A Writer’s Imagination by Tara Randel

One of the fun things about being an author is creating the world my characters live in. World-building is a must in plotting a book, whether it’s an elaborate, epic fantasy or a fictional town nestled in the mountains where I have set my newest romance series. Either way, a hearty imagination comes in handy.

Think about the books you’ve read and loved, like the classic stories created by J.R.R. Tolkien or C. S. Lewis. These books capture our senses, our craving for a well-told story. I love historical fiction, and while it is based in reality, the writer still has to create the world he or she is introducing me to. Contemporary fiction also must pull in a reader, without feeling like we’re dragged into the daily life we’re trying to escape from.  Any good story has its foundation in a creative mind.

I create my world, the characters who inhabit it and also what happens to them. Sometimes these ideas pop into my head and form easily, other times I have a mere whisper of an idea and have to really work on how I want to portray that world.  But I enjoy getting lost in the creation and hopefully when my book is finished, the reader is swept away for a few happy hours.

A few weeks ago my daughter and I were at EPCOT and stumbled upon this miniature village. As I took these pictures, the tiny houses and trains reminded me of how I love to be transported when I read a book. How descriptions and clever details can make the story so much more of an adventure. It’s why we read anyway, to escape to a new world, whether totally make-believe or set in a current reality.

Consider the book you’re reading right now. You might be the type of reader who devours a book in no time at all or one who reads slowly to stretch out the enjoyment. Hours can pass without you realizing how long you’ve been lost in the book. All because an author created a world you couldn’t pull yourself from.

Yes, that is a perk of the job.

Look of my next book, Stealing Her Best Friend’s Heart, available  August 2021.

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 next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, available August 2021. 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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Writing by James R. Coggins

The trend was obvious early on.

• Grade 1: four A’s, four B’s, and a C in Writing.

• Grade 2: six A’s, one B, and a C in Writing, which was “not so well done.”

• Grade 3: seven A’s and D in Writing: “Anybody that can get A’s in every subject should be able to write better.”

• Grade 4: six A’s, three B’s, and a C in Writing. “Jim’s writing is still not as good as it should be.”

• Grade 5: four A’s, four B’s, and a C in Writing. “Jim should try harder to improve his writing.”

• Grade 6: three A’s, four B’s, and a D in Writing. “It is unfortunate that Jim’s careless writing has spoiled an otherwise excellent report. His writing is still poor.”

• Grade 7: five A’s, a B, and a C in Writing.

• Grade 8: Five A’s, three B’s, and a D in Writing (including an E in first term).

And so, of course, when I grew up, I became a writer.

The anomaly can be explained by the fact that the teachers were grading what could properly be called “penmanship” rather than writing ability. My excuse was that my ideas always flowed faster than my pen and that I was far more focused on what I was trying to express than on a minor detail such as the look of the individual letters. The result is that my handwriting today is illegible to anyone but myself (or perhaps a doctor). 

On the other hand, I have since learned enough history to know that “penmanship” should not be taken lightly. In earlier centuries, when all business and government records were written by hand, business schools stressed the importance of penmanship. In those days, when records had to be read and understood by people many months’ travel away or possibly many years later, accurate writing was essential. Sloppy penmanship could create business and legal disasters. As hard as it is to believe now, skilled clerks could produce writing as uniform as any typewriter or computer can deliver today.

The same is true for literature and even the Bible. Without scribes who could accurately and clearly make copies of cultural and sacred texts, these valuable writings would not be available to us.   

Today, we have computers to provide the clear records that humans used to be able to deliver in the past. Computers are even supposed to provide spelling and grammar expertise. Without computers, I fear that many modern people are barely literate. If we ever happen to find ourselves in a world with no electricity, we might be unable to communicate. We could find ourselves back in the Stone Age or the Dark Ages. I wish now that I had applied myself more diligently and learned to write better when I was younger.

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That Other Thing I Do by Julie Arduini

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for quite awhile. Sadly this seems to be my new normal as I return to the routine I had before my mom passed. I sit and get ready to write, but nothing comes. The ideas are there, but transferring them from head to laptop seem to be taking a bit longer than I’d like.

For this post the only thought I had was to share something perhaps you aren’t aware of.

I love taking nature pictures.

I’m not a professional and I have no idea what the process should be. I use my phone and have for a decade. No fancy lighting. No tripod. I’m constantly looking for outdoor opportunities that show God’s majesty.

Sunsets are my favorite, but I’ve also enjoyed capturing fog. Snow. Mountains. Water.

I have pictures from my hometown region, the Finger Lakes in Upstate NY including my hometown, Corning.

Of course I have lots of pictures from around Ohio. The picture at the top is beyond my backyard, through the woods, across the road, and at a place called Molnar Farms. The long driveway leads up an incline that gives the most spectacular views.

There are shots from all the seasons, but fall is my favorite. So many colors.

Sunset in Horseheads, NY
Speculator, NY/Adirondack Mountains
Corning, NY
Sayre, PA. I drove by this tree countless times visiting my mom in the hospital. The red on the ground and the sheer volume of leaves on the tree were so breathtaking I believe it was a gift from God to keep me going.

My little phone has even captured night.

Big Flats, NY
My backyard. Check out the stars!

I’m not a loud person overall. When I’m at church, I’m not the one rushing the altar with a lot of emotion. I used to feel so guilty because my love for the Lord is as genuine as someone who is more public about their faith. Once I started collecting pictures like this I realized THIS is a form of worship. So much so there are times I force myself to put my phone down. I love sharing pictures so much that I miss experiencing His beauty just for me. I’m working on that.

Brian sent the original moon picture to me and I shared it on SnapChat. He had special lenses for his phone.

My favorite part of taking pictures is that both my kids understand my love and in my daughter’s case, share it. She is all about capturing a good shot outdoors that shows off God’s handiwork. Her speciality? Sunsets.

Hannah took this picture at our church and sent it to me when I was away caregiving for my mom.

You can find all my nature pictures on my Facebook page in my albums as well as Instagram.

What hobby or passion do you have that others might not know about?

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Redeeming The Time

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and I hope that I get better at redeeming the moments that make up my life. If you are like me, it’s so easy to get caught up with the day to day things to be done that you can forget to enjoy the little moments that make life special.

Sure, the birthdays, the holidays, the graduations that come into our lives are easy to remember and keep up with, but those fall on only a few days of the year. There’s plenty of other moments that sometimes get lost in the worries of the day.

Like a breathtaking sunset streaked with color.

Or the beauty of the outdoors.

A simple smile or touch of someone you love. These are all ways of redeeming the moment.

For me, I find so much blessings in redeeming the moments I have with my granddaughters. They are all unique and special and they bring so many happy moments to my life.

Baking with my granddaughters is one way that I redeem the time we have together. One of our favorite recipes to make is chocolate chip cookies.

So I thought I’d share the recipe I found on Allrecipes.com with you. It is awesome and my girls love it.

So I thought I’d share the recipe I found on Allrecipes.com with you. It is awesome and my girls love it.

Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep 15 m. Cook 10 m. Ready In 25 m

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

 1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

I add chopped pecans as well. 

Directions

1Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until moistened. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Drop by tablespoonfuls on to lightly greased cookie sheets.

3Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges start to brown. Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!

In Ephesians 5:16 the Bible tells us we should be, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

I believe God wants us to redeem every moment of our day for as long as we have one left on this earth.

So what about you? What do you do to redeem the time?

All the best…

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

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Blooming in the Desert by Nancy J. Farrier

Ocotillo Bloom

The western United States is in a terrible drought. I live in Southern Arizona and the drought is so severe almost nothing bloomed this spring. In a desert where the cactus blooms bring much beauty and joy, having a dearth of that beauty is very noticeable. This spring only the ocotillo and saguaros bloomed, but I enjoyed those flowers more than I can say.

My heart is sick when I go on walks and see all the plants that are dying or already dead. I want to take a bottomless watering can with me to water all the cactus and other plants. Of course, I don’t have one of those, but I often wish I did.

Now the fires are starting. Hundreds of acres are burning. Mountain forests. Desert landscape. Towns. Homes. It’s heartbreaking to watch and makes me feel helpless as the already depleted water supply sinks lower.

Part of me wants to cry out to God, “Why? Why are You allowing this to happen? Why don’t You answer the prayers for rain?”

Perhaps the answer can be found in the Bible. There are many accounts of drought and famine in the Scripture. God allowed His people to go through these difficult times. Was there a purpose in those droughts? In the famine?

In Genesis 41, Pharaoh has a dream and Joseph, who is in prison at the time, is brought out to interpret that dream Joseph tells Pharaoh there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, probably caused by drought. Why does this happen? At the time, it makes no sense, yet looking back we can see God used the drought and famine to free Joseph and raise him to a position of authority. Then God brought Joseph’s family to Egypt and provided a place for them to grow as a people. God’s name was made great by the events then and those that followed. He had a purpose.

We can read about drought and famine during Elijah’s time and during King David’s. Each time God had a purpose that was evident after the fact. 

Of more concern than the physical drought is a spiritual one. There are many references to people needing refreshed in their spirit. To them being dry spiritually and needing the water that gives life.

“The poor and needy seek water, but there is none,

Their tongues fail for thirst.

I, the Lord, will hear them;

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

I will open rivers in desolate heights,

And fountains in the midst of the valleys;

I will make the wilderness a pool of water,

And the dry land springs of water.” Is. 41:17-18 (NKJV)

Jeremiah 17: 13 refers to God as the “fountain of living waters.”

We are all familiar with the story of the woman at the well in John chapter four. Jesus asks her for a drink and then tells her about the living water. 

“Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Jn. 4:13

When we face a drought in our lives, a famine, or are consumed with the fires of doubt, we can turn to Jesus. He is the source of the water of life. He can quench our thirst. His word can satisfy our hunger. We must not let drought and famine steal the beauty from our lives. Instead, we must seek the One that satisfies and bloom in the midst of a desert.

Saguaro Bloom
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Wandering With God by Bridget A. Thomas

Sometimes our lives take unexpected turns. We might visualize the path that we would like to take in life, but things don’t always turn out the way we planned. We might have negative experiences that take us down a road that we didn’t want to go down. And there are also times when the wrong turns in life were our own doing. Either way, life can leave us feeling disoriented. We think we are moving along on a solid path when suddenly we have taken a detour. Some might even wonder why they bother making plans or setting goals. Instead they allow life to pull them along in a strong current.

Some of life’s twists and turns are out of our control, while others are the result of our own mistakes. But we don’t have to be at the mercy of whatever life will throw at us next. We don’t have to feel as though we are being tossed around in an unforgiving ocean. Instead we can learn to cling to God, and know that He is directing our steps. It starts by making our relationship with the Lord our number one priority, and giving Him our whole heart. Seek the Lord above all else. Take time to sit in His presence, get to know Him, communicate with Him, and listen to Him.

David knew what it was like to wander through life with God by his side. David grew up tending sheep. It might sound like an easy job, but he had to protect the sheep from wild animals. David faced a giant and defeated him, against all odds. One day David was told he would become king. But it didn’t happen right away. In the meantime, the current king tried to kill David, and David had to run for his life. Finally David did become king. But things in his life still went up and down. His own son tried to take over the throne, and once again David had to run for his life. David wasn’t perfect. He made a few mistakes along the way. However, God confronted him when he sinned and led him back to the right path. That is when David wrote Psalm 51, asking God to create in him a clean heart. God restored David’s soul, and led him back to the path of righteousness. Through all of life’s twists and turns, David knew his life was steady and in the Lord’s hands. That’s how he was able to write so many beautiful Psalms with such confidence.

When we learn to align our steps with God’s, life will no longer seem to be dragging us along. Instead, we will take each step with certainty that God is with us. We will not fear what lies ahead when we have an Almighty God beside us. We will be amazed at the way He restores the soul. And we will see with awe how He leads us down the path of righteousness. We could never do this on our own. We need a loving Shepherd to lead the way. We have to learn to fix our eyes on Him, every day. And He will gently guide us along life’s paths.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. – Psalm 23:3

Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

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A Judicial Conversation by James R. Coggins

“Hi, John. You know that five hundred dollars I owe you?”

“Yeah?”

“I just lost my job, so I won’t be able to pay you when I said I would. I’m sorry.”

“No problem, Wes. I’ll sue you, and then we can go on one of those TV judge shows.”

“How will that help if I don’t have the money to pay you?”

“They’ll pay both of us to be on the show. Then they will deduct the five hundred dollars from what they pay you and use it to pay off your debt to me.”

“That sounds good. I feel bad about not being able to pay you, and this way you’ll get your money.”

“There’s only one catch.”

“What?”

“I’m going to have to talk about your drug problem.”

“I don’t have a drug problem.”

“I know, but we have to spice it up a bit, make it interesting, or they won’t let us on the TV judge show.”

John thought about that for a bit. “Okay. Then I guess I’ll have to tell the judge that you’re sleeping with your wife’s sister.”

“That might mess up my marriage.”

“Yeah, but you’ll get the five hundred dollars.”

“Okay, I guess. But I’ll also have to say that you cheat on your income tax.”

“And I’ll countersue you for defamation.”

“I guess that’s fair.”

John thought some more. “So, essentially we go on TV and make fools of ourselves for money?”

“Right. It’s done all the time. That’s what the medium is all about.”

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Straight From God

Sometimes something will happen in your life and you just know it comes straight from God. Almost like a smack to the head saying, “hey you, this is what I want you to do! Now do it.”

That about sums up how I became a published author six years ago this December.

I’d started writing as a pre-teen, tried several different genres, but never really felt they were right for me, until I discovered the Christian Fiction genre. This was a lightning bolt moment that clarified this was where I was supposed to be. Thanks, God!

In 2012, I’d been writing for a while without a publishing contract when I came across a contest hosted by Love Inspired Editor, Emily Rodmell. It was called Speed Dating. The contest consisted of submitting a blurb to Emily, who would then select several writers to participate. Each writer had five minutes to pitch their story.

I’d entered other contests in the past without any success, so I wasn’t really that anxious to get my hopes up. But something kept pulling my attention back to the contest, and I finally entered it. To my surprise, I was chosen to pitch my book to Emily.

At the time of the pitch, my husband and I were in Pagosa Springs, Colorado at our cabin that didn’t have internet service. I almost canceled out entirely, but my husband told me, no, you should do it. We drove to the town of Pagosa Springs to the Ace Hardware parking lot where I was able to get internet and I did my pitch.

My fingers were shaking so much that I’m pretty sure nothing I typed made sense. But Emily liked the pitch and asked for a synopsis, then a partial, and finally the full. Right before Christmas of 2012 I sold my first Love Inspired Suspense and it all happened because God wouldn’t let me say now to a contest! He put everything into place, and it’s been an amazing journey since.

Most of my books have a mountain theme in them, partly because I love the mountains and how close to God I feel in them, but a little bit because I still remember that summer day in 2012 when I sold my first book surrounded by mountains.   

All the best…

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

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Commemorating the Fallen by Tara Randel

Today we honor those who gave their lives to defend our country.

I’ve had many family members in the military, and thankfully none perished during their time serving this great country. It takes dedication, courage and a sense of the greater good to don the uniform. My appreciation goes out to each and every member of the military, and their families, who lost their lives. The sacrifice of others should give us a renewed pride in those active duty members, and for those yet to come.

Today I also ask a special blessing for those who have lost a loved one. May God have His hand upon those who might be hurting. May the memories of loved ones be sweet as we commemorate the fallen. Today, I think this scripture is appropriate for those whose hearts are broken. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7. I’m grateful that God takes care of all our needs, especially His presence during times of sorrow.

Let us take a few moments today and reflect on what an awesome country we live in and the incredible people who have taken the step to join the military to protect our freedom. This is more than a three day holiday. It is a time to thank those we’ve never met, but who have had an impact on this country.

God Bless!

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 next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, Stealing Her Best Friend’s Heart, available August 2021 . 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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Waiting With God by Bridget A. Thomas

For many of us, waiting is one of the hardest things. Whether we are waiting in a doctor’s office for our name to be called or waiting for a big breakthrough to catapult us towards our goals, waiting can makes us as antsy as a toddler.

Why is waiting so hard? There are a number of reasons that come to mind. If it is something like waiting in traffic, this is difficult because our lives are so busy, and we don’t know how to be idle. Also, we likely have a ton of tasks on our never ending to-do lists, and waiting is putting us further behind.

If the situation is something bigger, like waiting for a prayer to be answered or waiting for a dream to come to life, we can easily get discouraged along the way. We might start off hoping that things will work out, but then day after day, things do not seem to change. Or maybe the change is so small, we hardly notice it. Over time, our hope seems to wither. The enemy whispers doubts in our ears. And it is easier to believe the lie than it is to stand on truth.

Waiting can be a sweet place, if we approach it correctly and cling to God.

“But nothing teaches us so effectively as a prolonged difficulty. Unable to handle it on our own, we turn to Him out of desperation and ultimately realize how truly loving, wise, and good He really is.” – Dr. Charles F. Stanley, Waiting on God.

I know what it’s like to see other people’s dreams come true, while I still wait on the sidelines. In some cases, I don’t believe the other people truly wanted and longed for that particular thing like I had. Sometimes it all seems so unfair.

But God…

I have learned that God is a trustworthy God. So when I am faced with situations like these, now it is a lot easier for me to turn to Him with trust. I might still experience an ache in my heart at times. But I can still take that pain and hand it over to the Lord. I can tell Him that I trust His plans. I know He is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28). And I can wait with peace and contentment.

Abraham and Sarah knew a bit about waiting. They were told they would have a child in their old age. But it didn’t happen right away, so they took matters into their own hands. This resulted in a household filled with turmoil. You would think that after all they had done, God would have revoked His promise. But He didn’t. God still gave them a son at just the right time. His mercy and grace were greater than their mistakes. (See Genesis 15, Genesis 16, Genesis 17, Genesis 21.)

When I think about that story, I can see how Abraham and Sarah missed out on precious time with the Lord. Their waiting period was filled with frenzy. If only they had believed, they would have had some wonderful moments of waiting, as they clung to God. They would have learned that when we draw near to God, He draws near to us (James 4:8). This story reminds me of the importance of waiting on God. He can see the big picture. He can see the beginning and the end. He wants what is best for us and for His kingdom. When we learn to trust Him and wait in His loving presence, we will find peace that surpasses understanding.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. – Psalm 23:2

Photo by Arie van Ravenswaay on Pexels.com

© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

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Standing Steady, Standing Alone by Julie Arduini

One of my favorite things to do is share God’s word with others through Sunday School. This season I’m co teaching Elijah: Faith and Fire by Priscilla Shirer. This is one of the meatiest studies we’ve ever done, and we’re still working our way through it.

I’ve learned so much about Elijah and what God wants us to learn and use through his example. When we reached the dramatic showdown at Mt. Carmel, Elijah let the Baal worshipers go first. They outnumbered him by the hundreds. They called on gods all day long. Elijah patiently waited.

When it was his turn, he asked for water. During a drought. He rebuilt the altar, used twelve stones to represent the Israel tribes, and poured so much water over the wood that the area became trenches. Ever try to light a fire with wet wood?

But Elijah knew God was his source. God had been faithful when He asked Elijah to pronounce the drought to King Ahab. When God sent him to a brook called Cherith during the drought. God sent ravens, a greedy, unpredictable bird to feed Elijah 1000 meals. God took care of Elijah, the widow, and her son. It was a no-brainer that God would bring the fire.

Elijah, for his part, remained steady in prayer. When the widow’s son died, she didn’t argue when Elijah took the boy upstairs to Elijah’s room. That was his prayer place where the widow knew Elijah had spent hours and hours talking to God. Elijah had been obedient in all the things God asked of him. The only rule for Mt. Carmel was neither side was to light their own fire.

And so, as supernatural fire does, it reigned down. Man-made fire flames up, so imagine the scene when everyone saw the fire.

You’d think that would be the end of Elijah’s story. We are in 1 Kings 18 and about to enter 19 where God then asks Elijah to pronounce rain is coming. When there isn’t a cloud in the sky. It’s so nice out that Elijah’s best friend approaches him six times to let him know there’s nothing in the sky that remotely looks like a cloud.

But Elijah knows.

Priscilla shared a story about a ship that saw a light coming too close. The captain called out for the other light to move six inches north. The response was no, but you move six inches south. This went back and forth as the lights came dangerously close. Finally the captain proclaimed that as a Navy captain and commander of the ship, the other light must move six inches north. The other responded, “You move six inches south. I’m the lighthouse.”

I write all this because recently I saw a lighthouse in action. An opportunity came for this person to move the boundary line they had drawn for their life based on Biblical principles. To do so would not have been trouble or wrong, not right away at least, but they knew this was a conviction God gave and they decided to obey Him. It was not easy or fun, but they did it. This is a person who glows for Jesus. And that steady faith blesses many. Like Elijah, they are often set apart. It’s lonely being obedient, especially in the world today.

I believe I read that there were other Israelite believers at Mt. Carmel. But they didn’t speak up or join Elijah. He had to stand up and alone, and oh how God used him.

That’s something I’m taking seriously. Am I steady? Am I a lighthouse to this dark world. I sure hope so. How about you?

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Without a Doubt by Nancy J. Farrier

Do you ever have doubts? I know I do. I doubt my ability as a writer. I doubt my worth as a wife and mother. I doubt my testimony as a Christian. And the list goes on.

I don’t want to be a doubter, but sometimes those thoughts slip in and I dwell on them. It seems like someone is whispering in my ear, “You’re not good enough,” or “Who are you to do this?” 

I realize this voice doesn’t come from God, but from Satan, the one who wants to lead us astray. I also know from scripture I am not alone. We are not alone.

“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.” Matt. 28:16-17 (NKJV)

We read often about Thomas, who doubted Jesus’ resurrection. But we overlook this scripture showing more than one of then doubted, even when seeing Jesus in person after he’d risen from the grave. They couldn’t comprehend the sovereignty of God and His mighty power to overcome death.

Do we refuse to see the work God is doing in our lives when we have doubts? Do we not trust enough? Do we lack the faith to walk the path He’s put us on and believe in His grace and power?

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” Jas. 1:6 (NKJV)

What a picture this is. The waves of the sea tossing a boat to and fro depending on where the wind is blowing. This is what happens when we doubt. We are tossed from one emotion to the next without a strong foundation beneath us. Doubting is not beneficial to our spiritual health.

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Tim. 1:8-12

This passage from 2 Timothy is a favorite of mine. When those doubts come, and they always will, I can have the confidence that God is able. He is able to instill the abilities I need. He is able to give me worth despite my mistakes. He is able to use my meager testimony to His glory. Because I commit my life, my all, to Him.

Give everything you are to the Lord. He is worthy and will give you the confidence you need to overcome any doubts.

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Approaching Pentecost by Kathy Carmichael

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” ~ ACTS 2:38-39 NKJV

This upcoming Sunday is Pentecost or Whitsun (Whit Sunday). It commemorates the receipt of the Holy Spirit by the disciples and followers of Christ. Jesus Christ had promised the disciples a helper and had instructed them to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit: I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” ~ Luke 24:49 NIV

Pentecost is known as the birthday of the Christian Church because over three thousand people were baptized at the first Pentecost. Can you imagine how awe inspiring it most have been to be there that day?

Holy Spirit helps us reach others. Holy Spirit enables us to use our gifts in a manner that will reach and allow others to comprehend what we are offering. In a previous article, I wrote about the gifts we receive from God. What gift or gifts were you given? Are you good at explaining things, singing, calming people down? Are you an excellent storyteller? Do children naturally respond to you? There are as many types of gifts as there are people. It’s up to you to decide how best you can use your gifts for the glorification and spreading the word of God. Holy Spirit is there within us, aiding us as we share with others.

Not everyone is called to go person to person or door to door testifying about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Some are, but many aren’t. When I first heard that I was supposed to bring others to God, I felt ashamed because I didn’t have the gift for speaking about God’s glory, nor did I have the knowledge to testify. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was to learn that, instead, I can use MY gifts from God to (hopefully) bring others to Jesus.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV)

We are called to use our gifts to the glory of God, thus testifying, sometimes merely through our example, to the power, love and authority of our Heavenly Father. I have the gift of writing and it’s such a blessing to be able to write about what I’ve learned. Do you have the gift of listening? Or the gift of caring? You are called on to use what you were given, not what was given to someone else.

If you’re like me, you’re relieved that you can use something you are already good at and enjoy to help others discover the love, beauty and salvation of Jesus Christ. Happy Pentecost!

*****

Want to learn a bit more about the Holy Spirit? I have a new eBook that is currently FREE at most online retailers 🙂 Click here.

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Speechmaking by James R. Coggins

I never did very well at public speaking in high school. Once a year, all of the students would have to make a speech in English class. The students who had done the best in each class would then compete against each other in a school-wide competition. Again, the best were chosen to compete against the best from other schools at the regional level, and so on.

I never progressed beyond my own classroom, always finishing with a B or a C, in the middle of the pack.

This is odd because I am one of the few people from my high school who has done any public speaking as an adult. Sometimes I have even been paid for it. Many people would rather swim in shark-infested waters than speak publicly, but I enjoy it.

This has puzzled me for some time. I concluded that one of the reasons for the disconnect between my high school speechmaking and my later speechmaking lies in the content rules. As students, we were told that we could talk about any subject except religion and politics. Those topics were considered too controversial.

This is distinctly odd if we think about the usual topics for adult speechmaking. Adults really make few speeches. Besides teaching, the two main arenas for public speaking are religion and politics. That is, the primary forms of adult speeches are sermons and political campaign speeches. I’ve delivered both.

So, the school decided that the topics that were not allowed for students’ speeches were the two main topics covered by adult speeches. No wonder I didn’t do well at high school speechmaking. Outside of these two topics, there is not much worth making speeches about.

Jesus said that the two primary commandments were to love God and our neighbor. Those are the arenas of religion and politics. Sermons tell us about loving God, and political speeches should outline the best ways to love our fellow human beings. Jesus evidently knew a lot about good speechmaking.

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The Beauty Of Change

Okay, I know what you’re saying…change can be beautiful? No way. I’m inclined to agree with you. I’ll be the first person to say I am not a fan of change. It can be disruptive and overwhelming to your peace of mind. But in life as in writing, change is inevitable.

So when I recently had an unexpected change occurred in my life, I found myself searching for a way to find something good about change. And what I found was not only good but beautiful.

First I thought about the changing seasons. If you live in the north where it snows a bunch, you probably love it when winter changes to spring. My favorite season is the fall because it marks the end of the long hot Texas summer. Fall is a welcoming change in both temperature and scenery.  Good thing…right?

Then I thought about a change in my family life. This year, my husband and I celebrate your 38th year together. There are days when I still can’t believe that much time has gone by and how blessed I am to have him in my life.

Then I thought about my writing. I’m so happy to be called a Christian writer, but if I’d never taken the chance to enter a Love Inspired writing contest would I still be searching for my place to serve God? Getting my first Love Inspired Suspense contract confirmed what I believe God wanted me to do with my writing.

So, if you are going through a change in your life or your career, take a moment to look back on the changes you’ve gone through so far. I bet you’ll see the fingerprints of God throughout it all. 

While change is always hard and can turn your life upside down, as I’ve looked back on my life, I’ve realized change has always moved me toward good things. And looking at it now, I can see God’s hand through it all.

All the best…

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net 


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