A Moving Experience by James R. Coggins

A couple of months ago, three men wearing masks backed a truck up to our house and took away all of our furniture, completely emptying the house.

Before you ask, yes, we paid them to do this. So they emptied our bank account as well as our house. They didn’t get much. There was more in the house than in the bank account. (I’m a writer.)

It was time to downsize from the 1600-square-foot house we had lived in for three decades to a 2200-square-foot townhouse. (As we have grown older, we have begun to see the value of having a place with four bathrooms.)

A complicating factor was that there was a gap of a few days between moving out of our house and moving into our new townhouse. It felt as if we were living back in the stone age. We had no permanent dwelling place, only a temporary shelter. Every morning we would go out to forage for food. Fortunately, Tim Hortons has been around since what seems like the beginning of time. We had no way to predict the weather or to find out what was happening in the rest of the world beyond our narrow circle. We had no books, magazines, or newspapers, no phone, internet, computer, or television. In the evening, my wife and I had to mindlessly stare at each other for four hours.  We didn’t even have an address where we could receive mail, not even air mail (known to most of you as “flyers”).

But we were together and worked together to support each other. We had good friends and family members to help us. And God was with us, and He really has been around since the beginning of time—and even before that.

The interlude ended, we moved into our townhouse, and all of our possessions reappeared. Well, most of them anyway. It took only two hours after our phone was connected for the telemarketers to find us again. I had over 500 accumulated emails to plow through, most of them spam. And the nightly news on television was bad. It almost made us long for a return to the stone age.

For a while, it was like Christmas. We kept opening boxes not knowing what is inside. We found a lot of interesting stuff, just not necessarily the stuff we needed. On a Tuesday, we went to the store and bought coffee. On Wednesday, we found the coffee pot. On Thursday, we found the coffee maker and cups. On Friday, we found a spoon and could finally have coffee.

Now we are back in hunter-gatherer mode. Every day, we go on a quest to try to find the stuff we unpacked and put away but can’t remember where.

The great problem with moving is that it necessarily puts the emphasis on things, not just on the house, but on all of the things that go into it, what to move and what not to move, what to add and what to throw away, instead of putting the focus on God and people, who, unlike things, are eternal.

It still feels as if we are living in someone else’s house or a very good hotel, nice but not necessarily home, certainly not our home.

My wife thinks it is because we have no memories of events, interactions, and happenings that we have experienced in this place.

I think it might have something to do with the fact that, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we can’t have any visitors. A house warming party is out of the question. We have a much larger dining room, but we can’t invite anyone to dinner. We have a beautifully furnished guest room, but no one will sleep there for the foreseeable future. It feels as if we need someone else to come in and validate that this really is our home.

It all feels so temporary, so unrooted. Perhaps it is a reminder that this world is not our home and we are just passing through, as these verses point out: “These men of faith…agreed that this earth was not their real home but that they were just strangers visiting down here. And quite obviously when they talked like that, they were looking forward to their real home in heaven” (Hebrews 11:13-14 New Living Translation).

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Looking Ahead by Tara Randel

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Proverbs 4:25

After the kind of year we just went through, keeping our eyes on the path before us might seem a little strange. Let’s face it, things went haywire last year. Our world was turned upside down. So many things we took for granted suddenly became things we couldn’t be part of. Voices coming from many different directions easily distracted us from what we considered…normal.

I’d wager to say I’m not the only one who had a year of questions. Perhaps doubt. In that category, I believe we could all find each other at one point or another. Thankfully, trusting in the Lord does not change. God does not change, pandemic or not.

My husband and I own a service based business. When the country first went on lock down, we lost seventy-five percent of our business overnight. But the most miraculous thing happened. We didn’t panic. We prayed, asked the Lord to take care of us, and we were able to live on the twenty-five percent and survive. Eventually, businesses opened again and we were back where we started, with at least five new accounts added. I got two different book contracts during this time. We’d had many years serving God under our belts and knew that He would be gracious and supply our needs if we asked. He did. Not well meaning-leaders or political bureaucrats. It was God, pure and simple, and I will say that until the day I die.

So what will 2021 look like? Will there be more distractions if we allow it?

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:3-6

This year:

Commit to the Lord.

Keep walking, no matter the circumstance thrown in your path.

Remain faithful to the God who is faithful to us, the God who gives us peace even in the midst of a storm and times of turmoil.

Remember, God loves us, always. Always.

We are all praying that this year will be more upbeat, more promising. With God in control, things have a way of working out. Be encouraged. Seek God. And thank Him.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Let’s make 2021 a year when we turn to the Lord in all things, for all things.

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 July 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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Three Keys by Bridget A. Thomas

I was recently reading a book called Fasting by Pastor Jentezen Franklin. He pointed out how in Matthew 6, Jesus gave us three important keys to our spiritual walk – Give, Pray, Fast. They are three things that we might be familiar with. But how good are we at actually doing them?

Give

Verses 2-4 say, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

The miraculous thing about giving is that it not only blesses the recipient, but it also blesses us as well. We feel so good about helping someone. And often times, God will bless us in return for what we did. And as Hannah Alexander mentioned recently, it is so much more fun to bless someone when the recipient does not know who did the blessing.

Pray

Verses 5-13 are familiar ones as they contain what we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

Prayer is our direct line to our Heavenly Father. We can reach Him at any time and He is always there. We will never get a busy signal. We will never get voicemail. God wants to hear from us and He eagerly awaits our call.

Fast

Verses 16-18 say, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Fasting might be the most difficult item of these three. Food is a crutch for many people. We look forward to each meal, especially if we are sharing meals with our loved ones. Many are addicted to sugar. Some of us have an especially difficult time just giving up coffee. The truth is that fasting is painful. But when we fast, if we go about it the right way and with the right motives, we are opening a door for God to come in. We are telling Him that we love Him above everything else. And we are allowing Him to come into our lives in a miraculous way. I love the way Pastor Franklin put it: “When you eliminate food from your diet for a number of days, your spirit becomes uncluttered by the things of this world and amazingly sensitive to the things of God.”

One thing that Jesus points out for each of these, is that we should not boast about them. So before speaking, we might pause and ask ourselves if we are mentioning something for recognition. If we are not sure, then it might be best to not say anything!

And one thing that Pastor Franklin pointed out in his book is that Jesus used the word when not if. Jesus said, “When you give…” and “When you pray…” and “When you fast…” He didn’t say “If you give…” or “If you pray…” or “If you fast…” So that is telling how important they each are in our spiritual walk.

Giving, praying, and fasting are three vital parts of our walk with God. Doing these things will draw us closer to God. I also believe they will open the door for miracles and blessings in our lives. However, that should not be our motive. We do them to honor God, which should be our motive in all of our actions. I aim to improve in these three areas this year, and I hope you will join me!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

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It’s the Who that Gets You Through by Julie Arduini

For the last couple weeks my sister and I have been perusing social media and watching videos. There has been so much information out there concerning our nation and her past, her presidents, their choices, and our future.

Heady stuff.

And just we needed as a distraction.

For the world will remember December 6 for the election certification and your narrative concerning the Capitol building.

For my sister and me, it was the day we lost our mother.

She’d been ill, but was recovering. That week was the best she’d been in months. It was a shock we’re still reeling from. Now both parents are gone. It’s me, my husband, our children, my sister, and her son. It felt so surreal in the house and the days no one dared to sit in mom’s chair.

The chair she watched so many newscasts in. Whether I was still living at home or out of the area with my own family, mom and I were about the news. We had opinions on all the current events, the politics, and the anchors/reporters delivering it all.

As loved ones dropped off meals and condolences, the television was on in the background. No matter what you think about the last couple weeks, we knew one thing.

Mom could not have handled what’s happening.

The irony is in her death, my sister and I started watching together. Then we found a third party who shared the same thoughts I had been prayerfully seeing and reading since 2019. Things regarding the election and even today’s inauguration I have believed with all my heart that mom in her pain and frustration couldn’t grasp. Our last political conversation ended in disagreement. “Give it up, Julie.”

As we planned mom’s services, carried them out, and finished the week out together in what is now my sister’s house, we hung on all the Gab/Rumble/Clouthub notifications. As we said goodbye, wondering while I drive would an alarm go off signaling the beginning of our theories or the end?

All of our chat and pending excitement thinly covering up the reality. Mom’s gone and we have to adjust to life without her.

As I type this, my sister and the group text we are on is blowing up. So much politically will happen today. It might go exactly how we think, or not. It’s hard not knowing.

Between the current events and personal grief, I have peace. Although I’ve read a lot of articles on both death and the news, I know one thing about where I am right now.

It’s not about what I place my trust in.

It’s Who.

Whether I see Biden, Harris, Trump, or the military take control, I’m going to be okay because all my hope is in Jesus. He is my rock, my anchor, my everything. Even in the worst circumstances, He has been faithful.

Same for you. Whatever’s going on, whatever you hope to happen today, my prayer is you aren’t clinging to your what’s but that you have a Who.

Jesus. King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Hallelujah.

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The Uplifting Beauty of Music

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” Psalm 95:1

It’s been a long year. Right before this pandemic started, I moved to a new city in a new state. Cue: lockdown. It’s not the best way to make new friends or find new hobbies so it has been a lonely time for me and I’m sure, many others.

As we have all learned, phone calls and Zoom meetings are not the same as being with others, as worshiping together. I’ve been watching my son’s church in L.A. every week so I’m not completely out of church practice. http://ERC.LA However, during this time, I want to sing my praises to just that, PRAISES!

Music has the power to transform us and our moods to a different place. It’s so powerful because no matter what mood you need to be in, some musician has provided for you. For example, I’m a big fan of the 1940’s (minus the war, of course.) I think about how while the world waged war, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers danced and sang about mundane, ridiculous scenarios to get us through. (The plot of “Swing Time” is about a groom calling off his wedding and leaving because the cuff on his pants is all wrong.) Yet, they brought the world through some dark times by reminding us of the light.

If you think all is lost, “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller will remind you there is something to be happy about. And what about worship music? When we sing praises to our Lord, we are in communion with Him and reminded that He is in control. He knew this pandemic would happen and like Christians in bad times before us, we’re called to remember He has us in His hands.

Music has already done that for us. Some musician has been in the worst peril of their lives and created in the darkness. The composer of “It is Well with My Soul” being one of the most obvious. I’m sure many of you know that Horatio Spafford lost his son and wealth in the Great Chicago Fire, then planned to return to England with his family. He sent them ahead so that he could clean up loose business ends in Chicago. Later, he learned that their ship has been lost at sea. The man lost everything and yet he found comfort in God’s sovereignty and he left us a worshipful hymn that reminds us our problems are small compared to his. And that worship in our darkest times is the proper response.

So I encourage you that if you’re tired of being in the house, tired of not worshipping with your church family, get out for a walk and listen to some praise music. It will restore you.

This is my daughter and I with my favorite worship musician, David Crowder. Truly, there is power and connection in song.

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Proverbs of Ashes by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

Sickness. Death. Loss. All difficult to face no matter who you are. Especially when they come close to home, touching a friend or family member. We don’t want to lose someone or face death. We want to cling to life as we know it and hold those who are dear to us close. 

But, there are times we can’t do that. When those we care about are struck down in one way or another. An accident. Cancer. Covid. Whatever touches them, also touches us.

Job, is one who had so much. But, he lost almost everything. His children died. His riches were stolen. He suffered from terrible disease. And, the friends he thought he had, were not there for him. 

In Job 13:12, Job says to his friends, “Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes, Your defenses are defenses of clay.”

Your platitudes… What are platitudes? Webster’s Dictionary says it is, “a banal, trite, or stale remark.” Something overused with little meaning that pertains to the situation.

God won’t give you more than you can bear.

Everything happens for a reason.

It is what it is.

Think about how much worse other people have it.

And the list of platitudes goes on and on. In some situations, these statements might have merit, but when someone is suffering they “proverbs of ashes.” Something that blows away with the wind and has no real impact, only hurts. Something worthless or better left unsaid.

So, why do we say them? Because they are easy. We’ve heard those sayings over and over so they pop into our heads without thought. We freeze in the moment and don’t know what else to say. We feel we have to say something because we want so much to help the other person.

In order to break this habit, we must train ourselves to think differently. We must relearn our automatic response patterns and train ourselves to say or do something that has more import and is helpful to the person who is suffering.

Note that Job’s friend may have made mistakes later on, but their early desire to help their friend shows compassion. First, they banded together in a show of support. Visiting as a way to show empathy is good. The solidarity in knowing one has friends that care can bring a modicum of comfort.

 “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. Job. 2:11-12a

When the three noted the change in Job, the way his mourning gave him a different countenance, they grieved aloud from afar. They didn’t walk up to Job and start weeping, tearing their clothes, and sprinkling dust in the air. But, they also didn’t approach with light hearts and jokes, or blunt honesty, such as, “Job, you look awful.”Job could see they mourned along with him, without the weight of their grief being too much to bear.

“And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven.” Job 2:12b

Then these men did something very beneficial. They didn’t tell him to snap out of it. They didn’t start off with the platitudes. For days, they sat with him without speaking. They supported him in their silence. Silence in this case is a good thing. There is no pressure to have the right words. There is no worry you might have spoken the wrong words. There is only a time of support and love. 

 So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.” Job 2:13

After the seven days, the three friends couldn’t keep quiet. As soon as Job began to express his own feelings, they opened up to what they had been thinking. They accused Job of sinning. They told him he should repent and get right with God. Without understanding the nature of the work God is doing in Job’s life, they sit in judgement and throw out platitudes. Platitudes that wounded and caused so much pain.

It’s God’s will.

God has a plan.

Time heals all wounds.

Platitudes may couch truth within them, but they are not always appropriate. The next time you visit a grieving or sick friend, consider showing empathy. Consider sitting in silence and waiting. Maybe even holding their hand or touching, if they show that’s what they want.

And, when they want to talk—listen. Just listen. If you talk, just reaffirm what they are saying and give them time. Don’t think you need to throw out words of wisdom they aren’t ready to hear. Words that will blow away like ashes. 

Just listen.

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NORA’S REVIEW OF: Airborne by Diann Mills

 

 

Nora St Laurent, Christians ReadAIRBORNE

By DiAnn Mills

Published by: Tyndale House Publishers

384 Pages

  • #Christian Mystery & Suspense Romance
  • #Action Adventure
  • #Clean and Wholesome

 

 

Nora’s Review:  

Given our current situation it makes reading books about virus outbreaks fascinating to see how a slightly different scenario would play out. Some of the situation mirrors what we have experienced this year, some not so much. Intriguing all the same.

Unlike other books I have read by this author where the spiritual side of things were lighthearted but given the life and death situation these characters find themselves in, I understand the topic of faith can come on strong. There is a scientist atheist Dr. Chad Lawrence exploring faith from all angles, its relevant for many people but it’s a number one priority for Heather and her husband Chad.

FBI agent Heather Lawrence is on the flight that has the outbreak. They go through protocol in dealing with people that have contracted the virus. The powers that be are determining where they should land? Then what should they do? As they are trying to determine who did this. Heather cannot believe the situation she finds herself in. If only she had done, had known etc…. The list was long.

Both main characters are in a fight for their lives as they seek answers that will lead to the person behind this virus, an antidote that will stop the out-break, and in the middle of it all hang on to their marriage. This author makes you care about the FBI Agent and her Dr. husband, plus all the people on the flight. This is a fast moving, complex plot, woven through like-able main characters that are insightful. I enjoyed this suspenseful read with lots of ups, downs, and everything in-between. It is a thought-provoking story with some ethical issues I had not thought of before, mixed in a wonderful nail-biting story that has surprises and a splash of romance. Something to take you away from what is going on today.

 

From the Book’s Back Cover:

Heather Lawrence’s long-awaited vacation to Salzburg wasn’t supposed to go like this. Mere hours into the transatlantic flight, the Houston FBI agent is awakened when passengers begin exhibiting horrific symptoms of an unknown infection. As the virus quickly spreads and dozens of passengers fall ill, Heather fears she’s witnessing an epidemic similar to ones her estranged husband studies for a living―but this airborne contagion may have been deliberately released.

While Heather remains quarantined with other survivors, she works with her FBI colleagues to identify the person behind this attack. The prime suspect? Dr. Chad Lawrence, an expert in his field . . . and Heather’s husband. The Lawrences’ marriage has been on the rocks since Chad announced his career took precedence over his wife and future family and moved out.

As more victims fall prey days after the initial outbreak, time’s running out to hunt down the killer, one who may be closer to the victims than anyone ever expected.

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

Nora St. Laurent

TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!

The Book Club Network blog www.bookfun.org

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I Love You a Bushel and a Peck by Kathy Carmichael

 

My sister Paula is six years older than me. Paula was my mother’s eldest and I was my father’s eldest (we have different fathers). All through growing up, my mother’s mother would ask Paula how much she loved her, and Paula always answered with the saying, “I love you a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck. That’s how much I love you!” I so wish Paula were able to recite that now, because I love her a bushel and a peck.

I truly miss my sister. She has Alzheimer’s Disease and has lived in a care facility for many years. The disease has progressed to the final stage and she can’t really communicate.

Since the pandemic struck, she’s become bedridden. Six days ago, she was diagnosed with Covid-19. I’m grateful because the facility knows how to treat the virus, with both prescription medications and over-the-counter supplements. Because of the pandemic, none of her family, including her husband, Jody, or their children and grandchildren, have been able to visit her, although the facility was allowing her husband to see her through the window now and then. But that, too, has ceased. Jody has received daily phone updates, which helps a little. But it’s incredibly hard on him. Until the pandemic struck, he drove over an hour each way =daily= in order to see her, and he isn’t in the best of health himself.

Paula’s been holding her own with the virus, but today (as I write this on January 12) she has a mild fever. This, of course, worries us all, and we’ve been praying, the best and only thing we can actually do for her. 

Thankfully we have scripture to fall back on.

Here’s one of my favorites:

 
 

Please join with me in telling your loved ones, before it’s too late, that you love them “A bushel and a peck.” I so wish I could tell Paula that one more time and have her comprehend.

I’m sending prayers and blessings for all those who are suffering through various afflictions. And may God bless you.

*****

 

I’m participating in a group author giveaway sponsored by Celebrate Lit that ends January 14th. It’s so awesome that I believe you may be interested, because the grand prize is a $500 Amazon Gift Certificate.

Click here to enter.

 

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Animal Dominoes by James R. Coggins

The year 2021 AD has just begun. But what does the “AD” mean? Some people might remember that it means something like “Animal Dominoes.” It is actually a Latin term, “anno Domini,” which means “in the year of the Lord.”

The practice goes back to ancient times when dates were calculated according to the reign of the current monarch. This practice is common throughout the Bible but also in many records and writings by people of many cultures. This can be illustrated by some biblical examples:

• “In the fifth year of King Rehoboam…” (1 Kings 14:25)

• “In the year that King Uzziah died…” (Isaiah 6:1)

• “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah…” (Daniel 1:1)

• “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar…” (Luke 3:1)

Of course, this meant that the calendar would be different in each kingdom, and the calendar would change every time a new king was crowned. If a new king was crowned in the middle of a year, would that date become the start of a new year, meaning that some “years” would be shorter than others? Or would some years be shared by two kings, and if so, would that be counted as two years instead of one? The lack of clarity makes it very difficult to date events precisely in the ancient world. 

2021 AD means, “in the 2021st year of the reign of the Lord,” that is, “in the 2021st year since Jesus’ birth” (or possibly His incarnation). This method of dating was first suggested in 525 AD and gradually became the standard practice in Europe in the Middle Ages. It has proved so useful that it has continued into the present.

Of course, in more recent years, those who are not Christians have begun to use an alternate term: 2021 CE, meaning “the 2021st year of the Christian Era,” later further secularized to mean “the 2021st year of the Common Era.”

Those of us who are Christian should still be saying “2021 AD,” meaning “in the 2021st year of our Lord.” By doing so, we are declaring our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ and affirming that His kingdom supersedes all other kingdoms.     

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What Should I Say? (by Hannah Alexander

This is my husband’s expression when something slips out of my mouth that he isn’t accustomed to hearing from me.

It was my expression (without the beard) when I watched an uncensored bloopers reel yesterday, featuring popular shows of the 60s. These were family shows that exposed nary a cuss word. The bloopers, from some of my favorite shows, stunned me to my toes when the actors let loose with frustration and had to have another cut. Not that the words stunned me as an adult, but back then I was a little kid. Of course, I didn’t know what those words meant anyway. I still wanted to hold my hands over my younger self’s ears and hide the harshness of the world from…well…me.

As I get older…and older…sigh… Um, what was I saying? Oh, yes, as I get older, fewer things shock me. I get more lax about my own behavior, since I’m seldom around children. But I have decided to censor my own words and actions a little better as I consider whom it might affect.

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When You Fall Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Vicki Hinze

We’ve all been there with bosses, friends, family.  Caught between the rock and the hard place.  It’s uncomfortable, it’s maddening, and at times it’s heartbreaking. 

We try to avoid those situations.  We keep our opinions and thoughts to ourselves, avoid specific topics we know others have issues with, and sometimes we’re successful.  Normally, between adults on differences seated in principles, we can agree to disagree.  That, in my humble opinion, is how it should be.  But the fact is, not everyone got that memo. And some disagree with the philosophy that each is entitled to their opinion, like it or not.

In today’s climate, none of us can afford to be one of them.  People aren’t clones.  They have different opinions and ideas.  They have different motivations and reasons for doing what they do, thinking what they think.  Their experience has not been our experience.  That doesn’t make either experience right or wrong.  It does acknowledge the experiences have been different.  If those differing parties are family or real friends, they should all respect what they don’t know as well as what they do.  They should respect the person home to that opposing opinion and experience.

What do I mean by that? 

I mean we give our family and real friends the benefit of doubt that their motivations are pure, and their reasons might well be something they cannot or choose not to share.  Honestly, we grant greater latitude to people we like.  The more we like them, the more latitude or benefit of doubt we grant them. Certainly nothing wrong with that.  The better we know the person, the more we know and understand what motivates their thoughts and actions.

In this type of situation, an issue of potential conflict arises when what should be mutual respect is not mutual, and reciprocity is absent.  When a family member or real friend ignores your choices, your reasons for doing what you’re doing, and insists you react in a specific way to a specific topic or be forcefully or formidably alienated.  In other words, they demand you think or act they way they want you to, or they belittle or give you grief for having a different reaction then alienate you.

In that position, you have a couple of choices:

*  You can do what the other person insists you do, forfeiting your choice and your reasons.

*  You can attempt to discuss the situation with your family member or real friend, provided the gauntlet hasn’t already been tossed down and that opportunity for discussion been removed from the table before you knew an issue existed.

*  You can respectfully remove yourself from the situation, preferably without confrontation or a major blowout.

*  You can engage in a confrontation or major blowout.  (Rarely is this a constructive solution.  Actually, I can’t think of a time when in personal relationships it has proven to be a constructive solution. Often it leads to permanent alienation.)

None of the above are optimum choices for peaceful coexistence and solutions, and none have wholly positive outcomes.  But in real life we are placed in these situations and they are absent positive outcomes, so we seek the outcome that is the least painful for all involved.  We can’t control another’s actions, but we can control our own, and we control our own reactions to their actions.  So, we seek the highest good for all.  We seek a solution which inflicts the least amount of destruction and exhibits the greatest amount of respect—for ourselves and for others.  Sometimes, that’s the best we can do.

Losing a family member or real friend to disagreement is never easy. Nor should it be easy or painless to lose the connection to someone you’ve taken into your heart.  The wound cuts deep, and it can cause bitterness, but only if you let it.

That is also a choice you make.  Mostly you’ll wonder why you gave respect but were not respected.  That’s a normal reaction, and an inevitable one.  But once the shock wears off, it is not one to embrace. 

As stated earlier, we cannot control the actions of others, only our own.  And it is upon our own actions and reactions we should focus.  Acknowledge the worse but concentrate on the best.  Continue to wish well.  Continue to pray for insight and wisdom, for blessings for that person. 

This might sound hard to do.  That’s because it is.  But, with time, it becomes easier, and a day does come when you know you’ve chosen the right path.  Anger and upset is a heavy burden to carry.  When you forgive—even those who never ask for forgiveness—you release that anger and upset. 

It isn’t that you ignore it.  It isn’t that you choose to let someone else walk all over you.  It is that you respect your differences and refuse to fall to anger and upset over something you cannot control. 

When you forgive, you let go. You don’t carry that anger or upset anymore.  You’ve accepted the reality of the situation. And while it might not be as you wished it, it is what it is, and you’ve accepted it and are free to move on with life.

For people of faith, who tend to put challenges on the altar early on, it is comforting to know that God’s got this.  He will open eyes, change hearts, or deal with the situation, bearing in mind the greatest good for all involved.  That is a huge comfort.  A huge blessing.  When we have done what we can do, we trust God will do the rest—and He will do that greatest good loving all who are involved.

It’s impossible to avoid being caught between the rock and hard place.  And that, while unfortunate, is simply a fact of life when interacting with other people.  As I told a dear friend not too long ago, “If you interact with others, expect conflict.  It’s healthy, it’s normal, it’s inevitable.  If you can’t deal with it constructively, become a recluse and get a dog.”

At the time, I thought that was about the best advice I knew to give.  I still believe it now, though on occasion, one should expect conflict with the dog…

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Captivity and Trust by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash

Do you have a favorite scripture you cling to in times of stress? Most of us do. Most of us have more than one. Scripture is comforting in times of trouble. Comforting when there is uncertainty and unrest in our lives and in our world. Even when the promises of God seem distant and as if He isn’t listening, we know He is. We can trust His promise.

One scripture quoted often is Jeremiah 20:11—“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

What a beautiful promise, especially during this time as our hopes for a respite from the pandemic stutter to a halt? With the variants of the virus showing up, and people re-infecting, it feels as if we’ll never be rid of this monster. And yet, maybe there is a layer to this scripture that we aren’t seeing when we only read the one verse—the one beautiful promise from God.

I’ve heard several people compare the Covid restrictions to being held in captivity. Captive in our homes. Captive behind our masks. Held captive away from our family and friends. And, it feels that way. As if we’ll never have our lives back or be free to live like we are accustomed to living.

What does Jeremiah 20:10 say? The verse just prior to that wonderful promise of a future and hope? “For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”

Wait a minute. The Israelites were in captivity for seventy years before this promise? They had to live seventy years in captivity? Away from their land. Serving someone else. With no freedom. Think about that for today and what it might mean to us.

What if 2020 lasts until 2090? Gasp. Seventy years. Of sickness. Of death. Of civil unrest. Of being socially distanced. Of family and friends dying without us there to comfort them.

Seventy years.

What would happen to our faith? Would we still cling to this promise of God? Would we rail at Him asking where He is when we need Him? Would we think He’d abandoned us?

Would our hearts still be tuned to Him? Would we read His word daily? Would we pray? Would we have hope? The hope of a future with peace and no evil?

Keeping the faith would be tough. Seventy years is a long time considering all the dismay and complaining over one year. Keeping the faith would mean absolute trust in the One Who thinks those thoughts of peace toward us. Trust in Him when He has our future in His hands and knows what is best for us. 

Even if it’s seventy years of captivity.

And, maybe we need to look at the verses after Jeremiah 20:11. What does God say will happen then?

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.” Jeremiah 29: 12-14

Maybe we need to start now—to call on God, to pray fervently, to seek Him with everything that is in us. Because He can bring us back from captivity. He can gather us up in all our brokenness and fear. He can bring us to a place with a future and a hope.

Cling to that favorite scripture and pray—hope—trust—that it will be much less than seventy years. Believe in the One Who holds our future.

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True Identity by Bridget A. Thomas

Do you put yourself down? Do you call yourself a fraud, a failure, fearful, forgotten, or any other negative word? We all have our own lies that we believe about ourselves. They come from past hurts, our own mistakes, and our deep insecurities. Every day we allow these lies to torment us and to discourage us. When the devil knocks on the door to remind us how pathetic we are, we quickly agree with him.

Why is it so much easier to believe the lies and discard the truth? When we hold onto the lies, there are downstream effects that contaminate our confidence, our relationships, our words, and our actions. The lies hold us hostage, stop us from fulfilling our purpose, and ultimately keep us from living the life that God called us to live.

I am tired of allowing these lies to hold me back. I am tired of beating myself up for small mishaps. I am tired of passing up opportunities because I believe I am not enough. Perhaps you are tired of the lies and their destruction too? It is time we took a stand and stopped allowing these lies (and ultimately the enemy) to taunt us.

These lies are not our true identity. God calls us forgiven and free. He calls us child and chosen. He calls us redeemed and righteous. Jesus paid a hefty price for you and for me. He did this so that we could live free.

John 10:10 sums it up. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The enemy is using these lies to steal our joy, to kill our confidence, and to destroy our dreams. But we can’t sit by silently and allow him to have his way. Jesus gave us a solution in the very next sentence. He came that we may have life and have it abundantly. It is time we embraced the abundant life that Jesus is handing us. He is holding out this gift in the palm of His hand, inviting us to take it. But it is difficult for us to take hold of something when our hands are already clinging tightly to the lies. We have to let go of the lies. Then we can accept the life that Jesus provided for us. As a result, we will have joy in our hearts and our relationships will flourish. We will finally be able to step into our true identity and receive the gift that Jesus is offering.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

Posted in Bridget A. Thomas | 8 Comments

2021 Themes for the Year by Julie Arduini

Each year I pray and ask the Lord what word does He have for me in the coming year. Past years have been about abundance, revive, and abide to name a few. The words tend to come in October, and as I wait on the new year, there’s usually confirmation from what I read, see, or hear.

This year is different. I’ve enjoyed reading other words for 2021. So far I’ve hard of resilience and cultivate. Me? Nothing.

At least not like before. Then again, praying in 2020 was not usual.

These are words I’ve prayed as I’ve felt prompted to: Justice. Believe. Rise up.

Perhaps they are themes to focus on as 2021 unfolds.

Maybe they are directives.

It’s been over a year that I’ve felt urged to pray for justice. Thankfully it’s not personal, but something I feel is on the behalf of those who have been betrayed. I think it’s a wide scope. Marriages. Children. Business dealings. Government activities. As 2020 came to a close, my sense is that major darkness will be exposed. Backroom meetings no one was supposed to know about. A network of people with greed and lust at their core tied to the exploitation of children. As I continue to press in, I think the time is near.

As the Lord hands out justice both for the once secret evil doings and the long-suffering righteous who have withstood years of being ignored, cheated, and jeered, it’s going to be time for believers to rise up. If what I think is coming happens, there will be devastation. Familiar names will be connected to evil schemes. Names of people we respect and admire. Those with impressive titles and jobs from across the board. Some hold such importance in the world’s eyes that they were worshiped. And for their imminent fall, many will need healing because their devastation will be so raw.

We will need to rise up because we don’t follow a cause or a people but Christ. We can’t be proud and wag a knowing finger to those who will be hurting. This is the time when we forgive, love, and point the way for them. Not to a rally, not to a building, but to The Cross.

To see these themes, we have to believe. I’ve shared key elements of what I think will take place in the coming days and I have been met with skepticism and outright laughter. I’ve been told to “give it up.” Trust me, that would be easier than believing in what I can’t see. But isn’t that what faith is?

Justice, Believe. Rise Up. Words. Themes. Directives. However I’m meant to define it, this is my focus for 2021.

How about you?

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A Career Born of Adversity

A few (ahem) years ago when I had two babies (I now have four and my baby is 20) I began having double vision and intermittent blindness. The first doctor (quack) told me it was psychosomatic and I needed a psychiatrist, not a neurologist. Remember when doctors were demigods who thought their word was Gospel? It was back then. Anyway, I was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and on vast amounts of steroids to keep the blindness at bay. Well, they did that, but they also rendered sleep impossible. So I needed something quiet to do at night when the rest of the house was sleeping — I couldn’t read because my eyes were jumping — but I could type. I started writing a novel. That was in 1996 and my first novel (Strong as the Redwood) was released in 1997.

Who would have guessed that having a disease that kept me up at night would give me a job that I could do from home while managing symptoms and raising kids? Isn’t God so good? Not to mention that He gave me my people. My best friends are writers that I have known since the Internet was ushered into our lives. We were the original online dating app — finding friends through writing loops.

One of those friends (Cheryl Hodde) of many decades helped me rewrite my second novel — a romance about a heroine with MS. It releases today and it’s such a proud moment for me. Because I have the benefit of perspective now. I can look back and see why God allowed the triumphs and the traumas in my life. He knew what I needed, not what I necessarily wanted.

A God perspective is so crucial when the world feels so unstable as it does today. One day, we will look back at the triumphs and tragedies of 2020 and understand how it grew us. Currently, it’s looking the way MS did back in 1997. I cannot see the upside just yet. How about you?

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