Planted by the Waters by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

At sixteen, I knew everything. The typical teenager who didn’t need to rely on her parent’s thinking or their values. The saddest part was my rejection of their Christian values. If someone asked what I believed in, I would tell them I believed in people and the goodness of people.

I hear those gasps of horror. I feel my gasp of horror as I look back on that time in my life. The next few years were not a good time for me. Although I had never made a commitment to become a Christian, I still knew some of God’s word, and deep down knew what I was doing was wrong.

My choice, and I believe the choice many make, was based on growing up in a community of people who were willing to reach out to others in need. If your family suffered a tragedy, be prepared for the onslaught of food and help with what you need. My family, especially my parents, was quick to jump in and help out other people. 

Appreciating giving people is a good thing. Learning from their sacrifice can also be beneficial. However, believing in the goodness of mankind can start a downward spiral, when that belief replaces trust and faith in God. 

“Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.”  Jeremiah 17:5

What happens when a person trusts in mankind instead of trusting in God? When they rely on the strength of the flesh? “For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.” Jeremiah 17:6

Having been a desert dweller for years—and I love the desert—I can attest to the difficult conditions. It’s hard to grow when water is scarce. You are so focused on survival it’s hard to see the small blessings that come your way. You feel isolated and alone. Sapped of energy and spirit.

I remember the day I came across this scripture and realized how true the passage was for the way my life had been. By that time, my focus had changed, and I’d become a Christian, trusting in God and growing in my faith. 

Then I read on and realized God had more in store for those who trust Him. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:7 Oh, how wonderful it is to be truly blessed by the Lord.

And, what happens to this person who trust in the Lord? “For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:8

Doesn’t that sound refreshing? Think of the green growth by a river, the lush plants, the tall trees. They are plugged in to the source of life, the water they need to survive in tough times.

Likewise, those who choose to trust in the Lord, who don’t “make flesh their strength” will be plugged in to the source of life too. We will have access to the living water. During times of drought or disease or hardship, we have the life-giving support we need. 

I am so glad I realized the error of my thinking and placed my trust and faith in God. Yes, I still face hardship in my life, but now I have a support that doesn’t waver. There is no need to fear what is coming. The fruit that springs forth when the focus in on God and His word is beautiful.

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Taking Love for Granted

My husband and I have been together for forty-five years (and yes, I’ve been trying to convince anyone who’ll listen that I was only five when we began dating, but to no avail. But I was a child bride. Really. Well, I was at the very least childish. 😉 )

Once both of our sons left the nest, we found ourselves alone for the first time in over twenty years. I felt unsure during that first month. What if we were no longer deeply connected to each other? What if we were no longer compatible? Did we still even like each other?

There was no doubt that we continued to love each other, but over twenty years of talking about kids and basically taking each other for granted very likely had taken a toll.

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I recall going out for dinner one empty-nest evening. Amazingly, it was as if we had time-traveled back to our early marriage years. We were just as invested in each other as we had been back then, but perhaps even more so. What a relief!

But this got me to thinking about taking loved ones for granted. How many times, after the loss of a loved one, has a family member or friend said, “If only I’d known?”

Families on beach at sunset

All too often we go on with our usually very-busy lives, not letting people know the impact they make in our lives.

And how true is it also that we take God for granted?

Do you only pray when you need something or in times of trouble? Do you mumble out a quick, pat prayer without giving it much, if any, thought? Do you mean to say a prayer at bedtime, but fall asleep too soon? I’ve been guilty of all of these things and, try as I might, I sometimes don’t succeed in changing my behavior.

Do you take time to let our Heavenly Father know how much He means to you? How much He has affected your life? How much his intervention has improved your circumstances? I’ve been making an effort to do each of these things because I want to be more present in my day to day life, and not so busy living it that I forget to hold close God and the most important people in my world.

I now try to show my appreciation on a daily basis.

I’m not perfect at this, but I try to let the people around me know how much I care about them by doing little things and saying a quick thank you. And I do this by giving a prayer of thanks to our Heavenly Father!

A few words can go a very long way!

***

Speaking of which, to the Christian’s Read readers, thank you for spending time with us, reading our blog posts. We couldn’t do it without you guys! I’m praying for blessings for each of you!

 

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Weeds

A Conversation

Hello, pastor. Thanks for stopping by. Pastors don’t seem to visit much anymore. Guess they’re off doing something more important.

I hope you don’t mind if I keep on weeding while we talk. I find if I don’t get a good start early, the work just gets harder later on.

See, when the plants are just sprouting, it is very easy for them to get crowded out by weeds. Later on, they’re stronger and can handle more competition.

Even with weeding, plants seem to take a long time to get going. The first sprout comes up, and then nothing seems to happen for a long time—no fruit, and very few leaves. The reason is that plants first need to develop strong roots and they only show visible growth later on. If a plant tried to grow leaves and fruit first, it wouldn’t get enough nourishment and would soon wither and die even though it looked very healthy at first. You have to be patient.

Of course, I don’t expect you to understand all that, your work being so different.

That new compost bin I got, the instructions say I can put into it any plant matter except pernicious weeds. That’s a joke. I’ve never seen a weed that wasn’t pernicious.

Yes, gardening takes some experience. At least, it helps. Know how you can tell the difference between a plant and a weed? If you pull it up, break it apart, throw it down, and it regrows, it’s a weed. On the other hand, if you fertilize it, water it, and aerate the soil around it and it dies anyway, it was a plant.

You know, pastor, it seems year after year, generation after generation, I’m fighting the same weeds. It’s crabgrass here in this corner, pigweed over there. Yes, pastor, I expect you’re right there. The problem is that I don’t get all the roots out and so the same weeds just keep growing back.

Of course, it’s also true that every weed scatters seeds in all directions, and you can never control that or tell where they will wind up. Sometimes I think that I pay the price when my neighbor doesn’t get all of his weeds pulled.

Yes, pastor, I expect it’s also true that he pays the price when I don’t do a good job of weeding my garden.

Thank you, pastor. I enjoyed our talk too. Well, I don’t know about any sermon illustrations. That’s your business, not mine.

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It Was Dark (by Hannah Alexander)

I’m not typically afraid of the dark, which is a good thing, since Mel works an occasional night, leaving me home alone. I mean, living in Wyoming, if I scream, neighbors from probably three houses around us will come running with their guns drawn, and as my old high school librarian would tell you, I have a good set of lungs.

However, there has been recent talk about the old prison being haunted (thanks a lot Kristin. LOL) I knew they did ghost tours on Halloween, and I’ve been in the old prison for a tour. Never doing that again. This town is proud of its scary heritage, but since we only live a few blocks from the place, I’m not enchanted.

So last night after dark, Mel was gone and I had trash to take out and mail to pick up. I don’t like people seeing me in my nighties, so I didn’t turn the light on when I went outside. Never mind that we have rattlesnakes in these parts, and that they like to crawl onto warm concrete after the sun goes down–I didn’t think of that until later. Never mind that sometimes bears and mountain lions have been known to come through town. I just wanted to get this done and get to bed.

So I took out the trash and grabbed the mail and turned back toward the house when I thought I heard something. At this point, I would ordinarily ignore the sound and keep walking until I got inside, but then I SAW movement from the corner of my eye.

After a short and silent intake of breath, I turned. Something was definitely in the shadows. Not coming toward me, but not going away from me. And it was tall. This time the intake of breath was a gasp. I backed toward the door. But then I focused and got real. What hangs around our house at all hours of the day and night?

No, it wasn’t him. He was at work.

Not him, either, but it was four-legged, so we’re getting closer.

Here we go. This guy. Mel finally found an earlier photo of the intruder. He was standing on our front lawn, shaking his antlers at me. I would have stayed and chatted, but it was time for bed and sometimes these guys can get a bit aggressive if they think you might feed them. I did not.

There are a lot of scary things going on in our world today, and we don’t always know what to expect. We can, however, always trust an unknown future to a known God.

 

 

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Enjoying the Positives by Tara Randel

I was thinking about the summer so far, and despite all the challenges going on in the world right now, I decided to come up with three positive things adding joy to my life. Once I started, I found it wasn’t that difficult to make a list.

1. My relationship with the Lord has stayed strong. With the negative news reports from the media, it would be easy to fall into fear and confusion, but instead I’ve upped by time with the Lord. I’ve been reading my Bible more. Talking to the Lord about the matters that are important, not only to me, but to others. I’ve been praying for our nation and it’s leaders, along with those in the medical profession. And through it all, I have no doubt that God is in control.

2. I started the first book in a new, four book series for Harlequin Heartwarming. I’m excited to go back to the small, mountain town in Georgia, which was featured in previous books in the Meet Me At the Altar series. It has been so much fun developing new characters, getting immersed in the romance conflict and adding to the footprint of this town I’ve grown to love.

After this I will write a romantic suspense, then back to the romance series, with two books in a new mystery series also scheduled in. And most exciting? I’m going to have a Christmas Heartwarming story. I’m already getting into the festive mood!

3. God’s beautiful creation greets me when I walk outside in the morning. I get to see new flowers blooming in my yard. I’m don’t have much of a green thumb and I definitely don’t have a stately garden—or any kind of garden—but seeing these colorful blossoms just makes me smile.

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As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that I don’t need a whirlwind daily schedule to make me happy. Spending time in prayer, being with family and good friends, seeing beautiful flowers every morning and doing what I love—creating stories readers can enjoy— is enough for  me.

I hope after reading this post you can come up with three positive things going on in your life this summer. Just thinking about it should bring a smile to your face.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her Harlequin Heartwarming romance, Always The One, available now. 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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No Expectations by Bridget A. Thomas

As a child, when my birthday was approaching, I was often focused on what gifts I might receive. I remember my father telling me two things: (1) That they were going to cancel my birthday that year 😉 and (2) That I should not expect anything. My birthday was never cancelled and I always received presents. But my father was right about having no expectations. However, I don’t believe this just pertains to gifts or birthdays. I believe this is good advice every day of our lives.

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Ann Voskamp: What messes our life up most is this expectation of what our life is supposed to look like. This is so very true, in big things and in small things.

Imagine someone who wanted to get a college degree, but life took them down a different path and they never accomplished their goal. They expected to get a degree, but they didn’t. Or maybe someone divorced and their “happily ever after” was shattered. They expected to be married for life, but this didn’t happen. These are examples of big expectations in life that didn’t come to pass. And too often we allow things like these to bring us down. We might think thoughts like: If only this had happened, I would be happy. If only this hadn’t happened to me, my life would be different.

But then there are small daily events where expectations come into play as well. Suppose someone spills coffee on their clothes and then they allow the mishap to dampen their mood for the day. They did not expect to stain their clothing, but expected their day to go perfectly. Or let’s suppose someone is walking into a store and the stranger in front of them lets the door drop in their face, which makes them angry. They did not expect someone to be rude to them. These are subconscious expectations that we have on how things should have went. Then when they don’t go the way we expected, we allow them to unsettle us.

How can we let go of these expectations that bring us down? Start by recognizing them. Some of these things might trigger a change in our mood, without us even realizing it. So go about your day and pay attention to the expectations that surface.

Second, always remember one important thing. No matter how things went in your life, God is still in control. He can and will work things for good. This helps us to move on when our expectations are crushed. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28 NLT).

Third, make a decision. When something did not go the way you expected, you have a choice. Will you allow it to steal your joy? Or will you move on and keep your peace? This is simple, but it is not always easy. It takes determination and strength.

It is important to let go of expectations in our lives. Too often we allow them to snatch our peace and rob us of the blessings that are right before our eyes. So the next time you are discouraged because you believe something should have gone differently, lay your expectations at the foot of the cross. When you hand your expectations over to God and allow Him to work everything together for good, you will feel peace and joy in your life.

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

big wooden cross on green grass field under the white clouds

Photo by David Dibert on Pexels.com

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The Power of the Decree by Julie Arduini

I hate snakes. I absolutely, 1000% want nothing to do with them. Ever.

You can thank my childhood neighbor for that. He thought it would be fun one summer to tell me there was a snake so I’d look. Until the one time I didn’t. He pulled me back by the arm as I had one foot ready to step on a snake in the process of eating a frog.

The fear is so real I don’t like them as cartoons or stuffed animals. I agree with comedian Bill Engvall when he reminds the audience God used a snake as the devil. So believe me, this hate relationship I have has sent me to prayer many times.

And God has been good. I went sixteen years without seeing one live on our property. The last time I did, we were in the process of moving, something I joked would happen if I ever saw a snake..

The streak ended early this summer. As I did that one day with my neighbor, I froze. I had no words, no screams. This time I let out what I can only call a long gasp. It isn’t loud, but when my family hears it, they know they need to check on me.

I was home alone letting the dog out when I stepped over the threshold. And there it was. Not a big guy, but it doesn’t matter. I was so terrified I took the dog and ran out front to another door, forcing the dog to pee in my flowers. Then I remembered I left the garage door open. I was up until 3 am picturing the snake in the garage.

Thankfully he wasn’t in the garage. How do I know?

I had a second sighting.

This time I was mowing with a push mower and I startled him. Although I was just as terrified, I was also angry. I had really prayed not to deal with a snake again. Begged God. So I increased my prayer.

And saw him a third time.

This time was different. I wasn’t terrified, I wasn’t angry, I was resolute. Like John Wayne in a western, I felt like we were having a showdown. There wasn’t room here in this town for the two of us.

And I wasn’t leaving.

Instead of praying, I made a decree. With a huge nudge from the Holy Spirit I used my God-given authority in Christ to announce that this snake may not have this territory. This snake, in the name of Jesus, may not live at this address or execute any plans against us. By the blood of Christ, we are a family anointed to do His work, and we will not be distracted, delayed, or destroyed. Amen and Amen.

I haven’t seen the snake since.

I’ve processed it all in my prayer time and the same feeling comes back to me. It makes enough sense that I don’t think it’s me, but God.

I was waiting for you to stop praying, rise up, and act on My authority.

My sense is the snake lesson is for me to take to the streets. Christians, we’ve been praying hard for a long time. We want to see our prodigal kids come home. Diseases eradicated. Revival touching earth and staying.

I know I’m tired of watching injustice, corruption, and mockery take over my newsfeed.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for us to switch from prayer to decree. The words we pull down from all those prayers sent to heaven now proclaimed in faith by the power in Christ on earth. This is no treating Jesus like a genie prayer. This is remembering we have the same power and authority as Jesus when He busted out of the tomb.

—Julie Arduini

Oh, how we fail to use that power to move His Kingdom forward.

Since that last snake sighting and decree, I have started being bolder with decrees. When I see a sick person on the news, I declare their healing. When I see corruption, I decree justice. I doubt I’ll personally see the answers. I’m sure some will not go “my way.” But I’m not throwing out the baby with the bath water. I’d rather decree in the name of Jesus than say nothing at all.

How about you? Do you use the power of the decree in Christ?

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2020 — The Scrooge of Years…

In “A Christmas Carol” Dickens describes Scrooge this way:

“Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!  Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.  The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.  A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin.  He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge.  No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him.”

Doesn’t 2020 feel this way? My daughter sent me a meme about how we actually got out on New Year’s Eve banged pots, lit fireworks and cheered for this year. And what did it get us? Disease, disaster and mayhem. Personally, I’m sick of my dog staring at me in expectation. We’re not doing anything! This is it! Traveling from the kitchen to the living room IS our vacation, got it?

But it has been a good year too. My second son got married to a beautiful bride, my parents got a new puppy. I finished a book I’ve been working on for ages and I’m starting a new one. My daughter graduated from cosmetology school. I’ll admit, it’s hard to remember the good times in the midst of being locked down and when going to Wal Mart feels like a science fiction movie, but we are blessed. Let us not forget. Scrooge was redeemed. Maybe 2020 will be also…

Dixie is a Cocker Spaniel, born in Missouri now residing in California.

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A Painful Lesson by Nancy J. Farrier

I grew up on a small farm in the Midwest. I loved that farm and the woods. I loved summers and running though the fields, exploring the creek. Our land was a constant source of new games to invent and things to discover.

One summer in particular, I learned a lesson that still stays with me. I was playing in the fields where we had some weeds that grew taller than me. A lot taller. By mid-summer the weed’s stems had turned woody and we often used them in our games. 

This day, I was eleven or twelve, and running across the field and fell. When I fell, I landed on one of those woody stem weeds and a piece broke of and went into my upper inner thigh. A large piece. I tried to pull the stick out, but the pain proved too much. In my young mind, I reasoned that this woody piece might, like a small splinter, work its way out if I left it alone.

Boy, was I wrong. Because the embedded stick was high on my inner thigh, no one noticed. However, after two or three days, I realized something needed to be done. I still didn’t want to tell anyone. One, I knew take the stick from my leg would hurt – a lot. Two, I was ashamed of waiting so long when I should have asked my dad to help me as soon as I returned to the house after being injured.

My dad and I were alone in the living room. I believe I may have started crying because of the pain. When he asked what was wrong, I pulled up the leg of my shorts and showed him. He didn’t get upset with me or lecture me about waiting. Instead, he calmly explained to me that if the stick had been taken out right away, the pain would not be as bad. By this time, the flesh had adhered to the stem which meant it would hurt a lot more and take longer to heal up. Then he pulled out the stick and, yep, it hurt a whole lot.

The first part of Psalm 32 reminds me of this incident. There is often a temptation to hide sin. When I’ve done something wrong, there’s that low thud of the heart knowing I’ve done wrong and can’t erase what’s been done. What happens if I try to hide the sin?

When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Psalm 32: 3-4

Keeping silent causes the infection to start or the mind to begin making excuses and buying the sin. There is pain involved in hiding sin. The guilt grows and permeates the soul. Confessing that sin may be painful, but doing so immediately is better than letting the wound fester. Being ashamed shouldn’t be a reason to avoid asking forgiveness because God already knows what we’ve done.

I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Psalm 32:5

God is always quick to forgive when we humble ourselves and ask forgiveness. What a comfort. There is a reason we should turn to God immediately when we do wrong, even the tiniest indiscretion should be admitted freely and immediately. 

For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You…You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7-8

My dad was right. That wound did take longer to heal up because I waited. Infection had set in, and the exit wound was larger than it would have been if the stick had come out right away. I’ve learned that hard lesson both about physical injuries and spiritual injuries. I know that taking action as soon as something happens brings a blessing and that’s what I want.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. Psalm 32:1-2

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Nora’s Review of: The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y. Barbo

Nora's Review of The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y. Barbo, Christians Read

 

The Pirate Bride

The Daughters of the Mayflower Series

Published by Barbour Books

ISBN# 978-1-68322-497-6

 

 

 

 

 

NORA’S REVIEW: I had a blast hanging out with Maribel Cordoba and Captain Beaumont. When Maribel splashed on the page and came to life with her fiercely independent thinking, her spunk, with a sense of high sea adventure, and her determination to become a crew member of a pirate ship. I had to smile and laugh out-loud at her passionate desire and confidence in dealing with these pirates.

She knew all she needed to know by reading (almost three times now), “The Notorious Seafaring Pirates and their Exploits by Captain Ulysses Jones. When Jean-Lu Valmont meets Maribel for the first time a ship mate describes Maribel’s dilemma, “apparently the gag was deemed necessary due to the girl’s insistence on telling anyone who might listen about the books she’s read on pirating and how she knows their jobs well enough to do all of them.” Humor rose on the old man’s face as he looked at Jean…  “She’s a spitfire, that one. Watch yourself near her.”

Jean-Lu Valmont is strong, handsome, a pirate commissioned by the French. He operated his ship a little differently than most pirates.  He was not cut throat and ruthless. But he would demand respect from everyone on his ship. Then he meets Maribel Cordoba in a vulnerable position and after they take the gag out of her mouth.  He says, “I am the captain of this vessel.” He looked at Maribel.  “As such, I regret to inform you that a woman will never be fit to join my crew.”

“And why not?” says eleven-year-old Maribel.

“I’m responsible for protecting all of you.”

“That’s ridiculous. I’ve done a fine job fending for myself,” Maribel blurts out. She’d show him and the other guys on this ship a thing or two; and she does! Grin! (I’m not going to spoil it)

There is more fun in-store for Maribel when she gets to New Orleans. There are surprises for her, Jean-Luc and the reader. This is an entertaining action-packed adventure on land and at sea. It’s a great escape; with well-developed characters I liked hanging out with. I highly recommend this as a delightful read and one that would work well for your book club experience. There is so much to discuss.

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

Nora St. Laurent

TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! www.bookfun.org

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

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Happiness is …

I’ve found that the times I was happiest in my life were those times when I felt the most secure and confident. Because of that inner confidence, I felt I could take on anything and it showed on me physically as well. I even walked tall (and yes, that’s an oxymoron because of my (lack of) size, but it’s also possible to walk as if I’m taller or at least with more of a strut).

When I thought about how confidence colors my world, I realized it stems from the Lord. When everything in my spiritual life lines up, it positively affects my day-to-day living. There have been many times when I felt a total lack of confidence as well, but it took me many years to realize that feeling confident in the Lord’s love and care gives me added confidence in everything I do.

Psalm 36:7 delivers a message straight to the heart of this concept. “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Taking refuge in the Lord’s wings is incredibly reassuring.

Through the years, people have said they think that I’m brave. I’m really not! I’m merely assured that the Lord has my back, and while I might not succeed, He’s always there with me, to cheer when I accomplish something, and to brush off my knees when I fail. And it’s in knowing He’s there with and for me that allows me to smile and keep trying new or difficult things. My happiness lies in Him.

Happiness is ...

There are many Biblical references to how our Heavenly Father watches out for us. In the Psalm 55:22, we are told, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.” How extremely reassuring, especially in times of trouble!

Recently I’ve been extremely worried about our country and all of the horrible events unfolding in many parts of the world. It’s easy to get caught up in worldly cares, and I have a tendency to let the worries make me crazy. At times it feels as if  everything I’ve known is imploding, and that my values and morals have been disregarded or discarded by society in general.

We’ve been taught, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This has been a cornerstone in my life. Yet, it often feels as if many people don’t fully understand what the meaning of neighbor is in this context. It doesn’t mean merely other Christians, or just those people you personally know or those who live nearby. It means neighbor in the greater sense of human being. Webster defines neighbor as “fellow man.” A neighbor is not just those with whom you agree or who are like you.

The good Lord provides us with the faith we need to love our fellow man. Lately I’ve lost some of my confidence in my ability to love wholeheartedly. I’ve broken out in anger more frequently than I ever have before. At times I’ve been especially  appalled at some people’s treatment of others. And I’ve been ashamed at my own reactions.

1 Peter 5:7 NIV: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Now, more than ever, I need to fall back on my faith in God and Jesus. I need the confidence instilled in me by their love. I need to release my worries and trust that they will see us through.

Yes, we’ve got this because He has our backs!

 

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Buy Essay and Get Time for Pleasures of Life

Recently, I received a bevy of emails on a new topic. Since my email address is on my website, I receive quite a few unsolicited emails. Apparently my address is harvested by robots and sold to marketing companies, many of them conducting business of a dubious nature.

This latest batch of emails had an interesting theme:  

• “The Best Dissertation Service in The UK: Buy Essay Online At Writing Service from Australia.”

• “Buy an Essay Online for Cheap 24/7: Number B Custom Dissertation Writing Service.”

• “Buy Essays Online in Canada: Buy Essay and Get Time for Pleasures of Life.”

• “Buy Essay: 100% Original. Low Price. In 3 Hours. Safe & Legit: #1 Essay Writing Service UK Students Trust. 100% Secure.”

• “Cheap Dissertation Writing Services NO.1 Dissertation Help CA: Custom Dissertation Writing Services — Professional Help for Students.”

I might have been a little more interested if the emails had demonstrated an ability to write better English. If I am going to pay for an essay, I want to get at least a B. I can get a D minus on my own.

At least, these emails were a welcome change from the usual offers of bitcoin investment opportunities and proffers of porn and hot dates. There are apparently hundreds of beautiful women in my area who are anxious to meet me. I am sure this is true even though some of the emails are written in French, German, and Russian. And even though the beautiful women I have encountered in town have not seemed all that anxious to meet me.

I also suspect that the people who are inviting me to view porn are in cahoots with the other email writers who are threatening to reveal that I have been visiting porn sites unless I send them money.

There is also the email that wanted me to pay $970 (not $965 or $975 — I am not sure how they determined this valuation) to tell me who my wife was having an affair with. I asked my wife about it. She offered to give me the same information for $500. I declined on the assumption it would be a waste of money. It is as likely that my wife is having affair as that hundreds of beautiful women are anxious to meet me. This is not because I am such a wonderful husband that cheating on me is unthinkable but because she is a wonderful woman whose faithfulness and integrity are beyond question.

I also received an email with the instruction: “PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO SOMEONE IN YOUR COMPANY WHO IS ALLOWED TO MAKE IMPORTANT DECISIONS!” I guess that would be my wife. The email went on to say that the senders had hacked my website and gained access to all of my clients’ information. They are threatening to release the information and “completely destroy your reputation amongst google and your customers.” However, being considerate and reasonable people, they will cease their attack if I send them $2,000 in bitcoin. I am flattered that they think my website actually has customers. (It doesn’t, which they would have discovered if they had actually hacked my website.) But I’m insulted that they think my customer base is only worth $2,000. And I’m flattered that they think I have $2,000. After all, I’m a writer. The email concludes, “There’s no counter measure to this, this is not a hoax, do not reply to this email, don’t try to reason or negotiate, we will not read any replies. Once you have paid we will stop what we were doing and you will never hear from us again!” It worked. I didn’t pay, and I never heard from them again.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear from anyone else. Another email informed me that, like other Americans, I could now qualify for an emergency government loan of up to $5,000 to help me pay my expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. All I would have to do is send in my banking information. I don’t think so. I don’t want the American government to have my banking information. After all, I’m Canadian. I don’t even think I want the Canadian government to have my banking information.

And I continue to receive the occasional email from a corrupt bank official/civil servant/army officer in Afghanistan/Nigeria/Ethiopia stating that he/she has come across an unclaimed bank account worth several million dollars. All I have to do is pretend to be the rightful owner of the account, and the sender will split the proceeds with me—which he expects I will use to support my Christian ministry, of course. To receive the money, I just have to send him my banking information. Though probably safer than the previous offer, I am not sure I want a corrupt bank official/civil servant/army officer in Afghanistan/Nigeria/Ethiopia to have my banking information either.   

Then, for a change of pace, I received the following email: “These are indeed the end times, but most are in the Falling Away. The real body of Christ is outside of the Church. We know what’s going to happen, and we will send you prophecy which you can discern. To receive it, take a chance, text, email, or postal contact info to…” I decided to take a chance and not text, email, or postal contact them. I’m not sure I want to know what is going to happen.

A report came out recently decrying the “wasteful” emails that people send, such as those simply saying, “Thank you.” Apparently, these emails not only waste time but they also use computing power, which consumes electricity and thus is enlarging our carbon footprint and contributing to global warming.

I don’t think it is ever a waste to be courteous and say thank you.

However, if the people who conducted the survey can do something to stop the flood of spam into my inbox, I would be grateful.    

Posted in James R. Coggins | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Animal Distancing (By Hannah Alexander)

I’m not getting into the controversy of social…blah, blah, blah. But I just got back from a trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons, and honestly? Animal distancing is truly my passion now.

Yes, this is an animal, and I was NOT distancing myself from this little armadillo at the time. It never knew I was there because it was so focused on eating roots. Armadillos do not attack and flatten humans. In their case, unfortunately, it’s the other way around, especially with cars.

But other than this and my cats, I am attempting animal distancing because of what I saw in Yellowstone last week. I saw about 30 people hovered maybe ten feet from a poor, frightened little black bear, whose eyes were wide and who was looking over her shoulder at the flashing cameras and most likely wondering where her mommy was. I don’t condone this kind of behavior in humans.

Later I was driving very slowly through a herd of bison when I saw a woman creeping closer and closer to a huge bull with her trusty camera, paying no attention to the cars trying to get past her, or to the bull that was beginning to shake his head and glare at her. And then at the same place I saw a ranger with a rifle. I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to shoot the woman with a rubber bullet to make her back off, but what was he doing? She was not quite 20 feet away from that bull bison. She was endangering that bison with her neglect. Had he attacked her, he would have been shot, apparently.

Wild animals are not pets. They can be irritable, and they can kill because they’re bigger than us and they are wild. They don’t get the rules, and so we are the ones who have to abide by them. And the bigger they are, the more dangerous.

Do yourself and your loved ones a favor. Practice animal distancing when you’re in the wild.

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What Matters Most by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Christians Read, What matters most?

 

Life throws a lot at everyone, and it starts immediately.  As we grow and learn, it’s amazing how much we soak up like sponges and grasp.  We learn what to do, what not to do.  What to say and not say.  What evokes a positive response and a negative response from others.  We learn things that hurt and heal.  Things that anger and soothe.  Simply put, we learn the good and the bad and a whole lot in between.

As we progress, we take in a lot of conflicting information, guidance and instruction.  Opinions are plentiful and everyone seems eager to share them.  Of course, being human, we all have different ideas about what we consider we should “Do” and “Should Not Do.”  When we’re really young, we take our cues from our parents or other authority figures.  If a certain action gets a positive response, we repeat that behavior.  If that action earns a negative response, we avoid repeating that behavior. 

Eventually, whether by trial and error, trial by fire, or by stumbling onto a less traumatic path that nets more positive reactions than negative, we develop habit patterns.  Beyond that, at some point, we start assessing for ourselves.  We learn to assign weight to what we think is important and what isn’t, what is acceptable and what isn’t.  We take the accumulated standards and sift through, deciding for ourselves which to keep and which to discard.

While there are no absolutes and there are always exceptions, especially early on, we deem everything important.  But with experience and exposure, the weight we give to specific things changes.

Early during the cycle of life, we give the lion’s share of our attention to building the life we want.  We have or develop a vision of success, and we set out to manifest it and make it our reality.  It’s worth mentioning that our vision of success changes as we do.  And those changes might be voluntary—we decide something is or is not working for us—or involuntary.  Something happens and we’re forced to change, whether or not we want to change.

The point is, life has phases.  And as we pass through those phases, we assign different values to what most matters to us.  In the latter stages, we often look back at earlier phases and wonder what we were thinking, to deem whatever we were seeking important.  The power of hindsight, right?  In our current circumstance, it wasn’t important, but back when it happened, it was—at least, it was to us then. That’s a lesson to us.

We can’t view our personal history through the prism of what matters most now.  We must view it through the prism and perspective of what mattered most then.  And we must look at why it was important. 

In that way, we are like our nation.  We look back at history a hundred years ago, or two hundred years ago, and we are deeply moved at some things we find.  At other things, ones we would never deem acceptable today, we cringe.  But viewed in the context of that time, we see where the nation, where we were, when events happened.  Collectively, we experienced, accessed, learned, and evolved.  Simply put, we changed.

This is a good thing.  I mean, can you imagine studying two-hundred years of history and everything remaining the same?  That is the proverbial slow learning.  When you think about it, it’s disheartening, too.

We do this (experience, access, learn and evolve) in our personal lives also.  Just as we would be foolish to forget the lessons learned from our nation’s past (which would doom us to repeating those lessons), we would be foolish to forget our personal past lessons.  We endured the rough patches once.  We don’t want to have to slog through them again.

While our lens isn’t as long—decades, a few years, a lifetime versus two-hundred years—what most matters is that we continue to learn and grow.  We never reach a phase in life where we stop learning and growing and evolving.  Our interests and focus shifts.  Our priorities shift and change.  What most matters to us shifts and changes, too. 

As the phases advance, we place less importance on the physical, we’re more balanced on the emotional, and we focus more intently on the spiritual.  We understand the circle of life and that eternity lasts far longer than the blink in time we spend as mortals.  In ways we couldn’t understand early on, we now get that every second of life is a gift and a treasure.  That the soul is eternal and it requires as much if not more care than the physical body.

Wisdom encourages us to respect all phases of our lives.  To grasp while young that the spiritual aspect of ourselves is the phase that will govern us long-term.  While what we do in each phase of life matters and is important, it is the sum of all phases that brings us to the one that will have the greatest and most significant impact in our lives.

Because that is so, we dare not wait for that spiritual phase of our lives to incorporate the spiritual realm.  It’s never too late to start, but it’s never too early to start either.  In every phase, we should deliberately consider the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of what we say and do—and what we don’t do. 

All three—the physical, emotional and spiritual—intertwine to become the whole that is us.  All three aspects play a vital role in who we were, who we are, and who we become.  All three are significant and important.  Understanding that is what really matters most.


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Do You Love? by Nancy J. Farrier

Years ago, a pastor’s wife shared a story at Bible study about a woman who went to a pastor for marital counseling. The following conversation is similar to what she told.

Woman: “I don’t love my husband anymore.”

Pastor: “But, do you love him like a wife loves her husband?”

Woman: “No, I don’t love him.” 

Pastor: “Do you love him as a friend?”

Woman: “I don’t love him anymore.”

Pastor: “Then, do you love him as an enemy?”

The progression of questions brings home the point that we are called to love. Our husbands. Our family. Our neighbors. Our enemies. 

Yikes! What? Love an enemy? Why should we do that?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” Matt. 5:43-44

Jesus spoke to the people, and to us, telling us to not hate, but to love. To bless and do good to those who are nasty in our lives. How many of us have someone who has said hurtful things, or used us, or persecuted us for our beliefs? Probably most of us. The natural reaction is to strike back. To be just as mean. To nasty right back.

But, Jesus gives us different instructions. Love. Bless. Do good. 

Why? Why does He ask us to do something so difficult?

“…that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:45-48

We are called to be like Christ, like God. And, God embodies the definition of love. He demonstrates caring and compassion. Yes, He sees the heart and we don’t, but we can trust Him if He instructs us to love. 

How do we do this? Prayer is a great start. When we sincerely pray for someone, it’s impossible to hate them or to want to do them harm. Pray for God’s love to help see that person in a different light. We don’t have to understand the enemy or to agree with them to pray for them. Or to extend grace and mercy to them. Just as God extends grace and mercy to us.

If a neighbor makes us angry or hurts us, bake some cookies to give to them. If a co-worker says unfair things about us, leave a card on their desk thanking them for their work. If someone cuts us off on the freeway, yells at us, or makes a rude gesture, pray for that person. 

We are surrounded by strife, but God has given us a way to combat the discord. 

Pray. Bless. Do good. 

Love.

“Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” Prov. 10:12 

Photo by Jon Tyson @unsplash.com

Posted in Nancy J. Farrier | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments