When Life Gives You Lemons by Kathy Carmichael

That old saying about making lemonade when life gives you lemons has been in my mind for the past several days. In my case, it seems it’s more like making lemon cookies.

lemons

Around four years ago, I suffered from major heart attacks and heart problems. As a result, I underwent open heart surgery involving a quadruple bypass and mitral valve repair. The doctor said I was young to be experiencing all these heart problems, which worked in my favor. I’m still working hard at living my life to the fullest possible, but I have to keep trying sometimes to do things that were once simple for me.

I’ve searched for the right recipe to make my life have value and fit with my personality. It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes my recipe flopped and I had to start over again. Sometimes I had the wrong ingredients. For instance I have tried setting up a YouTube channel to talk about things of interest to me (my Ninja Foodi air fryer and pressure cooker, medicare, and so on). While I may eventually get those videos uploaded, in the meantime they are living in my iCloud storage.

The Lord has called me to write about my experiences and I’ve written a non-fiction book about them. In this case, the recipe was perfect. I felt as though the Holy Spirit was my co-writer, often directing what I should or should not include. And now the book will be releasing in a few days.

Here’s a link to a great lemon cookie recipe, guaranteed not to flop like some of my own.

Find out more information regarding my new book by clicking the image below.

Heaven and the Afterlife book cover

Note: Special Discount.

Now through 11/1/2020 the ebook is discounted to only $0.99. On 11/2/2020 the ebook will return to the original price of $7.99. 

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Last Words by James R. Coggins

Good writers work very hard to craft interest-grabbing opening sentences to their books. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote as the opening for A Tale of Two Cities. I think it is much harder to write a memorable closing line to a book, although Dickens often achieved that as well.

British suspense writer Ruth Rendell went one better perhaps in composing a memorable closing sentence to her entire writing career. Her last novel, Dark Corners (Doubleday, 2015), ends with the sentence: “‘And now,’ he said, ‘now it’s all over.’”

Rendell (1930—2015) was a truly great suspense writer, with over 60 books to her credit. She began writing traditional murder mysteries, from the point of view of a police detective whose goal was to discover and arrest the murderer. But she then moved on to write stories from the point of view of the murderer, some of them under the pseudonym Barbara Vine. She did a masterful job of detailing her central characters’ inevitable descent into murder and often madness. In One Across, Two Down (1971), she described this as “a slow, indiscernible disintegration towards…utter collapse.”

Dark Corners offered as a frontispiece a quote from a 2005 interview. When asked why she seemed to be fascinated with psychopaths, she answered, “I do empathize with people who are driven by dreadful impulses. I think to be driven to want to kill must be such a terrible burden. I try, and I think I succeed, in making my readers feel pity for my psychopaths, because I do.”

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Rendell’s later books is that her psychopathic murderers were not that different from the other characters in her books, who, for the most part, lived petty, self-centered lives.

Rendell’s change in viewpoint was perhaps based on a profound insight. The real problem is not crime but human evil and guilt. In the end, the best solution she could offer for human evil and guilt was not arrest and punishment but confession. It is a good start, but unfortunately it falls short of a satisfying conclusion. While clearly identifying the problem, she could not identify a full solution. She could offer no clear avenue for forgiveness and redemption.

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On the Move…

I’ll admit it, I don’t like change. I don’t like moving. I don’t like the thought of moving. I grew up in a very stable household. I lived in that house my entire life and I could ride my bike to either set of grandparents. The biggest move we made was going to see my cousins about 20 minutes away and I remember thinking it took an eternity to get there every time.

Then, life blew up in its own magnificent way and I had no choice but to move. And to move again. And again. You get the picture. I could not provide the same stable environment for my kids and that always will feel like a failure. But when God calls us to move, we must go. I keep praying for that kind of stability in our lives now, but He has a different plan. My kids are dispersed in four different places. And it’s where they belong, but I don’t have to like it.

Today, my oldest son is moving to Seattle. He has been in Los Angeles after growing up in Northern California. He’s a 5th generation Californian and that means something to me because it means we are grounded in our land — our community. Only God has different plans from my vision.

Last night my son and I were researching our family tree. Our family moved from Nebraska to Montana under the homestead act. It reminded me how desperate they had to have been for land because in a covered wagon, they took 5 kids (they would have 7 more) and lived in a one room shack. We checked the weather there last night and in October it was 30 degrees with “icy rain.” Icy rain in October — can you imagine farming in such country?

It made me so grateful for the stability I was able to enjoy because of my ancestors. Because they lived such a hardscrabble, difficult existence, I lived like a princess in Redwood City, California — “Climate best by government test.”

But now, God has said “go” again to my son. He’s an engineer out of work in California and they’re not hiring. So, just like his ancestors before him, he’s answering the call because it’s necessary.

I am hopeful that one day, we will all live in our own Hallmark movie and we’ll all be in the same place once more. Until then, God said “Go!”

Ever gone when you didn’t want to?

Sorry for the bad quality, but this is my grandfather’s homestead in southwestern Montana.

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Change is Coming by Vicki Hinze

If you’re like most, you view much of what is going on (and has been for years) and you say, “They need to do something about that.”  Or you say, “Someone needs to fix that.”  You grumble, shake your head in disgust or pound your fist in outrage—which, don’t kid yourself, everyone does at some point in time.  You might even discuss the situation with your spouse or friends. If your observation is of a seriously grievous nature, you might even fire off an objection in an email, social media post, or a letter.  But that’s pretty much where it stops.  You vent.  You’re done.

We all need to think a little deeper about that…

We elect others to represent our interests, and then we go on to live our lives, do our jobs, raise our families and unless some major event occurs, we forget about them until it’s close to time to vote, and then we focus.  When we do, we are often disappointed in what we see.  Rather than doing our own research into what has been happening on that front, we listen to pundits and those voices we respect, and we rely on them and their advice for the next round of voting.  In other words, we abdicate responsibility to strangers who might or might not have our best interests at heart. 

That abdication of personal responsibility has landed us into the situation we find ourselves.  And speaking bluntly, the blame and fault is our own.  We failed to mind our own business.  And we did so knowing that whenever someone does that, there is always someone waiting in the wings to step in and mind our business for us.

The problem is those who step in have their own agendas, and it’s rare that their agendas align with our preferences.

When this all occurs to us, we automatically seek to blame them.  What they said isn’t what they’ve done.  Their agenda was obscured and now that it isn’t, we don’t like it.  We haven’t gotten what we wanted and they said that they wanted. 

But are they to blame?  No.  We are.  We abdicated our responsibility.

All of this occurred to me over four years ago, and I took action.  I stopped the heavy publishing schedule and spent copious amounts of time researching everything that had to do with the impact on our lives.  It’s been quite the journey.  But I decided it was worth the time and effort and the decrease in income because this wasn’t just about me.  It was about my children and my grandchildren, and about all those who have no one looking out for them.

I turned off the news and set a standard of going directly to the source to find out information.  Haunted the wh.gov website to read the presidential actions and executive orders.  The justice.gov site, to read what was going on there.  Defense Department and State Department.  And the rest.  A treasure trove of information is there.  I also watched committee hearings, read transcripts and dove into topics.

I learned a lot more than I expected.  Some was very good.  Some reflected despicable conduct that honestly was shameful.  What is said behind closed doors often varies significantly in hearings than what is said at a podium or on the House floor.  There’s a reason for that.  Representatives can’t be held accountable for lies told on the House or Senate floor.  Thank goodness there are some but by no means all do that!

The point is I now know who does and who has not.  That’s important.  Why?

Because being a citizen in a Constitutional Republic carries magnificent privileges few on the planet enjoy.  It also carries individual responsibility.  It is not just wise to take on your personal responsibility, it’s your duty.  And you should embrace it—and never take it for granted.  Many embrace the freedoms and liberty—the privileges—but shun the responsibility.  That tips the scales out of balance.  We all know what happens when that occurs.

Elected officials often say that the current election is the most important.  The truth is every election is important.  They all matter and impact our daily lives.  But in this election a lot is on the ballot that is unspoken and unlisted but clear to all paying attention.  The outcome will determine whether America remains a Constitutional Republic or becomes socialist.  Bluntly put, it’s that simple and that complex.

Honestly, I never thought those words would come out of my mouth.  Largely because history has taught us repeatedly that socialism always fails.  (If you doubt it, look at Venezuela twenty years ago and now.  They were a nation rich in resources and now their people are starving, without water or medicine and some were reduced to eating zoo animals.)  America tried getting aid in to them but were blocked at the border by its government which isn’t the one elected by the people.  Less than twenty years and their entire country—poof!

Significantly, religious freedom (all the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights) are on the unwritten ballot.  Vote one way, you have those rights; they’ll be protected.  Vote another way, you won’t have them; they’ll be gone.

That isn’t an exaggeration or me being an alarmist.  In Covid, we’ve seen and experienced freedom to assemble restricted.  No church services, yet casinos are open.  Freedom of choice restricted.  Small businesses forced to close but big-box stores open.  Freedom of speech violated.  Look at the media blackout on the corruption currently in the news, the banning, shadow-banning, and restrictions on accounts—including the press secretary’s and a powerful congressional committee account. 

 

These are concrete and verifiable incidents we’ve all heard about occurring.  We’ve witnessed them, and a lot more.  Those facts are not in dispute.

Violations of rights such as these are offenses that we never thought we’d see in our country.  Our media acting against the people is as well, though we got plenty of foreshadowing of it in the past four years. Still, we find this stunning.  And yet, here we are, and these violations are occurring.  Despite the fact that during times of war and crisis never has the Constitution been suspended.  It has always remained in full force and effect.

All this and so much more being witnessed and experienced firsthand and yet many people of faith are saying they aren’t going to vote because they don’t like the president’s tweets.

Think about that.  Are you willing to be controlled and not permitted to express religious freedom, be willing to forfeit your other freedoms because you dislike tweets? 

Some cite their opposition to his personality traits.  I find this astounding.  We’re electing a leader, one who will and has preserved our rights and you don’t like his personality?  Simply put, that requires a little broader thought with emphasis on that which most matters.

Look, bottom line is it is our responsibility to preserve our freedoms.  Reagan warned us we were but one generation away from losing them.  Well, we’re there.  So if we want the privilege of those freedoms, then we must not abdicate our personal responsibility in preserving them.  It’s that simple.

We know from the Apostles that one can endure extreme hardships and be at peace internally because we have faith in God.  Here, while clearly under attack, we have the right to express that.  But unless we are willing to be the change we seek, that right will fade into memory. 

Before any of us make rash decisions to do nothing, we need to stop and think about the costs of inaction.  For ourselves. For our children and grandchildren.  And for all those who turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to their personal responsibility.  Because like it or not, we are the change we seek and, with or without us, for better or worse, change is coming.

I hope that change is more of us no longer abdicating but exercising our responsibility.

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The Best Aroma by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by Brian Kimble on Unsplash

My husband likes to cook out—hamburgers, chicken, even turkey at Thanksgiving time. Because we live in the Southwest, the only fuel he uses is mesquite wood, which he cuts himself. When he cooks out, he always takes on that fragrance of the wood and the meat he is barbecuing. The smell permeates his clothes and skin almost as if he’s been sitting on top of the fire, when in reality, he’s only standing beside it.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 has something to say about us being a fragrance. Does that mean we’re stinky? Well, maybe. There are fragrances that are appealing and those that are offensive. (Think skunk here. Ugh!)

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 2 Cor. 2:14 (NKJV)

Have you ever thought that just by being close to God, by studying His word, and by praying and seeking to do His will, you are carrying Him with you everywhere you go? Not by what you say. Not by what you do. (Although those are important.) But, by your very closeness to God, you give off an aroma of Christ. Something others can sense or “smell” even though we don’t register that fragrance.

For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Cor.2:15 (NKJV)

This is such a beautiful thought—that to God we are the aroma of Christ. We are so close to Jesus Christ that we take on some of His attributes, one of those being the fragrance of Him. 

We are not only a sweet aroma to God, but also to those who are Christians and to those who are not Christians. That means we carry the fragrance of Christ to everyone, everywhere we go. We are like a diffuser for scents and being around us can be that reminder of God that a person needs. Isn’t that amazing? 

To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:16 (NKJV) 

Herein is the difference. To those who aren’t Christians we are often the fragrance of death. We are offensive because they have rejected Christ. But, we can also be the reminder that they need that relationship they don’t have. Perhaps that aroma of death is just what they need to draw them to Christ.

And to the Christians, we are the fragrance of life. The life they chose in Christ. The reminder of Who they serve. Of Who they love. Of Who they represent. Jesus is the one Who leads to life and we need the constant reminder or aroma of other Christians to help keep us close to Him.

Even so, the question is asked “who is sufficient for these things?” We are not. None of us are worthy. Yet, the passage goes on to say this:

For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:17 (NKJV) 

We must be a sincere Christian, not putting on the airs of one, or just using the verbiage. Our actions, our words, our very lives, must say Christ is in us and works through us. Then, we will exude that wonderful aroma that pleases God and is noticed by those around us. Standing close to Christ is like standing close to a cooking fire. You can’t help absorb Him and you will carry that fragrance with you wherever you go.

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Stay in Your Lane by Bridget A. Thomas

I have been driving a little slower lately. It’s not that I used to drive terribly fast. However, I had a feeling of hurry on the inside. This stressed me out, I would get aggravated with the traffic, and I carried that feeling with me when I arrived at my destination. I know I had to be raising my blood pressure and it wasn’t fun. I now set my cruise control and try to stay in the slow lane. Mainly I am referring to my commute to and from work, for which the majority of my drive is on the interstate. I now have a calmer feeling as I drive. I try to stay in my lane and not allow the circumstances around me to get under my skin. Sometimes I will listen to praise music. Other times I will drive in silence and soak in the presence of God. This has become a peaceful time for me.

This new practice has taught me a few things. I believe “stay in your lane” can have many meanings in life. We often worry too much about what everyone else is doing. This can swing two ways. We are often judgmental and point fingers at other people. In Matthew 7:3, Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” I believe Christians in particular shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Sorry to say, I am guilty of this at times too. But knowing how much grace God has extended to us, shouldn’t we extend that same grace to others?

Also, when we don’t stay in our lane, this might mean we are envious of where others are. We might wish we had what they have. One of the Ten Commandments instructs us to not covet (Exodus 20:17). It’s important to remember that God has a special plan and purpose for each of us. I had to remind myself of this not long ago when an author friend of mine released a new book. I felt a pang of envy, wishing that my next book was ready to be published. This lady is someone I admire a lot, she has a ton of biblical knowledge, and to me she appears to have it all together. Honestly, I am happy for her. But I still had to remind myself to stay in my lane.

We also have to be careful to stay in our Christian lane. There are worldly drivers around us, who might tempt us to come into their lane. They might try to get us to conform or to compromise. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

If we have veered out of our lane, God is there to help us get back on the right path. We just have to be willing to surrender the journey into His loving hands. God is faithful and trustworthy. We can count on Him to guide us. If we stay in our lane and allow the Lord to have control of the wheel, we will experience a peaceful ride.

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

empty gray road under white clouds

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

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The Chain Yanker by Julie Arduini

The Chain Yanker



My son texted me and let me know his school was canceling his student teaching assignment because he was missing a needed class. He’d checked with his advisor throughout his college career and was told more than once he was all set for teaching and graduation. Then this.

Are you kidding, God?

I’m away from home working on a project and not one thing I’ve planned for this has worked. There have been setbacks, delays, miscommunication and plain frustration. Just when I thought there was progress, everything stopped. 

Are you yanking our chain, God? Why are you throwing these delays and hurting us so? It’s stressful. We don’t understand. Do You even care? Is this fun to You?

Today I received a text. The sender was supposed to receive help they had been waiting for. The help let them know they were exposed to Covid and their test results wouldn’t be available until Monday. The message was regarding their frustration over delay and all this virus has done to rob everyone of health, peace, provision, and plans

It’s too much, God. The emotional letdowns and mental torture are relentless. How much more can we take? Why aren’t You stopping the pain? Don’t You see? Don’t You care?

I’ve struggled like everyone wondering if God fell asleep and missed our heartbreak that’s wrapped itself around 2020. Questioned the heart of God. Was He yanking our chain?

The reality is our Heavenly Father is love and goodness. There is nothing about Him in His word, His Son, or the Holy Spirit that even hints that He relishes in our struggles.

The opposite is true of the enemy of our soul, the true defeated one, the devil. He loves our pain. He hopes we quit. He’s waiting for us to blame God and walk away.

If we were even close to Him to begin with.

And oh, how He will twist what was God’s and make a counterfeit.

Chain Yanker is what the true defeated one is. The mocker. Liar. His sneer is all over this year.

The One who took the Chain Yanker out at the Cross is the Chain BREAKER. Big difference. God sent Him to us and when we call on HIs name, He’s there. Through the delays. Setbacks. Frustrations. Tears.


If you’re feeling the enemy’s twist of lies and are desperate for comfort and truth, check out the lyrics below.

(This first appeared in the Julie Arduini Newsletter, October 2020.)

P.S.

On Saturday at 10am, I’ll be live celebrating at Maria’s Muses as her group is over 2k! I’ll be talking about my books, what’s next, AND having a giveaway or TWO! Come on over and say hello. Authors will be visiting with their own takeovers all day.

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WHAT THE WIND PICKED UP (by Hannah Alexander)

I checked the forecast for tomorrow for here in our Wild West town in Wyoming. The temps are supposed to be pretty good, but I gasped when I saw the wind gust prediction–80 mph. We’ve already heard of a semi being blown onto its side somewhere along I-80. Also, there was a huge wildfire burning near Laramie. Can you imagine how much more fire that wind could whip up?

The wind blows and we can’t stop it. That’s in the Bible. There’s nothing we can do about the wind. As I have told Mel a few times since we moved here, however: we don’t have to stay in this place forever. The wind often brings about a change in weather, and since we’re in such a windy area, the weather is changing constantly. Those of us who feel that weather change in our bones–our very painful bones–would probably do well to move to a less windy place in the world. We’re still looking. If you have any ideas, they would be welcome.

Our area is having one of the largest wind farms in the world installed in the wilderness surrounding our town because it is so very windy. Some complaints about those wind farms:

“What do you mean, we’re getting windmills? We don’t NEED any more wind!”

“You’re capturing our wind? Don’t take our wind!”

We’re never satisfied, are we?

During this life, we will receive the proverbial wind gusts that could knock us over. They could come in the form of illness, societal unrest, interpersonal conflict, loss of loved ones, or financial woes. All seem to be slamming us right now. And we can’t do a lot about that blasted wind. I’m really sick of that wind.

What we can do is hang on tight to the One who proved His ability to calm the storm. As His disciples, as we wait in that storm-tossed boat with Him, we need to remember that other disciples endured far more than we have. Even disciples in our country in earlier times have endured the fallout of this world’s storms. The best place for us right now is with Him, in prayer, in praise, constantly clinging to Him.

This is a time for faith to endure and grow and deepen.

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An Autumn State of Mind by Tara Randel

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.  Psalm 24:1

Today I’m in an autumn state of mind. I love this time of year and have decided that no matter what is going on in the world, I’m going to enjoy everything fall related.

It’s amazing that God gave us the four seasons and each one of us has a favorite. Some love Christmas and the beautiful holiday season. Some love the winter months, with the cold temperatures and snowfall. Others look forward to spring, when there are new beginnings. Flowers bloom, birds sing and we celebrate Easter, that blessed time of year. And then there is the summer, when we can enjoy a day at the beach or on the lake, sipping cold iced tea and watching fireworks on July 4th. Then there’s the fall, a time of thanksgiving for all God has given us.

All because the earth is the Lords.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  Psalm 8:1

It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday events that fill our lives, the daily race we run from the minute we rise until we go to bed at night. Instead, let this all become background noise as we focus on what is most important, God’s love and provision. Returning our love for God.

Take a minute today to reflect on the majesty of the Lord and this beautiful world He has created. I’ll leave you with some of my favorite fall pictures to remind you how wonderful the Lord is to each and every one of us.

Happy Fall Y’all! I plan on fixing up a pumpkin spiced latte, kick back and reflect on the goodness of God.

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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Rainbows and Rainy Days by Kathy Carmichael

I dreamed about rainbows last night. No, I didn’t dream about leprechauns and pots of gold, although when I was a child that would have been front and center in my thoughts. My sisters and our friends and I used to hunt (and hunt hard!) for the end of that rainbow.

When I fell asleep last night, rainbows and God’s covenant not to destroy the earth with floodwaters again were fresh in my mind. This is probably because it’s been raining here in Florida =a lot= and last night was no exception to the “it’s raining” rule. Lately, when I’ve seen sunshine, even if it’s only for a few moments, I take time to send a prayer of gratitude.

This morning, I thought more about the arc and Noah. Here are Biblical verses relating to the rainbow:

“I will remember My covenant between Me and you and every living creature of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. And whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of every kind that is on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between Me and every creature on the earth.” ~ Genesis 9:15-17

And later, we learn that the rainbow symbolizes Jesus’s throne:

“Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.” ~ Ezekiel 1:27-28

How does a rainbow form? I found the answer on SciJinks.gov (US.gov):

“A rainbow is caused by sunlight and atmospheric conditions. Light enters a water droplet, slowing down and bending as it goes from air to denser water. The light reflects off the inside of the droplet, separating into its component wavelengths–or colors. When light exits the droplet, it makes a rainbow.”

It seems that many of God’s miracles relate to light, and apparently the rainbow is another one.

I wondered about myths and legends relating to rainbows since I assumed that every group or religion would have their own stories about the rainbow. Boy, was I right. There are probably books about the subject. What I found interesting, though, is the dichotomy between Christianity’s beliefs and those of other religions.

I learned that many legends exist about the rainbow being a bow (as in bow and arrow) and some Biblical translations state “bow” instead of “rainbow.” Often the rainbow is linked with military, war and battle. How could it be more opposite to the peace offered by our Heavenly Father? In some locations, children are forbidden to even look at or point at a rainbow because it is considered demonic (the devil is vexed in one legend).

Despite these many myths, I don’t know anyone who isn’t pleased or excited whenever they see a rainbow. We can’t help but interpret it as a special blessing.

I love Maya Angelou’s quote, “Be Someone’s Rainbow Today!” I’m going to look for ways to brighten others’ lives today, even if it’s only to offer a big smile a stranger’s way.

* * * * * * * * *

We are so excited!

Have you heard about our new Book Club? Click this link to learn more! We will have monthly chats on Zoom to discuss the month’s featured book, and most of the time you will meet the book’s author! There’s no homework required, so please come join us!

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A Manifesto for Christian Writers

I have sometimes considered Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 to be “a manifesto for Christian writers.” Verses 9-11 (from the New International Version) describe what a writer should do:

• “The Teacher [was] wise.” This is the first qualification of a writer. It might seem arrogant to claim wisdom, but experience, education, and training should teach us something (which is why I have been skeptical about the wisdom of 20-year-olds writing novels).

• “He also imparted knowledge to the people.” The point of having wisdom is to pass it on. God gives us gifts with the idea that they will be used. Gifts and callings are responsibilities more than they are privileges.

• “He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs.” The essential skills for writers are thinking, research, and careful writing/editing. When I have been asked how long it takes to write a book, I have sometimes said I can write a book in a month, provided I have spent two years thinking about it first (on top of having several decades of living experience). Research and fact checking are hard work but necessary.

• “The Teacher searched to find just the right words.” Writing, as well as polishing and editing what we have written, is hard work.

• “What he wrote was upright and true.” This is crucial. A writer should have an absolute commitment to truth. Writers should write what they are confident is true, not what they wish was true or hope is true. This is where research comes in again and also thinking and pondering—writers should always ponder what they have written, to make sure it passes the truth test. Writers should also write what is “upright”—they should write what builds up, what encourages righteousness (rather than what encourages sin).

• “The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails.” A goad is a long stick with a sharp point or an embedded nail at the end of it. Its purpose was to drive cattle or to direct oxen, donkeys, camels, and other such beasts pulling loads. Its purpose was to keep them going straight in spite of distractions or to guide them in a new direction. Writing should not just pass on knowledge but teach people how to live, to give them wisdom, to guide them, and to get them moving in the right direction.

“Given by one shepherd.” A writer should not undertake his/her work alone. Writers should recognize that all knowledge and wisdom come from God, and they should write what is in keeping with God’s truth. They should pray for guidance, wisdom, knowledge, and words from God.

However, these encouraging verses are followed by two warnings, one from the human perspective and one from the divine: 

Verse 12 says: “Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” The first part of this verse warns against books that stray away from what is “upright and true.” The second part of the verse talks about the hard labor that is involved, and also about the inadequacy of human writing. The apostle John concluded his Gospel with these words: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). In spite of all the work that goes into writing books, human beings will never be able to write down all of the knowledge about God and His incredibly complex creation. This is in keeping with the Teacher’s repeated message in Ecclesiastes about the inadequacy and impermanence of all human endeavors.

Verses 13-14 offer a fitting conclusion to the manifesto and to the book of Ecclesiastes. They are a good summary of how human life should be lived. And they repeat a message the Teacher (the writer of Ecclesiastes) has given several times before in the book: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

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What’s Your Focus by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by Barth Bailey, Unsplash

Do you remember the story in Matthew 14:22-33, where Jesus sends his disciples across the water ahead of Him? The storm comes up and the disciples are afraid. Jesus walks toward them on the water. When Peter sees Jesus, he asks, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Matthew 14:28 (NKJV)

Jesus tells Peter to come to Him, which Peter does. But, the waves are high and the wind is strong. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, [Peter] was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:30 (NKJV) 

Why did Peter begin to sink? He lost his focus. As long as he kept his attention on Jesus, he could walk on water, but when he looked at the wind whipping against him and the waves rocking the boat behind him, he began to sink.

This story reminds me of our situation today and how much our focus needs to be on Jesus. The wind (virus, election, racism, riots, fires, tornadoes, etc.) buffet from all sides. The waves of unrest threaten to capsize our little boat and we struggle to keep our eyes fastened on Jesus.

During prayer time the other day God brought to mind that word – FOCUS. I did a search for the word in scripture and found some reassurances that I desperately needed. I hope you find comfort here too.

In Philippians 3, Paul says he is working toward a goal he has not yet achieved, toward perfection in Christ. Isn’t that the goal all of us want to achieve? Despite not reaching that goal,  Paul reminds us what is important to do. … but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead… Philippians 3:13 (NLT2) 

Forgetting the past is hard. Memories jump up to mock us or take over our thoughts. Our concentration is fragmented as bits and pieces vie for our mind, making us lose sight of what is truly important. Looking forward in 2020 can bring angst too. Every month seems to have brought some new trial. Yet, we can look forward to the future God has planned for us and trust that He has our best in mind. 

I recently spoke with someone who was upset over the restrictions placed on us when we have to wear masks or stay home. In I Timothy 4, Paul writes to Timothy about problems he is having and gives these words of wisdom—Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 1 Timothy 4:13 (NLT2)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead of getting upset and bemoaning the negatives in our lives, we focused on God’s word and encouraged one another? So often, all it takes is a positive word to turn a negative conversation around. Rather than being upset with our circumstances, maybe we should offer to do a Bible study with someone, or mail an uplifting note to a friend we haven’t been able to see. Focus on the positive and on God’s promises.

Paul’s letter to the 2 Corinthians carries this reminder. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (HCSB) Doesn’t that sound familiar? We may not be in Paul’s circumstances, but this year has been tough. Still, there are some wonderful promises mixed in there.

At the end of that chapter is this reminder—So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (HCSB) Our focus is not on the troubles we have now, the wind and waves buffeting us, but on Christ and the promise of Heaven. What a beautiful outcome to contemplate.

Finally, when your small boat is being tossed about ,and the water is too scary to walk on, take courage from these words in Philippians—If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Philippians 2:1-3 (HCSB) 

Let us keep our goal of being Christlike in mind at all times. If you wonder how to live humbly, read Philippians 2: 5-11 to see how Jesus set the example. No matter what troubles came against Him, no matter how strong the winds, no matter how high the waves, He still walked on water because He understood the true focus. Let’s do the same.

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Christians Read Book Club! New!!! by Kathy Carmichael

We are so excited!

Have you heard about our new Book Club? Click this link to learn more! We will have monthly chats on Zoom to discuss the month’s featured book, and most of the time you will meet the book’s author! There’s no homework required, so please come join us!

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NORA’S REVIEW OF: Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin

 

 

Closer Than She Knows

By Kelly Irvin

Published by: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 9, 2020

352 Pages

Amazon

 

NORA’S REVIEW: This is a well-written, complex police drama that reminded me of the show Law & Order with its wonderful blend of police procedural and courtroom drama. As the main character, Teagan is a court reporter. It also reminded me of the show Blue Bloods as the whole Reagan family is involved in fighting crime in different capacities from Police Commissioner, detective, police officer etc, this set up resembles Teagan’s family.

This novel literally starts out with a bang as Teagan is heads to court. Things soon get complicated. I like the beautiful job the author does in naturally blending an unexpected spiritual thread throughout the story. The author does not shy away from talking about some tough topics without being preachy, having cookie cutter answers and/or sugar-coating things. 

I like that the author shows a couple of sides to things allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions. The plot moves along as people that know Teagan turn up dead all the while putting more pressure on Teagan and her family to find the serial killer. They had to dig deeper. It must be someone they are overlooking. 

There are some surprises along this journey to find the killer. Would they get to him before he took out Teagan? This would make a good book club pick as there is so much to discuss in this complex scenario.

 BACK COVER: A serial killer bent on revenge . . . and striking too close to home. 

Teagan O’Rourke has always loved murder mysteries. In her job as a court reporter, she has written official records for dozens of real-life murders. She’s slapped evidence stickers on crime scene photos. She’s listened to hours of chilling testimony. But she’s never known the smell of death. And she never thought she might be a victim.

Until now. A young police officer is murdered just inches away from her, and then a man calling himself a serial killer starts leaving Teagan notes, signing each with the name of a different murderer from her favorite mystery novels.

Panicked, Teagan turns to her friend Max Kennedy. Max longs for more than friendship with Teagan, but he fears she’ll never trust someone with a past like his. He wonders how much of God’s “tough love” he can take before he gives up on love completely. And he wonders if he’ll be able to keep Teagan alive long enough to find out.

As Teagan, Max, and Teagan’s police officer father race to track down the elusive killer, they each know they could be the next victim. Desperate to save those she loves, Teagan battles fears that once haunted her in childhood. Nothing seems to stop this obsessed murderer. No matter what she does, he seems to be getting closer . . .

 

Nora St. Laurent 

TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!

The Book Club Network blog www.bookfun.org

 

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Never Alone by Bridget A. Thomas

Abandoned, alone, and afraid. I imagine that is how Hagar felt in Genesis 21. She had only followed orders. And now in a sudden twist, she and her son had been kicked out. They were alone in the desert. They had no more water. How would they survive? Where would they go? How would she provide for her son? It appeared that all hope was lost. She thought her son would die out there in the desert. And not a soul in the world cared.

Have you ever felt all alone? Have you felt that all of your family and friends had turned their backs on you? Did it seem as though even God gave up on you? Maybe you even gave up on yourself?

As a child of God, He has not given up on you. He loves you and He sees you and He hears you. Even when it feels like He is not there, you can trust Him. Even when everyone else runs in the opposite direction, He is there. Just like with Hagar.

Hagar placed her son under a bush. Then she walked away because she didn’t want to watch him die. She sat down and cried, feeling as though the only one left in her life was about to leave her too.

But God was there all along. He saw them and He heard them. It says in Genesis 21:17-19, “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.”

Suddenly everything turned around. Suddenly there was hope. Suddenly there was a promise for their future.

Psalm 10 reminds me of Hagar’s story. It starts off with a feeling of isolation. Verse 1 says, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” But this Psalm ends on a positive note and we can see that God hears us and sees us, even when we believe otherwise. Verses 16-17 say, “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed…”

This is so important for us to remember when we feel lost and alone. God is there, even when no one else is. He shows up, when no one else does. He stays, when everyone else turns away. He is faithful and trustworthy. Cry out to Him and He will hear you. He will see you, even when you feel invisible to everyone around you. You are never alone.

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

quarter moon and desert

Photo by Louis on Pexels.com

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