years, so many loved ones have gone on to be with God. More and more seats at the table became empty. Yet, I can only imagine the Thanksgiving celebration they will be having in Heaven.

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So, as I prepare the meal for our family this year, the people seated around our table will not be the only ones there with us. In my mind and in my heart, all my loved ones will be there with me celebrating this Thanksgiving Day.

Wishing you and your family a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

All the best…

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

 

 

 

 

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Wishing You The Best by Tara Randel

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Can you believe Thanksgiving week is upon us? I must admit, October blew by and I thought I had a handle on November, but here we are. Ready for turkey day!

This year I’m cooking. I love the tradition of Thanksgiving and the comfort foods that go with it. To me, there is no greater pleasure than to have plenty of food set out for the guests who come to dinner. I do the basics; turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and fun side dishes like sweet potato casserole, green been casserole and this year, a squash soufflé. And then there are the desserts; pumpkin pie and pumpkin cookies with plenty of whipped cream.

 

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Along with my family, I hope you, your family and friends have the most beautiful Thanksgiving. Whether you are cooking a feast at home or going to a special get-together to watch football, or plan on sneaking out to get ahead of the Black Friday crowds, I pray that God blesses your time, energy and talents this holiday season.

 

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nineteen novels. 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 next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS HONOR, HER FAMILY, available FEBRUARY 2019 and The 12 Days of Heartwarming Christmas story, OUR CHRISTMAS PROMISE, available now.  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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Angels and Space Aliens: An Unexplained Personal Account

Opinion by Jim Denney

In the summer of 1970, before my senior year in high school, I went with a high school youth group from California to a Young Life camp at Malibu, British Columbia. During the long drive up the Pacific Coast, we stopped at a home in Oregon for the night. The girls slept inside and the boys sacked out in sleeping bags in the backyard.

As I lay awake, looking at the stars, I noticed one “star” moving erratically, zig-zagging from side to side and up and down, dancing rapidly in a seemingly random pattern. I wanted to call out to someone to confirm what I was seeing, but everyone else seemed to be asleep. I pulled back the flap of my sleeping bag and stood up.

“Hey, Jim,” someone whispered. I turned and saw that Dave, a guy I knew slightly, was sitting up in his sleeping bag, watching the same manifestation. “Do you see that?” he said.

“Yeah. I see it.”

We both watched the zig-zagging “star” for about a minute — then it shot straight up, fading to darkness as it ascended. In seconds, it was gone.

I asked Dave what he thought it was.

“I dunno,” he said. “All I know is that thing was weird.”

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Front page of the San Francisco Call for November 23, 1896, reporting on a UFO seen by hundreds of witnesses in a number of California cities and towns, including Sacramento, Folsom, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Modesto. The UFO appeared for a number of weeks from late 1896 to early 1897, and the phenomenon has never been explained. 

About a year ago, I sat and talked to a man in his eighties named Kenny. He’s a longtime friend of my mother and my late father, and a sober man of good judgment and good Christian character. He told me that, one time in the 1950s, he drove his pickup on California Highway 33, near the little oil town of Coalinga. Seven or eight miles north of the town is a place unofficially known as “Stinky Hollow,” due to the sulfurous “rotten egg” smell that lingers around the many pumpjacks that extract crude oil from the ground.

It was late at night when Kenny passed through Stinky Hollow. He noticed a bright glow off to the side of the road. Curious about the light, he pulled off the road, got out of his truck, and walked toward the glow. Coming over a rise, he saw something disk-shaped perched on the ground, glowing brightly and large enough to hold several people. He stopped, and while he was deciding whether he should approach it, the object lifted off the ground, ascended into the night sky, and faded as it traveled straight up.

He had no explanation for what he had seen, and he said he’s never seen anything like it before or since. I have no explanation for what Kenny saw, nor for what I saw. He and I both saw “unidentified flying objects” (UFOs) — with the emphasis on unidentified. Many people want to believe that UFOs are flown by alien beings (often referred to as “extra-terrestrial intelligences” or ETIs). That’s certainly one possibility.

I recently came across an article at the Huffington Post by science writer (and atheist) Jeff Schweitzer. His piece is called “Earth 2.0: Bad News for God,” and he suggests that the discovery in July 2015 of a seemingly earth-like planet orbiting the Sun-like star Kepler-452 (about 1,830 light-years from Earth) suggests that life may be common in the universe. He concluded that the discovery of alien life on other worlds would be “bad news” for those who believe in God.

I was intrigued. Why would the discovery of alien beings on other planets be “bad news” for God? Schweitzer explains: “Let us be clear that the Bible is unambiguous about creation: the earth is the center of the universe, only humans were made in the image of God, and all life was created in six days.”

Where does the Bible unambiguously say that “only humans were made in the image of God”? I’ve never seen any passage in the Bible that makes such an “unambiguous” statement as Schweitzer claims (he hangs his hat on a forced interpretation of Genesis 2:1).

The fact is, the Bible clearly contradicts Schweitzer’s claim. The Bible actually states that there are alien, extraterrestrial, nonhuman, intelligent beings in the universe. The Bible calls them “angels” (which means “messengers”). And if the alien race known as “angels” exists, why not other nonhuman races?

In fact, Genesis 6:1-4 refers to a mysterious race called the Nephilim. These are clearly nonhuman beings, as we understand humanity, but little is said about them other than that they were the offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” prior to the Flood of Noah (the Nephilim are also referred to in Numbers 13). Some students of the ancient Hebrew language believe the word Nephilim means “those who cause people to fall.”

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Page B of The Los Angeles Times for February 25, 1942. A UFO was spotted over the city of Los Angeles less than three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The UFO was spotted and tracked along the California coast and over the city for several hours, beginning a little after 7 pm and continuing sporadically until 4 in the morning. Ground-based searchlights lit up the object, and thousands of rounds of artillery were fired at the it, apparently without causing any damage. Falling artillery rounds damaged buildings, and the chaos caused automobile accidents that killed three people. The sightings were never explained, but Navy Secretary Frank Knox dismissed the entire incident as a “false alarm.”

Are UFOs piloted by aliens from distant planets? Are they piloted by angels? By demons? I don’t claim to know.

When I was writing my Timebenders science fantasy series for young readers in 2001-2002, I showed my editors a draft of the fourth book in the series, Lost in Cydonia, which featured some blue-skinned, golden-eyed aliens on the planet Mars. My editors said, “You have to rewrite this. You can’t have space aliens in the story.”

“Why not?”

“The Bible says there are no space aliens in the universe, only human beings.”

“Where does the Bible say that?”

“I don’t know, but that’s what I’ve always heard. We don’t want Christian parents to think that our books have space aliens in them.”

“Have you ever read the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis? He has intelligent alien races in Out of the Silent Planet — the eldila, the sorns, the hrossa. And there’s the Green Lady and her husband in Perelandra. No one objects to the space aliens in Lewis’s books.”

“When you sell as many books as C.S. Lewis, you can have space aliens in them. But right now, you have to take them out.”

I solved the problem very simply. I changed my aliens to angels, and otherwise left the story exactly as it was. My editors loved the book. Why? Because angels are an alien race. Both the unfallen angels of the Lord and the fallen angels known as demons come from — and belong to — an unearthly reality.

As the apostle Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

What did I see in the sky that summer night in 1970? What did Kenny see lift up from the ground and fade into the night sky over Stinky Hollow? Were they visitors from another star system far from Earth? Where they manifestations of spiritual “rulers” and “authorities” from the “heavenly realms”?

What do you think Kenny and I saw?

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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