Watch What You Bring Home (by Hannah Alexander

Photo on 5-11-18 at 9.08 AM

Last week we were exploring the mountains with some friends when Connie wanted me to stop so she could take a picture. She saw a bloom she loved so much–purple and fluffy–that she wanted a plant just like it and asked if there was a shovel we could use to dig it up.

I kept trying to see what flower, exactly, she was talking about, because I’d seen a lot of blooming weeds but no pretty purple flower. I backed the car until she saw the bloom and took a picture. She was right. It was pretty. And I’d seen even prettier blooms than this one, purple and glorious. But it was a thistle. A weed. Now, I know milk thistle has healing properties, but we also know that a thistle is a cursed plant from the beginning of time.

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But we were in a beautiful valley that none of us had ever seen before, and naturally we expected to see only the beauty that day. In fact, the valley was so beautiful I’m going to include it in my Wyoming novel series.

But I won’t include the thistles.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Purple Thistle

Connie not only rejected the plant, but she also rejected the pictures of the plant, so Mel and I went back out yesterday to find more for pictures. We found plenty. That’s because once you’ve got thistle in a place, it will spread. If Connie had brought a small plant of pretty thistles home with her and planted it in her desert landscaping, in time those thistles might have overtaken everything. It’s what weeds do.

There are beautiful things in this world that are not good for us. There are animals that are beautiful but dangerous. They might look cuddly and cute, but wild animals are just that–wild. And dangerous.

There are people in this world who are beautiful or charismatic or who promise great fun, and you might be so impressed that you just want to befriend them, attach to them hoping their beauty or effervescence will rub off on you. But you might want to take a closer look, do a little more research, even ask trusted friends before you make any kind of  gesture toward these new people. I’m not saying not to make new friends–we’ve certainly made plenty of new friends–but just like thistles, some people can be bright and beautiful and you want to take them home with you, but beware. Thistles can choke out the good plants. Beautiful people with bad motives or ungodly behavior can choke out the good you see in them, and choke out the good in you if you give them a foothold.

These beautiful people, fun though they might be, need your prayers and compassion, but you need not allow them to drag you off the path you walk with God. Beauty can be so enticing. Look past appearance. Even Satan can appear as an angel of light.

 

 

 

 

 

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August Book Release by Tara Randel

Can you believe how fast the summer has gone by? It seems like yesterday that I was getting ready to launch this book and here it is!

9781335510808

Can a love built on lies…

…survive the truth?

Serena Stanhope fears her dark past might ruin the life she’s built as a successful shop owner. Especially when handsome Logan Masterson suddenly arrives in town asking questions about her background. He seems to have his own secrets, but the pair share an instant connection and Serena finds herself falling for Logan. He could destroy everything—or he could be the chance at love she thought she’d never have…

I had so much fun writing this book. The characters were a pleasure to spend time with and once again I fell in love with the small town of Golden.

Here’s an excerpt:

Serena pointed down. “Turned ankle.”

He kneeled down before her, his hand lightly grazing her skin as he examined the injured joint. An unwanted but undeniable shiver rushed over her. Good grief, he was only being a concerned citizen.

“I’m fine,” she told him, trying to shift away as his warm fingers palpated the bone.

“You should probably have it checked out,” he said, rising when he got the hint she didn’t want him in her personal space.

“It’s not bad. I’ve injured it before so I can tell. A little bit of ice, ibuprofen and keeping my foot up should do the trick.”

He didn’t look convinced. “You’re sure?”

“Positive.” She’d been taking care of herself for a very long time. This minor setback was no different. “What’re you doing here so early?”

“Grandmother needed a report from me. Thought I’d beat the city traffic and drive up here early.”

Was that his only reason? His unwavering attention had her guard up big-time, which was a shame. If she was going to blow her life up over a guy, Logan would make it really easy.

“Why don’t I help you get home.”

She waved him off. “It’s right here.”

He looked up. “So, you’re living over the store?”

“Yes. The apartment was empty and your grandmother was kind enough to let me move in.”

“That’s Grandmother. Always looking out for others.” His gaze caught hers, full of meaning. “That’s why I look out for her.”

Warning received. “Then we can both agree, your grandmother is special.”

His intense expression softened and a smile played around his mouth. It lit up his entire face and almost put her at ease. Almost. It was his body language that had Serena deciding to call this conversation quits.

“So, I’m going to go upstairs to get ready for work.” She inched from her position. “Thanks for checking on me.”

One dark eyebrow rose. “No way I’m going to leave you alone. I’ll follow to make sure you’re okay.”

Her inner defenses reared. “Really, go do your thing.”

He stood his ground.

“Stubborn man,” she muttered under her breath as she resumed her wobbly journey to her apartment.

“Did you say something?”

“How thoughtful of you,” she said over her shoulder.

Her reply earned her a burst of laughter.

She straightened her shoulders and gripped the railing. After only two steps, Logan swooped in beside her, his strong arm wrapped around her waist. She shot him a cool stare despite the riot going on in her stomach. He smelled way too good and was way too close for her peace of mind.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“I can’t watch you struggle. It’s too painful.”

Her voice rose as she said, “I’m the one who twisted my ankle.”

“And I’m the person who is going to make sure you don’t fall down the stairs.”

She held back an eye roll. “I’m capable.”

“No one said you weren’t.” His voice caressed her skin as his breath wafted over her cheek.

Torture. Beautiful torture. Why did she respond to this man the way she did?

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Click here to stop by Prism Book Tours. You’ll get a recap of the Trusting Her Heart tour and you can enter to win one of two prize packages.

Have a wonderful day!

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, ALWAYS THE ONE, available February 2020.  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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Who Are Your People?

A couple of weeks ago I heard a sermon in which the young pastor reminisced about My Space a bit. I do remember this social media platform, but I don’t remember the particular My Space feature he mentioned. He said that My Space would tell you who your top eight friends were. I suppose this was calculated off of who interacted with you the most.

The point he was getting at was to ask – who are the top people in your life? Who can you talk to about your Christian walk? Who can you rely on and trust? We all need friends who have the same values and beliefs that we do.

The Bible has many verses scattered throughout its pages that illustrate what true friendship looks like. One of my favorite verses that deals with relationships is Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I think this is a wonderful way to look at two people who are there for each other, they will listen and provide comfort in time of need, and they know one another’s heart. However, they will also help one another grow, they will build one another up, they will strengthen one another, and they will correct one another if needed.

One beloved example of friendship in the Bible is David and Jonathan. The ESV version of the Bible puts it this way, “… the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David…” (1 Samuel 18:1). What a beautiful way to word it! Jonathan was the son of Saul, who was actually out to kill David. Yet Jonathan made a covenant with David and helped him in time of need. They loved one another as though they were brothers. Sadly, one day Jonathan died in battle, but David did not forget him. In fact he found Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, who was unable to walk due to an injury as a child. King David ensured that Mephibosheth had his due inheritance and that he always ate at the king’s table.

In the world of social media, we all have hundreds of “friends.” But in reality the majority are not a deep, bonding type of friendship. Unfortunately, in today’s society, many of our friendships are only surface level. Superior relationships in our world should be cherished.

So I wanted to ask you today – who are your people? Do you have anyone in your life with whom you share a camaraderie like we see in David and Jonathan? If the answer is no, then maybe you will consider making that a goal in your life? Start with prayer. Ask God to bring a solid Christian friendship into your life. If the answer is yes, then take a moment today to thank God for your friends. And also thank your friends for being there for you.

(Photo by Brendan Gogarty.)

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Al Buchholtz

Al Bucholtz called me this morning. At five a.m.

He said he was Al Bucholtz, he was 82 and he had had a stroke. Interesting information, but I wasn’t sure why he was telling me all this.

He said he had just returned from visiting his brother in Abbotsford. Again, interesting information (Abbotsford is where I live), but I wasn’t seeing the relevance.

The conversation wasn’t making much sense. But it is understandable that an older person might be a bit confused at five in the morning. Al said he would make allowances for me.

Al then asked to speak to my supervisor.

I said I didn’t have a supervisor—other than my wife. But I wasn’t about to wake her at five in the morning. I haven’t lived this long without learning some things.

Al asked, “Isn’t this Maplehurst seniors care home?”

“No,” I answered. “Their number is one different from mine. It ends in a five, not a three.” (This has happened before. Usually at five in the morning.)

Al hung up—after I apologized for inconveniencing him and wasting his time. Al said he didn’t mind. After all, you couldn’t expect too much from old people at five in the morning.

Note: Some of the names in this post have been changed to protect…well, not to protect anyone but just because I have a faulty memory.


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The Straw Dilemma

I like turtles.  I mean, who doesn’t?  But I like my straws too, and I’m struggling with the “no straw” rule that’s happening in California to “Save the Turtles.”  I mean, I recycle.  I’m earth responsible, but I want my straws.  Straws in iced soy lattes are how I start my writing day. It’s not just practical, it’s a ritual.

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That’s my dog, Fiona.  She likes straws too.

Yes, I know the new caps at Starbucks are made to drink without straws, but here’s the thing, I have an overbite.  I never had braces, so I want my straw.  Besides, what do they think the caps are going to do for the turtles?  Will they have hats to wear?

So I dislike these new rules.  I dislike that I must live the way people tell me to because a nine-year-old girl did a science project. I’m not a fan of paper straws.  (Is anyone a fan of paper straws?)  The metal ones make the coffee taste weird.  And no one seems to care that McDonald’s and Taco Bell, etc., still have straws.

I only drink Starbucks, FYI, because they have virtually killed the independent coffee roasters.  For most of my life, I went to Dana Street Coffee (where I wrote a large portion of my Ashley Stockingdale series) and Coffee Society.  I moved away from Dana Street and Coffee Society is no more.  A moment of silence.

So while the straw dilemma rages on, I’ll be muddling through with my own straws.  (In restaurants now, you must ask for straws. They cannot give them to you willingly.)  When I went to Colorado, the waitress told me I could keep my straw as a souvenir.   Now, if you’re like most people, this issue has very little impact on your life.  But to me?  To me, it’s one more freedom slowly ebbed away where I must conform or get out…

Maybe I need to write a poem — an Ode to Straws…

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The Gift of Freedom by Nancy J. Farrier

I have a new release this month, a novella set in 1830’s California, Alta California. At the time Alta California was still Mexico. The Ranchero’s Gift, is part of my Land of Promise series, comes between Bandolero(Book 1)and The Ranchero’s Love(Book 2). Many people ask where an author gets the idea for a book, so I thought I would share my inspiration for The Ranchero’s Gift.

My husband and I were visiting our daughters’ church one Sunday morning. The Pastor had a conversational speaking style and sat on a stool in front of the congregation. I always enjoyed his messages, but this one struck a chord with me.

As he spoke, he related a story I hadn’t heard before. He talked about Abraham Lincoln purchasing a slave woman at an auction. As Abraham Lincoln walked away with the woman he just bought, he turned to her and told her she was free—he was giving her freedom. 

The woman was startled, not expecting this and asked if she was free to go anywhere, do anything and say what she wanted. Lincoln told her that would be true, she could do whatever she wanted. Her response was to say that she wanted to go with him because he gave her freedom.

An astounding story, but the Pastor followed the opening story by talking about Jesus paying the price for us and then giving us our freedom. Jesus doesn’t demand that we love Him, or that we follow Him. He gives us the freedom to choose what we want to do. I understood what the newly freed woman meant when she wanted to follow the person who took away her bonds.

I had trouble focusing on the rest of the message that morning. I couldn’t quit thinking about being granted freedom in similar circumstances and what a person—particularly a woman—would do. How would you react to this unexplainable gift?

I also remembered being a young Christian and feeling the need to “pay God back” for all He’d done for me. Every time I did a service for Christ, I lifted it up as a payment. As if I could do anything to repay Christ for His gift. Plus, the attempt to pay Him, meant His sacrifice was no longer a gift. God taught me a hard lesson about gifts, one I’ve never forgotten. I decided to explore that theme as well.

Thus, was born the story of Maya and Yaniv in The Ranchero’s Gift.What happens when a young woman is sold and then given her freedom? I hope readers enjoy the story, but even more I hope the character’s struggles help the reader think about the gift they’ve been given and what they are doing with that gift. 

What do you choose to do with the gift Jesus has given you?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…”Eph. 2:8

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Gal. 5:1

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Blue Moon Rose

As I have mentioned before, my husband has a green thumb. Last week I talked about the vegetable garden and fruit trees in our yard. But my husband also likes other trees, flowers, etc. The only thing he doesn’t like as much are bushes, but that is mainly because he thinks snakes could be hiding underneath. So he usually tries to keep the lower branches of the bushes trimmed.

One of my husband’s favorite things to grow are roses. We have several rose bushes in our yard. He might get this from his late mother, as I remember that she enjoyed getting new roses to root.

Some of the roses we have in our yard, we ordered through a catalog. There is one in particular that my husband was especially interested in planting. It is called a Blue Moon rose. The only problem is that it is not blue. Rather it is more on the pink or lavender side.

This prompted a conversation between my husband and me. “People” named this rose blue moon, even though it is not blue. And I don’t know where moon comes into the picture. I guess in general, it does have a nice name. It just doesn’t really fit.

The following day after my husband and I talked about the not-so-blue rose, we were talking about going to the grocery store for fruit. One of the things my husband wanted was grapes. And again the name issue came up. He said that the grapes he wanted were the green ones, but people usually referred to them as white grapes. Again this name came from “people.”

And the same is true for us. People will call us a lot of things. Some of the things they call us might be hurtful or they might make us feel good. Some things they call us might be accurate or they might be way off base. It can be easy to let other people’s words affect us. Hurtful words will bring us down, and nice words will give us a boost.

But what’s important to remember, especially as Christians, is to compare everything to truth. Truth comes from God, What Jesus did for us, and what the Bible says. Who does God say you are? Who are you in Jesus? And what truth can be found in the Bible? Whether the things said about us are good or bad, it is always best to bring them back to truth.

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A Real Superwoman Sits Down by Julie Arduini

When I was in my twenties, it was nothing for me to run around work and finish all my goals in a short time. It was fairly easy, despite severe PCOS, to manage a new home as a newlywed. I remember unpacking and having the entire house set up before a surgery to alleviate the pain I was having.

When I received a compliment, it was worth the time. The pace. The stress I forced on myself and inflicted on others. My method received enough encouragement that I lived on that routine for years. Through my season working out of the home. Having children. Raising children. Dealing with chronic issues that affected our daughter. Losing my father. Moving away from our entire family, friends, and church. Living in a new state. Learning how to obtain services for our child. Managing menopause at 37. Healing from a hystectomy at 38. Dealing with teens. Losing in-laws. Surviving child heartbreak. Balancing crazy hormones. Writing. Books. Marketing books.

It worked until 2016 when my hormones decided to go crazy. Thing is, I knew the stress I was putting myself through and knew my body was rebelling. But as long as I could put a bandaid on it all, I went right back to the circus called my life.

Until February of this year. It started as a sinus infection and bronchitis. It took three or four antibiotics and a steroid to clear it out. Through that sickness and beyond it, I was more than tired. I was exhausted. My goals went from several categories and steps per day to getting our daughter off to school and home. Bonus if I cooked a dinner that wasn’t chicken patties and fries. I needed not just a power nap, but naps. When I stood, I felt dizzy. I had periodic heart palpitations. I was up every hour on the hour. It was the craziest thing.

I visited with my endocrinologist and although I don’t have all the answers yet, I learned enough to find direction and discover quite a bit about myself.

Our bodies are so sensitive. And I was pushing my adrenals way, way, way too hard. I’m working on improving that, and in doing so, I’ve been forced to accept a truth that’s been there all along.

Real Superwomen (or men) sit down. Years ago I found enough healing in Christ to stop doing things just for approval. However, as a wife, mom, author, volunteer, I kept taking on and doing, doing, doing. When my body made it clear I wasn’t drinking enough water or sleep, I pushed through. I’ve been paying the price.

Although I’m still in learning mode, beyond the supplements and medical side of things, I’m delegating more. Often I would take on more than I needed because I’d work faster or in my opinion, accomplished things better. My husband would offer to help and I’d decline knowing he worked all day. Well, I worked as well, but in different ways. If he’s offering, I’m learning to take him up on it. I’m blessed that I make my own schedule, so if I have a heavy day full of appointments or errands, I’m trying to not schedule anything the next day that I HAVE to do. Sure, I usually write or work on marketing, but I don’t add all the laundry, mowing, ministry work and staying up late to watch a movie with my husband. I’ve said no to ministry efforts that I know have enough help, or left early when I knew they’d be fine without early.

Will I always have to make these choices? Maybe not with such specific detail, but I think a lot of changes I’m making need to be my lifestyle. I thought I’d feel “less than” doing these things. Guess what? I feel brave for speaking up. Wise for finally stopping that recumbent bike ride when the timer goes off even though the inspiring music is still playing.

If you can relate to anything I’m saying and still feel guilty for even thinking about pulling back and making healthy adjustments, there’s no greater example to look to than Jesus. He retreated to the mountains away from the crowds to talk to His dad. Re-focus. Rest. He knew not to push, push, work, work, go, go and He’s Jesus. If Jesus needed to pull back, why wouldn’t you?

I hope as summer winds down and a new school year starts, you take some time apart with your Heavenly Father and ask Him what changes you might need to make. Don’t be afraid if He has answers. Feel brave for obeying. Sadly, few do. You’ve got this because God’s got YOU.

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Looking for a quick and satisfying romance before summer ends? Match Made in Heaven will be a free eBook on Amazon Saturday, August 10 and Sunday, August 11. That’s this weekend!

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RESPECT! (By Hannah Alexander)

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Most of us who keep up with news might have seen a report about a nine-year-old child being butted into the air by a bison in Yellowstone recently. I saw the footage and was horrified. But I saw how close the crowd was to that bison. Unfortunately, the adults ran away and the bison went for the closest person. That bison was not shown nearly enough respect.

When I say respect I mean you need to do it with fear and trembling, and give the wild animal a wide berth. See the moose above? He’s a big guy. He can cause a lot of damage. As much damage, as the bison. Or worse. If you ever see a mama moose with her baby, you don’t want to be anywhere around, because she will stomp the stuffing out of you.

If you go to Yellowstone this year, or any other place with wild animals meandering through it, please understand that these are, indeed, wild animals. As in, they are protective of their food, their young, their very lives, and you are the intruder.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Mel took a picture of this guy as he was getting nervous. There was a crowd hovering at the road a couple hundred feet from him, which to me was a little too close, but two women decided to get closer. They’d run a little farther, take a picture, then get even farther from the crowd, closer to the moose, until he raised his big head and glared at them and shook his mighty head. Even THAT didn’t deter them. I never heard about a bull moose attack in Yellowstone that day, but there could well have been. A moose is a wild animal.

Mel and I had just driven down into the edge of Yellowstone for a hike, and though it was a thrill to see this bull moose, we didn’t stick around. We also didn’t do much hiking in Yellowstone because of all the bear warnings–grizzly attacks. I love animals but not enough to risk getting mauled by a grizzly.

Last week we drove south into the mountains and went hiking. When we got back into the car Mel said something surprising–something he’d never said before. “I have this strong feeling that we’re going to see something picture-worthy on our way back home.” So he kept his camera out and I kept watch.

Sure enough, I caught sight of this pretty gal in the tree line beside the road.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Mel took this picture from the car. Granted, it was not a good place to stop, but traffic was almost nonexistent, and we weren’t about to find a place to park and come back for a picture by foot. That’s because a moose, like a grizzly or a lion or a wolf, is a wild animal and doesn’t know we’re just taking pictures. She might have thought we were stalking her in some way. Or she might have thought we were after her food or her baby. We have to respect the wild.

Fear and respect can mean the same thing. Take the Bible, for instance. If you’ve read  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you’ve seen that Mr. Beaver tells the children that Aslan is not a safe lion. In other words, our Lord is not a pet. He is Lord of the universe, and we do not control Him. He controls us. We owe him more than the respect or fear we would show to a grizzly or a moose we would see in Yellowstone or out on one of our hiking trails. We owe Him total honor, total respect, total love, our total lives.

Unlike with these animals in the picture, we can draw close to Him, but we must know that if we attempt to treat Him with disrespect, with dishonor, without love, then we are taking ourselves out of His realm of protection. And that is not safe or wise in any way. Don’t forget who the enemy is. We need to be in right relationship with our God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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United We Stand by Vicki Hinze

United We Stand, America Stands with the Fallen, Vicki Hinze, Christians Read

Let today be the day that Americans stand united for the Fallen and against violence and hatred in all its forms.

 

It begins with one.  One person.  One action.  One voice.

Let it begin today with each of us.

United We Stand.

 

 

 

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NORA’S REVIEW OF: American Omens

 

 

Nora St Laurent, Christians Read, American Omens, Travis ThrasherAmerican Omens

By Travis Thrasher

Published by: Multnomah

Release Date: February 12, 2019

ISBN# 978-0735291785

352 Pages

 

https://amzn.to/2YlLM3p

 

 

TYPE OF BOOK:  Prophecy, Science Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Drama, Futuristic, Christian Fiction

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:  This taut thriller depicts a future where belief is dangerous, faith is deemed hatred, and a group of powerful elites keep watch. The Reckoner has come to wake up America.

The year is 2038 and Cheyenne Burne is a brilliant young programmer working for Acatour, the world’s top technology firm. Her father converts to Christianity, and he suddenly disappears without a trace. When a stranger hands Cheyenne a coded message that sends her on a collision course with a clandestine group of believers, she must put her life in the hands of those following a man known only as the Reckoner. He claims he wants to bring back true faith in Christ to America and also reveal the forces behind the disappearances of the many renowned people who publicly declared their Christian faith.

Operating in the shadows and living off the grid, this mysterious prophet assembles a ragtag team–including a former bookseller whose store was shut down for selling prohibited books–to help him take the battle for transparency to the top. With a ruthless FBI agent closing in, can Cheyenne and the others expose the truth and lead a return to God in America before it’s too late?

 

NORA’S REVIEW:  I couldn’t put this thrilling, haunting, suspenseful, fast-paced, thought-provoking novel down. Its kind of like the of movie I Robotwith Will Smith. It also had the feel of the movies Enemy of the Stateand Mission Impossibleall rolled into one wild ride I’m still thinking about.

 

The I Robot aspect of the story was the robot technology; how the cars drive themselves and the robots can help you and are with you all the time. They are called “partners” in this story.

 

TheMission Impossible feel was the fact that the Reckoner has asked this group to do something unheard of; which to them is an impossible mission to accomplish. Just like the Mission impossible movies the author reveals some of the plan to the audience but not the whole thing until the plan is put into action and is played out on the screen.

 

Then finally the Enemy of the State aspect of the novel. The whole country is up in arms about Christians – they are wiping out any mention of God. Many Christians have mysteriously disappeared and suspected dead soon after their declaration of faith.  They’ve become an Enemy of not just the State but of the world.

 

The first character the reader meets is Dowland whose great at his job. He wipes out assigned targets. He’s on his last mission. He’s to kill the Reckoner. The Reckoner who tells people God is real. Everyone knows that isn’t true. But part of him wonders as he reads a piece of paper found at his latest victim’s house, “Abraham approached God and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked?” Gen 18:23. Memories of his grandmother and her faith come to mind. He pushes them away and presses onto his next mission, which is interrogating Christians; wiping out them out systematically to find their leader, the Reckoner.

 

The next character introduced is Cheyenne Burne. She’s a program specialist for Acatour. She helped put technology in people’s heads. The year is 2038, many Christians have gone missing presumed dead. Her father was one of them. He became a Christian and then disappeared without a trace, not even a note good-bye.

 

Then she hears a message in her head, …” This is your wake-up call, Cheyenne. You’ve been sleeping your whole life, dreaming those dreams. The alarm clock is about to go off, and there won’t be anyway to press the snooze button…. Do not over think and analyze the situation you’re about to encounter—Just act and don’t react. Deal with the road in front of you and the door that’s about to open.”

 

She no sooner finishes listening to this message when things start to explode. She finds herself heading thru a door she didn’t know existed. Now she’s on the run for her life.

 

The last character readers are introduced to is Will Stewart, former book store owner. After 10 years in business his dream store has closed. He knew he wouldn’t get rich, but his goal was to connect with a community of fellow believers.

 

Will struggles…” Believing wasn’t the issue, nor was knowing the truth. It was following and obeying and getting with the program and not having this awful uncertainty running through his system day and night.” …” Why can’t I be like the rest of them? Not worrying about God and not feeling guilty for not being strong enough? Not carrying this load of fear and brokenness around while also hurting for all those how are so deluded, so far gone?”

 

He ponders as a customer shares with him, “Our souls are assaulted daily, and yet we are all so passive, acting as if the bombs didn’t just destroy the home around us and refusing to arm ourselves and go into battle. We are pacifists, not because of some strong belief to be so, but because we don’t have strong beliefs in the first place.”

 

You’ll be burning the mid-night oil with this story that will rock your world and as you can’t stop thinking about these characters and their struggle in a whole new light. It’s chilling! I highly recommend this novel as an amazing read and one that would work well for book club as there is so much to talk about. This book is a keeper and a must read!

 

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! http://www.bookfun.org

The Book Club Network blog http://www.psalm516.blogspot.com

Book Fun Magazine https://www.bookfun.org/page/past-issues-book-fun-mag

 

 

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You Reap What You Sow

My husband enjoys keeping a vegetable garden. Twice a year he will till up the dirt and then carefully place various seeds and plants in that dirt. Before too long, we will begin to see vegetables begin to grow. Some of the things my husband plants include cucumbers, squash, potatoes, turnip greens, collard greens, green beans, peas, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, and so on.

We also have several fruit trees, citrus trees, and grapes. All of this is thanks to my husband’s hard work. He has the green thumb in our family!

As the saying goes, you reap what you sow. The Bible even references this in numerous verses across the Old and New Testaments. One example is in Galatians 6. I am using the New Living Translation here, so it’s worded a little differently. Verse 7 says, “You will always harvest what you plant.”

This is something important to remember in general, not just as it pertains to gardening:

  • If we sow seeds of negativity, we will reap negativity. On the flip side, if we plant positivity, we will harvest positivity.
  • If we sow seeds of judgement, we will reap judgment. However if we plant empathy, we will harvest empathy.
  • If we sow seeds of hate, discord, and anger, then we will reap hate, discord, and anger. On the other hand, if we plant love, harmony, and peace, then we will harvest love, harmony, and peace.
  • Those who spend money foolishly, will suffer the consequences. But if they are good stewards of their money, they will reap the reward.
  • If someone continually eats poorly and doesn’t exercise, in time they could see negativity effects in their health. But if someone makes a habit of eating nutritious foods and staying active, then their body will be better off in the long run.
  • If someone plays video games all day, every day, they cannot expect to have a productive life. But if they set goals and work diligently, then they will benefit in the years to come.

Keeping this truth tucked in our hearts will help us make better decisions. It will prompt us to be more responsible. And it will nudge us to spread the love of Jesus wherever we go.

But let’s look at this from a different angle. You wouldn’t plant cucumber seeds and expect to produce apples. And you wouldn’t scream at someone and expect them to answer you calmly. It seems pretty straightforward and logical, right?

Well, actually, there might be times when you reap something that you didn’t know you sowed. A few years ago when my husband’s squash seeds began to harvest, a tall sunflower had grown in the midst of the squash. The only logical explanation is that a sunflower seed had accidentally gotten mixed in with the squash seeds.

Could we accidentally be sowing the wrong seeds in life as well? Maybe we snap at someone and we don’t realize that our words came out harshly. Or perhaps we feed our souls garbage, but we don’t realize it’s wrong because that is what the rest of the world is doing.

It helps to be intentional about what we sow. And it starts by surrounding ourselves with the right nutrients. My husband often gets the dirt tested to see if it is lacking any nutrients. Then he will purchase appropriate fertilizer to nourish the ground.

Likewise we can feed ourselves the best nutrients. For example, fellowshipping with other Christians will help us grow good fruit. Earlier I mentioned Galatians 6. If we backup to the beginning of that chapter, in verses 1-3, Paul says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.”

We should all have some “safe” friends who can gently nudge us when they see that we made a mistake. And in turn, we should be able to do the same for them.

But most importantly, we should also make sure Jesus is our main source of water and nutrition. When we feed ourselves wholesome things, we will have better discernment between right and wrong. Jesus said in John 15:5-8, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”

In other words, it is essential for our own well-being and growth that we stay grounded in the Lord. When we do, we will sow and reap the best in life!

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Letting Go

Nothing good is likely to come from a conversation that starts with the other person calling me “immature, stupid, and ignorant.”

Yet this was what G. alleged when he contacted me by email a little while ago. G. was responding to notes that someone else had written about a private phone conversation I had apparently had over twenty-five years ago. I do not remember having that conversation, although I do remember the context and have no reason to doubt his assertion that the conversation took place.

The context was that something truly evil and horrendous had been done to someone whom G. loved. He was contacting me now, twenty-five years later, to express his anger that in that phone conversation I had not expressed sufficient outrage at what had been done. On the basis of that phone conversation, he concluded that everything I had written in my long career was garbage—and that I likely was as well.

From what I do recall, I suspect that my informal comments back then were based on a very limited knowledge of the situation—the full details of what had happened were not yet known. I had not been involved in the situation except as a very peripheral observer, and in the phone conversation, when I was asked, I shared what little I knew.

But none of that mattered to G. Nothing good came from my email conversation with him. He was unwilling to listen to anything I had to say. He just wanted to vent his anger, and I was a fresh target he could attack. After a couple of attempts, I concluded that it would be best to just let the matter drop.

What struck me in my interaction with G. was that for him what had happened was just as fresh as when it had happened over twenty-five years earlier. He was still lashing out against anyone anywhere near the situation. He was still trying to resolve something that had been done by someone who might be dead by now. He was stuck in the past.

I could have told G. to let go and move on. That was likely a message he needed to hear. But I didn’t have the authority to do that. I wasn’t the one who had experienced something truly evil and horrible, and I didn’t feel I had the right to offer advice on something so far out of my own experience.

But I have a friend who can speak with authority on the subject. Wilma Derksen’s daughter was brutally murdered many years ago. A couple of years ago, Wilma wrote a book called The Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk toward Forgiveness (2017). In it, she says that if we hold on to anger and hurt, it will destroy us. We need to forgive and let go. Letting go does not deny the horror of evil deeds, but it does allow us to move on and live feely. That understanding did not come easily to her. And it will not come easily to G. But it is a message that many of us need to hear.

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Letting our babies go…

No matter how far I get in my writing career, the hardest part is always letting your baby go.  Allowing someone to read and interact with what you’ve written.  They might tell you that your baby is ugly.  Or your baby is unworthy and should go back into the dark places in the back of your drawer.  How terrifying that is to be bold and put your work out there for others to criticize.

When you’re seeking publication, agents and editors might tell you that your baby is ugly.  But when you’re published, ANYONE can say publicly how ugly your baby is and describe his flaws in detail.  This is the one thing I’ve discovered about writing and taking criticism:

If I BElIEVE in what I’m writing?  I couldn’t care less about what someone has to say about it.  I know why I wrote it.  You can assign ugly motive to me all you like, but that’s not why I wrote it.  And I know the truth. My motive was from a good place.  Was this person’s review?  Or was it just to criticize? I think this is a good lesson to take in life.  Does this person giving me feedback genuinely care about me?  Or do they have some other motive?

Over the years I’ve had a lot of people tell me THEIR version of Christianity should be mine.  Once I had a book cover where the heroine had a tank top on.  I was told that I was promoting promiscuity and I should never seek to call myself a Christian.  Okay, sure.  (At the time, I had NO say in covers either.)

It’s ironic that later my book on late-in-life virginity (What a Girl Wants) got purchased by a Christian singer who wanted to do a movie on that life choice.  The movie never got made, but you can see how people can read extremes into your words that aren’t there.  That’s because we all come to books with baggage. Our own baggage and backgrounds and it colors what we read and how we see the world.

No writer is for everyone.  I’m certainly not.  I’m for people who live a Christian life surrounded by atheists.  That’s my truth. That’s what is in my books.

All this to say, what people say about you has little to do with you.  Let them have their opinions.  It has no bearing on you.  Although once I did let my baby soar and he ended up in the Middle East.  He sent me this picture along with the words, “I’m fine, Mom.”  The last picture he sent me with those words, he was hanging out of an airplane over Okinawa.  On second thought, maybe we should put a leash on our babies…

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A Writer’s Getaway by Tara Randel

I just got in last night from New York City after attending the Romance Writers of America annual conference. This is always such a great time to visit with writer friends, meet with my editor and agent, and sit in on workshops. It’s a whirlwind couple of days, but so worth it. As authors, its very easy to get caught up in the imaginary worlds we create, so going away is a wonderful way to recharge and reset.

This year, I traveled with a friend. Before hand, we made a list of the places we wanted to see while in New York. We hit every place, but today I wanted to focus on two literary locations we enjoyed every much.

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First, we went to the Morgan Library and Museum. In 1924 J. P. Morgan, Jr. gave his father’s library to the public. The most influential financier in this country’s history, John Pierpont Morgan was also a voracious collector. He collected art objects in virtually every medium, including the rare books, manuscripts, drawings, prints, and ancient artifacts that are the core of library. Morgan decided to build the library next to his brownstone at the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Street. It’s a beautiful place to see books that are truly works of art. What an incredible library, as you’ll see in the pictures.

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After visiting the museum, our next stop was the Algonquin Hotel, the gathering place of Dorothy Parker and her notorious group of writer friends. In the early 1900’s, the hotel became the site of the daily meetings of the Algonquin Round Table group of journalists, authors, publicists and actors who gathered in the main dining room.

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We had dinner right beside the original table where the creative people met. Above the table is a painting of the group who met there.

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All in all, it was an amazing trip. Now I have to get back to work and real life, but last week we created lasting memories that may, or may not, end up in a book.

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, TRUSTING HER HEART, available August 2019.  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.

Copy of Available August 2019

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