CELEBRATING THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

 

CHRISTMAS – What makes Christmas special? Decorations, carols, food, gifts, and time spent with those we love can certainly create a memorable legacy. But for Christians, Christmas is about more than personal tradition.

RECOGNIZE – It’s the day set aside to recognize the event that changed everything. It’s the celebration of the birth of Christ.

SEARCH – When the Magi recognized a star – a sign hidden in plain sight – as evidence of the birth of the Messiah, they went in search of him.

ENCOURAGE – In this third installment of Christmas Moments, 55 authors hope their stories will encourage others to recognize the evidence of Christ often hidden in plain sight in their own lives, and seek him not only at Christmas, but throughout the entire year.

BLESS – I am blessed and thrilled to share with readers and writers another Moments book that inspires, delights, changes lives, and gives opportunity for contributors to share their innermost feelings and personal stories.

CELEBRATE – In this seventh book in the Moments series, ADDITIONAL CHRISTMAS MOMENTS has 67 stories celebrating the True Spirit of Christmas.

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SHARE – These stories in the series of Divine Moments books are written by multi-published and first-time-published authors who generously share their experiences without compensation, but with the joy of knowing all the royalties go to Samaritan’s Purse. Since 1970, that organization has helped victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through his son, Jesus Christ.

CONTRIBUTE – Contributors are: Cathy Ancewicz, Carolyn Barnum, Robin Bayne, Debby Bellingham, Charlotte Burkholder, Janet Campbell, LeAnn Campbell, Rebecca Carpenter, Autumn Conley Maresa DePuy, Sharon Dobbs, Susan Dollyhigh, Kristin Dossett, Terri Elders, Susan Engebrecht, Bonnie Mae Evans, Dorothy Floyd, Gayle Fraser, Janice Garey, Tommy Gilmore III, Jean Hall, Kristen Harmon, Kay Harper, Lydia Harris, Lori Hatcher, Karen Hessen, Helen Hoover, Terri Kelly, Nancy Kopp, Luke Lehman, David Lehman, Yvonne Lehman, Diana Leagh Matthews, Beverly McKinney, Mary McQueen, Norma Mezoe, Julie Miller, Lynn Mosher, Vicki Moss, Marilyn Nutter, Diana Owens, Colleen Reece, Alisha Ritchie, Robert Robeson, David Russell, Toni Sample, Beverly Sce, June Schmidt, Annmarie Tait, Donn Taylor, Denise Valuk, Jen Waldron, Barbara Wells, Kathy Whirity, Debra DuPree Williams.

Other books in this series are Divine Moments, Christmas Moments, Spoken Moments, Precious Precocious Moments, More Christmas Moments. Loving Moments is scheduled for early 2017. I am now receiving submissions for:

  1. Coola-nary Moments – stories of culinary mishaps, extraordinary cooking stories, and recipes
  2. Romantic Moments – love stories, dating, falling in love, marriage, weddings, bridesmaids, lost love, etc. etc.
  3. Questionable Moments – based on authors’ response to questions asked by God/Jesus in the Bible, or implied, such as: “Where are you?” “Where are you going?” “Do you love me?” “Do you believe?” etc.
  4. Merry Christmas Moments (Book #4) – for 2017

If you would like to share an experience, contact me at Yvonnelehman3@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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Traditions by Tara Randel

The holidays are a special time of the year, a time we spend with family and friends enjoying each other’s company and counting our blessings.

There are certain Christmas traditions I keep repeating each year. When I was growing up, my mother decorated every inch of our house with festive decor. My father strung lights on the house every year, no matter if there was snow on the ground or not. I have ornaments from when we were kids that I still put on my tree today. There were even the years my brother managed to knock over the fully decorated tree, but thankfully my mother put a stop to that tradition before it caught on.

I got married and started a family, continuing the merry tradition of getting carried away with the decorations. My daughters looked forward to watching me unpack my snowman collection, which grew and grew every year until it got out of control. But it was something they will always remember. They always helped their father with the outdoor lights. Now, I go shopping with my grown daughter and watch her buy decorations she will one day pass on to her family.

When the girls were young, my mother sewed Christmas dresses for them every year. I love looking back at those pictures, to the smiles on their faces while they modeled the newest outfit. We always went to church together, even sang a special song together as a family in front of the entire congregation from time to time.

My oldest daughter passed away a few years ago. When I was finally able to put up a Christmas tree again, I used the tree she bought when she moved into her first apartment. While seeing it decorated is bittersweet, it is a tradition I will probably keep every year because she will always be in my heart.

I don’t have any grandchildren yet, but I can’t wait to see which traditions carry over to them, as well as new traditions the family will embrace. This is what makes the holidays so special, in my humble opinion.

Reading is always an important part of the holidays. I love to curl up by the fire, with a warm mug of cocoa or tea, and get lost in a good book. This year, I have a story in A Heartwarming Holiday, 15 new connected holiday stories set in Christmas Town, Maine. Experience a sweet and romantic Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year all for 99 cents!

In Cooking Up Christmas, Gabi Fortier, general manager of the Blue Spruce Mountain Resort, can’t wait to reopen the lodge just in time for Christmas. A traditional girl, she loves living in Christmas Town and can’t wait to fill every room with heirloom decorations from the original lodge owners. Until new head chef, Simon Tucker, who doesn’t have much Christmas spirit, asks her to keep the decorating down to a minimum. For a woman who loves Christmas, is that even possible?

            “I like it here,” Simon said, looking out the window as they cruised down Main Street. The city workers were attaching light-up star decorations to the lampposts. Holly had already been hung on the white-picket fences surrounding the town square. “Even if everything revolves around Christmas.”

            “What? You don’t like the holidays?”

            He shrugged. “As much as anyone, I suppose.”

            “Well, I love Christmas. Trust me, when the lodge opens, it’s going to be Christmas Central.”

            As she motored past the square her heart soared. A tall evergreen stood in the center. Soon it would be time for the lighting celebration, one of Gabi’s favorite nights of the year. She loved the look of wonder on the children’s faces when the bright lights illuminated the night sky. Loved the spirit of hope permeating the entire town. Christmas was the one time of year she let her hair down, so to speak. She loved tree trimming, baking cookies and shopping for gifts. Most of all, she loved the true giving spirit of the season.

            “Do me a favor,” came Simon’s deep voice. “Keep the dining room clear of decorations.”

            No Christmas decor? The comment startled her. “Not possible. This is the first Christmas under new management. We’re going to do it big.”

I hope you enjoy Cooking Up Christmas. Make reading this collection your own holiday tradition!

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Amazon: http://amzn.to/29UzXDe

Google: http://bit.ly/29TAyYa

iTunes: http://apple.co/2a8OZty

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2a0kZ2w

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of thirteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, The Business of Weddings series, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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Smiling Again by Hannah Alexander

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Yes, of course I’ve written about this before. After writing hundreds of posts with Christiansread, some of us are bound to cover the same territory twice. I do, however, believe this subject bears repeating.

December has always been my most depressing month of the year. I used to think it was because there were fewer hours of daylight, but we recently moved to a place where the sun seems to shine three times more than it did where we once lived, and December has again hit with the blues. It isn’t just me. I have a lot of friends and readers who are attacked by the same enemy. You might be one of them. Maybe the time of year isn’t causing the blues, but something else in your life right now is getting you down. Whatever the cause, I’d like to offer a few reminders about how to ease the heaviness.

  1. The gold standard is the Bible. Don’t roll your eyes. I realize that’s an easy fix. I also realize there are so many different personalities reading this that no single verse or passage works for everyone. For instance, I’ll read through Lamentations for a lift. Obviously, that isn’t appealing to many, but for me it tends to put everything into perspective and takes a load of guilt off my back. Others would be more blessed reading the book of Ruth or Esther, which have endings that satisfy your need for justice. Proverbs and Psalms are also great choices, but you choose what helps you the most.
  2. Read a novel or a non-fiction book with humor. Again, that could be many different things to different people. Humor is so very subjective that I find it difficult to write a full novel of humor, but you know what you like. Maybe you have a favorite book that has a hilarious scene on page 169 that you could read over and over and get a chuckle every time. For me, just reading about someone with a happy disposition can lift my spirits.
  3. Forced laughter is a must for me. I’m simplistic enough that an old sitcom on TV can make me laugh and lift my spirits. Some of the more contemporary shows, though they can provide laughable moments, actually have caused me nightmares because of the subject matter, so I look for something clean, even if it is older.
  4. A cathartic book or movie can bring on the tears, but tears can serve as a release for those blues. It all depends on your personality. One of my friends posted recently that she knew she would be crying in a little over an hour because she was planning to watch an old Christmas movie.
  5. Pretend you’re someone else. No, that isn’t cheating. As a novelist who lives with fictional characters more than with flesh and blood people, I find it easy to place myself into the viewpoint of one of my characters who has a better disposition than my own–and right now they all do. Then I’ll get out amongst people and walk around with a smile on my face. I receive so many smiles in return that pretty soon I don’t have to pretend to be someone happy because somehow I’ve found that well of joy for myself once more.
  6. SAD lights help in the morning when I wake up depressed again. Twenty minutes of SAD light every morning, plus vitamin D3K2, plus a walk in the sunshine, and the day is looking up again. Forcing myself to do those things can be a challenge, but the first step forward is a step toward conquering the blues.
  7. Make someone else happy. This could be anything from fixing your spouse’s favorite meal to playing with your cat on HIS terms to sending a card of support to someone in need of a lift. Helping others out of the blues often helps us out, as well.

If the blues have hit you this season, do yourself and everyone else a favor and fight it every way you can. I’m sure you have some other fall-back measures you take to help you with the battle. Just take them. Fight the battle. Don’t let the enemy win. Even the writer of Lamentations urges us to enjoy our lives, such as they are. The joy you find can be contagious. Spread it around for those you love.

 

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My Built-in, Underutilized Filter

photo-on-11-30-16-at-1-21-pmDo you ever feel as if your mouth runs amuck, leaving your brain scrambling to catch up? And when conflict arises, or you feel squeezed, does your brain ever lag so far behind, the party is over before she even realizes there’s been an invite?

Life can be crazy hard, and the harder it gets, the more I’m able to see my flaws. My areas of weakness; those places where my patience runs thin; and those thoughts, attitudes and encounters that trigger and feed my sinful nature.

And each morning, as I sit with my Bible, I prayerfully commit to facing the day differently. Only to fail, again and again and again.

When that happens, I’m tempted to retreat. To avoid the hard all together. Oh, how easy it’d be to remain Christlike surrounded by my nice, peaceful, loving Christian friends in my nice safe little social circle.

But God has not called me to isolate or self-protect. Nor has He called me to walk this journey, to embrace the hard and confront the ugly, alone.

Throughout Scripture, God invites us to do life with Him. To surrender all we are, to lean on Him, and to die to ourselves so that He can live through us. But what does that mean? How can we live that out?

Imagine having an internal filter that pricks then changes our heart, moments, maybe even hours, before our words erupt?

We have that in Christ. The problem is, we don’t always use the filter He provides–often because we’re caught off guard, or get pulled into a moment or struggle. Or maybe we’re simply to busy and distracted to tap into the power and wisdom that’s available to us.

Consider David’s words and how the truth he shared might apply to one’s battle with the psalm139-7tongue: “You know what I’m going to say even before I say it, Lord” (Ps. 139:4).

Because He knows. He knows everything I’m going to face in a given day, how those things will strike me and set me back, how I’ll respond (or be tempted to) when they do.

And if I ask, God will share this insight with me, preparing me for what’s ahead.

What about you? What are some ways you’ve been able to successfully guard your tongue in the most difficult situations? Share your examples, encouragement, and suggestions with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

 

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The Catapult by Julie Arduini

My goodness, where did this year go? In some ways it has felt so long, and yet, I know I missed posting here because it has been so busy. I pray life is treating you well.

A couple weeks ago I was asked to step in as a substitute Sunday School teacher for the women. We are enjoying the Propel Women series on “The Myth of Having it All.” I had notes that I was given, and of course, I prayed.

As I prayed, one image kept coming back to me.

The catapult.

Turns out, it was an object lesson I ended up sharing with the ladies and it was so powerful. When it comes to having it all, what the world demands of us and what Christ does—boy is it different. It’s so easy to get caught up in the traps the defeated one puts down to get us on that hamster wheel of the world and strive for things we can’t obtain, or we do, and it just isn’t fulfilling.

Been there, done that.

The catapult was a project our son had to complete before graduating high school. All students were given the same instructions and told that their creation had to launch in order to be successful. My husband, a natural in math and science, was out of town and unable to give him any wisdom. Me? I was no help at all beyond prayer.

catapult-148509_960_720Brian came home frustrated because his peers were receiving help from parents with engineering backgrounds. It seems everyone had a leg up on the process but him. One night after church he came home to work on it outside in the dark and rain. He kept positioning the garage lights so he could see.

Our prayer was that the catapult would just work. Never mind the far launches the professional designs would have, we just asked that God would let it fly a few feet.

The afternoon of the presentation, my son came home beaming. I asked if it launched.

“Mom. Mine was the only one that did!”

All the help the others received from parents with science backgrounds and our kid, literally with a wing and a prayer, had his catapult launch, and launch some serious distance.

It was that lesson that God downloaded a lesson for us, too. We walked away feeling that if we do it His way, we’re going to launch so much further in Him than anything we would try the world’s way. Everyone else tried to shortcut the process and use professional help, and it did nothing. Surrendering to the Lord? That brought the real success.

I felt like someone needed to read that today. That image continues to encourage me. I hope it does you, too!

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It’s the kickoff of the Christmas season…

It’s that time of the year when we find ourselves tossed in a dozen different directions. With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s officially the Christmas season.

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While I love this time of the year, it’s hard not to be a little stressed out with the shopping, the decorating. Christmas cards to be sent out. The baking, parties, and family events.

So this Christmas, be sure to take some time to destress yourself by reading a good book, or watching a favorite Christmas movie, or simply listening to some carols.

And during the craziness of this season, don’t let the true reason for the season be forgotten.

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For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9: 6-7

 

Merry Christmas!

 

All the best…

 

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

 

 

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Giving Thanks by Tara Randel

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving. My you find time to spend with those you love and count all the many blessings the Lord has bestowed upon you this year. While you’re enjoying a festive meal, maybe a football game and pumpkins pies, remember to thank the Lord for the good things in your life.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm100: 4-5

Enjoy your day!

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Once Upon a Time by Hannah Alexander

 
20161120_090457Long ago and far away, a California girl moved to the Missouri Ozarks with her parents. To say that it was traumatic would be a tragic understatement. She knew no one and had no siblings. Her parents both worked outside the home while farming in the evenings when they came home. It took all their time.

This girl was already considered weird because of her tendency to make up stories, write poetry, and keep to herself while the Missouri kids played baseball at school recess. She could neither throw a ball in the right direction or hit a ball with a bat–even the recess equipment was different from anything she had ever used. More likely to trip over her own feet than to play in sports, the newcomer from California withdrew more completely into her shell. Living far out on a farm isolated her even more from possible friendships.

The classes in this new school were small, however, much smaller than the classes she’d been accustomed to in California. Despite her shyness, some of the braver classmates began to speak to her, talk to her on the school bus, even teach her to dance and hang out with her. To her surprise, some became closer to her than any siblings she could ever have had. They overlooked her tendency to blurt out inappropriate responses to their teacher in class.

It took a few years, as it always does in a small community, for this girl to become accepted as part of the class. In fact, it wasn’t until their first reunion ten years after graduation that she felt as if everyone accepted her. As adults, these people welcomed her and included her in their conversations. They enjoyed the first couple of reunions so much they decided to have one every five years. The reunions continued until one day, one of the women suggested the rest of the women all get together for a pajama party.

20161119_140055-2Eleven years ago, five women out of a class of 40 got together for their first pajama party at a local resort. Last weekend, for the 11th year in a row, these same women had another pajama party, and this one lonely girl from California flew 850 miles to spend time with people who had become lifelong friends. They stayed inside a beautiful suite on the lake near Branson, MO, and talked, shared their lives, laughed until they…well, they laughed hard and long. They tried to play pool, they brought five times more food than they could possibly eat, and cried when they all had to say goodbye.

Bonds of friendship can be formed at any time of life, but as that lonely girl who never quite fit in, I believe older friendships can be stronger due to experiences shared and characters developed. Personalities can bond people for a time, but personality doesn’t prove character. Shared interests can keep people coming together. But real, down-deep character, which shows itself through the years and leaves in its wake the shape of the true person beneath the personality–I believe that serves to form the most lasting of friendships.

During this week of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for friends who are far away in distance, but close to my heart forever. I hope you can be thankful for friends in your life, as well.

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Peace in Tumultuous Times by Vicki Hinze

Peace in Tumultuous Times, Vicki Hinze

 

We are living in tumultuous times. If you’ve been awake, you’re well aware of this and don’t need a primer to be advised. We’re all seeing a lot of things more clearly, and we’re running into brick walls on sharing and discussing many of them due to crackdowns on such fundamental rights as free speech. We are learning a lot too, about things we need to know but wish we weren’t learning and didn’t need to know. Things about subjects like spirit cooking and pizzagate. Both of which are hashtags on social media that are now being suppressed and redacted heavily.

In times such as these, times that try the soul, it’s important to exercise discipline and retain focus. No one can keep up with everything. Everyone has their pets and their peeves, and there are many who rely heavily on blurring the lines for earnest seekers. Fortunately, they are easy to spot, particularly if one recognizes the patterns.

But this article isn’t about those things, though each does deserve a litany of articles on its own. This article is about what we notice, see, become aware of that is unsettling, troubling, worrisome, and downright devastating or frightening and how-to be aware and yet remain peaceful. In the past several months, I’ve discovered that shining light into dark places and retaining peace requires one thing. Only one thing makes the difference. That one thing required is faith.

This season produced an avalanche of challenges to try the mind and spirit. It has revealed the worst in us, but it has also revealed the best in us. Those every-day and ordinary who stepped up and out, willing to risk their lives and all they have for truth, to protect the least and most vulnerable of us. To be messengers, delivering that which is needed to be known to defend and preserve humanity, but also the humanity inside us. To remove the scales from our eyes and permit us to see that the battle in which we have been and continue to be embroiled is a classic clash of good and evil.

That truth isn’t always easy to hear or see. It isn’t always easy to accept. We are by nature drawn to seeing the best in people, to believing the best. And much is so far outside our normal sphere, we have challenges accepting it as possible. Yet we discover that what we felt was impossible is at times occurring. Illusions are shattered. Reality bites us hard.

This situation naturally creates anxiety, triggers depression and fear. In some, it ignites a dark void of hopelessness. In observing, we see all those reactions and rage. A deep, irrational but valid rage born and raised in deception and manipulation. But just as experience has taught us in other situations, people of faith have the weapons required to face the truth of what is (versus what we wish it to be) and to react accordingly. The most powerful weapon in their arsenal is faith. We embrace it and rely on it. We hold tight to it. Because we know that ultimately God remains in control. That He is with us always. We remember His promises, His assertion that His ways are not our ways and that trials and challenges and bad things, he turns and uses for good. Crooked places are made straight. We hold fast to faith… and we trust. We trust Him.

And that is how, regardless of what is going on in our world, we claim peace. Faith is the answer, and trusting God is the master key to all doors.

When things are going well, we focus elsewhere. We believe but take God and faith for granted. We’ve seen the results of that. But when times get tough and life gets hard, then we draw close and faith becomes the thread that keeps us tethered. Faith sustains us. Faith restores us.

And that is the truth that helps us retain peace in tumultuous times.

 

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Evil Spellcheck by Kristen Heitzmann

Recently I read an article about people incorrectly pluralizing names. The gist of it was that people are using apostrophes when they want to talk about the Watsons. When this editor explains that it’s wrong to write Watson’s to indicate more than one Watson, people—writers and journalists—insist they are correct and order the apostrophe to remain.

Reading that, I scratched my head. How could people not know the difference between plural and possessive? I’ll tell you how. It’s the evil and criminally incorrect Spellcheck.

As I’m writing along and correctly pluralize a name, what appears but the jagged red line informing me of a spelling error. I right click and guess what? I have two options: make the name singular or—you got it—use an apostrophe. Many of us realize this is ridiculous and add the plural name to our customized dictionaries. Problem solved. Except, many more think Spellcheck is Gospel.

They see two options and choose the one that ends in S even if it includes an apostrophe for no right reason. In an age where grammar is rarely taught and spelling gets a mere nod, Spellcheck is training indignant misspellers. (Yes, I took creative license with that word because misspell and speller both appear in the dictionary and a speller who misspells is a misspeller.) ha ha

Fun aside, let’s talk about another crime of spellcheck. Have you ever been writing along and you know a word like sidesaddle is written sidesaddle but the squiggly line tells you to make it side saddle? Or door jamb. Or whatever. Now, I’m not always right. So when I get that little trigger that says I need to change something, I bring up a dictionary and double-check. No, I was right the first time. Stop telling me to break words that shouldn’t be.

Then I wonder, how many people don’t look it up because they trust Spellcheck? Spellcheck wouldn’t lie. Spellcheck couldn’t be wrong. Sigh.

I don’t expect it to be exhaustive. I can forgive all the words that aren’t recognized. I happily add them in. I love words. The more the merrier. So I can give Spellcheck a nudge, no problem.

I also know I can turn it off, but I actually do appreciate when it catches a slip of a finger called a typo. And I appreciate it when I can’t, off the top of my head, recall an exact spelling. Spellcheck rocks for both those things. But can we all agree it’s not perfect and take the time to learn something before we argue for errors because Spellcheck said so?

A tool is only as good as the tool who uses it. Ha ha.

 

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Negativity and the Mind of Christ

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT).

girl-1149933_1920At every moment, there are two voices vying for our attention–one wants to tear us down and paralyze us, the other wants to encourage, uplift, strengthen, and set us free. With every thought, we choose who we’ll listen to.

Be aware, Satan is bent on our destruction, and often, he uses us to bring this about.

Because he’s terrified of who we’ll become, should we fully embrace and live out our identity in Christ. 

So what does he do? He watches us closely, learning what triggers our insecurities and what lies will hinder us most. Lies like:

I’m not worthy.

I can’t do this.

They won’t like me.

They’ll leave me.

They won’t listen to me.

I’m not as good/talented/beautiful as … 

The more we give in to his schemes, the more we entertain his voice, the more defeated we become.

But friends, Satan can only work by our permission, and greater is He (Christ) who is in us than he (Satan) who is in the world. 

The Bible tells us, when we believe in Christ and trust in Him for our salvation, we are given two powerful and unconquerable gifts–the Holy Spirit, which dwells within us, and the mind of the Creator Himself.

“For ‘Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach Him?’

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16 NLT).

Having the mind of Christ means thinking as He thinks. Through the Holy Spirit, our thoughts can mirror Gods. Is that not incredible? I believe this Spirit-led thinking is all encompassing and includes viewing sin as sin, truth as truth, and people as God does.

That includes us–seeing and thinking about ourselves as Christ Himself does.

So how do we do this? How can our thoughts about ourselves mirror God’s?

The first step is to recognize Satan’s lies. 

One of the greatest weapons in warfare is that of the element of surprise. The greatest defense against this is to be alert and aware. Don’t be caught off guard and defenseless. Know your enemy. Know his tactics. And know your Commanding Officer, Your Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is stronger.

The second step is to stand and resist.

James 4:7 makes a promise. If we resist the devil, he will flee from us. But so often, instead of standing firm against him, we play right into his hands.

We choose what we think about. We can entertain self-destructive thoughts or we can “fix [our] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Phil. 4:8 NLT–pronoun change mine).

Fix, focus, center, our thoughts on truth–in every area, especially in regard to ourselves.

The third step is to find an accountability partner. girls-1209321_1920

Most of us have been entertaining negative thoughts for so long, it’s become habit to do so, and habits can be hard to break. Our efforts are strengthened, however, when we link arms with someone else. Someone we can be honest with, someone who has our best in mind, and will help us become the men and women Christ created us to be.

Can you imagine what our lives would look like if we consistently viewed ourselves as Christ does? Can you imagine what our relationships would look like? How effective our ministries were–if we were operating on truth, fully resting in grace, and completely enveloped in God’s love, rather than acting and reacting based on inner lies and insecurities?

Christ died to set us free from everything that tears us down and holds us back. Let’s grab hold of and walk in that freedom, amen?

whollylovedconferneceonesheetFor those of you wanting to learn more on how to do this, consider joining me and my Wholly Loved team for one of our upcoming “You Are Enough” conferences, or book us for your next women’s event. Find out more HERE, and follow us on Facebook HERE.

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God’s Got It by Tara Randel

I’m not one of those people who blogs about my political affiliation or uses social media to state my opinions. And before you click away, no, I’m not going to start now. What I am a proponent for is knowing that God is in control.

Win or lose, people will either but upset or elated over the results of the current election. Some are already crying gloom and doom. Others are waiting to see what will happen. But no matter if your candidate won or not, God is still in control. I went to bed on Election night with peace and woke up the next morning not at all concerned by who won. That’s how much trust I have with my heavenly Father.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27

Now before you accuse me of sticking my head in the sand, I’ll let you know that I followed the candidates. Kept up with the issues at hand. Voted my conscience.

What we shouldn’t be doing is name-calling and pointing fingers. What we should be doing is praying for our President, his advisors and all the elected government officials, that they would use Godly wisdom when making decisions affecting this nation. Like whoever is in office or not, that person is in a position of authority and we should respect the office.

Here’s the thing. I think America is great. Is always has been. To me, that ideal has never changed. We get to vote here. We get to speak our minds without the threat of being arrested. We can work for a large company or start our own business. We can live in any state in this vast country of ours. It is the American spirit, the American people and their ingenuity, that make us a great nation.

This has been a busy week. Daylight Savings, Election Day, and on Friday, Veteran’s Day. What we should be doing is thanking the brave men and women who served our country at great sacrifice. My daughter, relatives and friends should be honored. Because they are part of what makes America great.

As we head into Thanksgiving, let’s remember what this nation has birthed, endured and triumphed over. Let’s unite with words of affirmation and love. And most of all, let’s remember, no matter what, God is in control.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of twelve novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, The Business of Weddings series, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

 

 

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The Day After

Yesterday our country participated in one of the most divisive elections in our history—certainly the most divisive in my lifetime, and I’ve been voting since Ford lost to Carter. No matter which side claimed victory, we all knew there would be angst and mourning for the other side.

My prayer today is that the winning side will be gracious in its success, that both sides will be reminded that the idea of this country is greater than any single president. We all believe in equality, justice and freedom—of speech, to raise our children as we see fit, to work in any honest profession, to practice our faith without challenge. Whether we’re liberal or conservative, I think that much we can agree upon.

Both sides love this country, even though our vision for America is so different. I’ve just listened to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, and in it she said we all owe the new president an open mind. This, as anyone has learned whose candidate hasn’t won, whether in this election or one in the past, is easier said than done. But I do pray both sides will strive for peace and respect for each other.

May God continue to bless this great nation, one that was formed amid more miracles than most of us realize. God has not forgotten us, and I pray we won’t forget Him. Let’s remember to pray for all the leaders of this nation!

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It’s that time again…

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I can’t believe another year has passed. They seem to fly by faster as I grow older.

Each year around this time, I recall all the wonderful holidays past and the joy they were. Now days, there are family members that are no longer with us, but I remember the happiness they brought to my life and I’m thankful for the time I had with them.

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When November rolls around, we all know that the holiday season is just around the corner. In fact, many of the stores have been urging us to start our shopping already.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love this time of the year. Sharing Thanksgiving with family and lots of good food still warms my heart. And Christmas, well, I can remember the excitement I felt as a child. The Christmas play held at church. Reading about the birth of Jesus that first Christmas so long ago. The magi, the shepherds in the field, the miracle birth. The glory of the Good News gift that was given to us that day.

But with the holidays, comes a certain amount of stress as well. Preparing the perfect meal for Thanksgiving for family. It seems like you work for days only to have it over and done in hours. Then there’s the stress of buying just the right gift for each family member. The parties, the decorating, the gift wrapping.

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So this year, before the holiday officially begins, I’ve made up my mind to take some time to myself and remember all the things that I’m thankful for and the true reason we celebrate this Christmas season. I hope you get the opportunity to do so as well. before things get crazy. 

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Wishing you a very stress-less holiday season.

 

All the best…

 

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

 

 

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The Grace Card

by Elizabeth Goddard

I recently found myself in a sticky situation. A misunderstanding. That often happens in emails. We write out an email, our intention clear to us, only to have the person on the receiving end read things differently. Sometimes their interpretation leaves them hurt, angry or frustrated. Maybe they had a long, hard day which means they’re coming at everything from a completely different angle. They hear and read things from a totally different perspective. There’s nothing we can do about that. It can happen to any one of us. I might read an email or hear someone’s reply or comment and misunderstand. Then I can choose to be hurt, angry and frustrated. Or not.

Is there anything more difficult than communication?

Ha! I’m a writer and work every day to communicate images and emotions, to create a scene to give the reader a powerful emotional experience. But often what I’ve put into the scene doesn’t come across the way I intended. Sometimes readers can relate, and other times not so much. I can easily see by looking at reviews who didn’t understand my work. Or maybe it was tripe to begin with! In this venue I offer no apologies. You can’t please everyone, right?

Regarding my email, a misunderstanding occurred that hurt an individual and caused her to want to disassociate with me. I wrote several replies and deleted them all before I finally realized the simple answer. It’s the answer we can all use for each other when our interactions go awry.

I asked her if she’d like to use the grace card in this situation because I know I sure would–and her emphatic reply was yes!

The grace card! You know, like the “get-out-of-jail-for-free” card in Monopoly! How simple is that? Freely give grace to your fellow humans and freely receive it! It’s by God’s grace that we are saved. . .IMAGINE if He had no grace or even only a little grace for us, we’d be doomed.

We all need a lot of grace. So make it your practice to walk in grace and not offense.

I pray you have a splendiferous weekend.

 

Blessings!

Elizabeth Goddard

Find out more about my new series, Wilderness, Inc. on my Amazon Author Page. Or visit my website: ElizabethGoddard.com.

Want book updates about my new releases and romantic suspense? Sign up for my Great Escape Newsletter HERE.

 

 

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