A Darkness More Than Night

“You don’t go into the darkness without the darkness going into you,” Michael Connelly says in his novel, A Darkness More Than Night. It is one of the very interesting and highly successful murder mysteries Connelly has written. In this book and several other books, Connelly’s characters also talk about “lost light,” an unexpected and unexplained light that allows them to see and find their way in the dark.

The darkness that Connelly is writing about is more moral than physical. He is writing about evil.

Connelly certainly shows no evidence of Christian faith in his books (although he apparently went to a Catholic high school), but in A Darkness More Than Night his characters talk about looking for “the hand of God” and the possibility of divine retribution coming to evildoers even if they escape human justice. The hero of many of his books is Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch, named after an enigmatic 16th-century Christian artist who often depicted the judgment of God on sinful humanity.

Other semi-religious images also occur in Connelly’s books. For instance, in City of Bones, Bosch is disturbed by seeing a pile of bones, all that is left of an abused boy. Connelly writes, “He bent down and used his hands to cup cold water against his face and eyes. He thought about baptisms and second chances. Of renewal. He raised his face until he was looking at himself again. I’m going to get this guy.”

Bosch also talks about “blue religion” (the moral code and sense of purpose of police officers). He has a sense that he has been “called” to his profession, that his purpose in life is to catch murderers, although who it is who has done the calling is never made clear.

In City of Bones, a medical examiner named Golliher tries to convince Bosch that it is necessary to believe in God and that the badly abused and murdered boy is now in “a better place than this.” Golliher continues, “This is why you must believe…If this boy did not go from this world to a higher plane, to something better, then…then I think we’re all lost.”

Golliher later says that he has come to believe that there is an invisible framework to life that “holds us together.” He says, “When I meet someone who carries a void in the place where I carry my faith, I get scared for him.” I doubt if any Christian could have said it better.

Bosch does not become a believer in God. But he does say, “You’re wrong about me. I have faith and I have a mission. Call it blue religion, call it whatever you like. It’s the belief that…those bones came out of the ground for a reason. That they came out of the ground for me to find, and for me to do something about. And that’s what holds me together and keeps me going.”

At the end of City of Bones, Bosch resigns from the police force, fearing that he will be “lost without his job and his badge and his mission.”

However, in the next book, Lost Light, Bosch realizes, “My mission remained intact. My job in this world, badge or no badge, was to stand for the dead.” And Bosch eventually returns to the police force.

One of the reasons that I write and read murder mysteries is that they are one form of writing that takes the existence of evil and the reality of right and wrong seriously. As Agatha Christie’s hero, Hercule Poirot, used to say, “Murder is wrong.” In our age of moral confusion, that is refreshing. It is itself perhaps “lost light.”

Michael Connelly does not profess faith in God any more than Bosch does. But, like Bosch, he has a sense of having a mission and a calling, in his case to writing. The writing process, he said in an interview, “comes out of the mystical element…In many ways I’m not really sure how it happens, how that mystical element of creating works. It’s sacred and, therefore, I work at it and safeguard it.”

Incidentally, A Darkness More Than Night was published in 2001, City of Bones in 2002, and Lost Light in 2003, but I only read them recently. Most books written today make almost all of their sales in the first six months. After a couple of years, you can’t even find them in bookstores.  But they continue to hang on in libraries and used bookstores. It is a reminder that while fads quickly come and go, good books—especially those that deal with eternal and cosmic themes—are timeless. They are worth reading even if they are old.

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It’s That Time Again (by Hannah Alexander)

You know how you feel when the winter weather has let up for a few days and there are signs of warmth? I know, I know it depends on where you live. For instance, if you live in the far South in the US, this is your good season. The farther north you come, summer starts looking so much better.

You tend to get your hopes up that the snow will end and the air will warm–for us, that the wind will stop for just a few hours–and there is hope in the midst of winter.

Not that I expect flowers to bloom, but it would be nice to get out of town and do a snow hike, or go snowshoeing. Sledding? Skiing? I don’t know, throw a snowball.

It’s this time of year when I wish to become a snowbird and have the freedom to travel south–far south–for the remainder of the winter.

However, I have found that if I bury myself in a book–actually, Mel and I are rewriting three titles to be released by Valentine’s Day–I can actually be there in that setting. I’m in the middle of Under Suspicion right now, in a Missouri spring in that state’s capitol of Jefferson City. Delving into a good book–or one that I hope to make good with rewrites–truly helps me forget about the weather outside and focus on the world I have created in my imagination. Right now, I can’t seem to tear myself away. I guess winter is one way to keep me working.

May you find warmth this winter in your book of choice, and may you be blessed as you read.

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Who Am I? by Nancy J. Farrier

“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” So He [God] said, “I will certainly be with you…” Exodus 3:11-12

How many of us have been in that place where Moses is? Not in the desert in front of a burning bush, but being called on to do something small or great and feeling inadequate? I’ve never been asked to do something on the scale of confronting Pharaoh, or leading a whole people to a new land, but sometimes even the small things have me quaking and doubting myself. (Perhaps that means doubting God.)

For instance: talking to someone I don’t know about what Jesus has done for me, speaking in front of a group, teaching women’s Bible study, leading a worship team. Those are all things I’ve done where I wondered if God understood who He’s asking to step up and do the work. Does He realize how unqualified I am to do any of those tasks? Yes, He does. But, He’s got this.

What does God say to Moses? “No worries, Moses, you have what it takes,” or “You’ve got this Moses. You can do it,” or “If you can herd sheep, you can herd my people.” Nope. God isn’t the personal cheering section for Moses to encourage him to do the job he’s been asked to do. Instead, God says, “…I will certainly be with you…”

Say what? God, don’t You want to give Moses at least a tad of encouragement? Don’t You want to say how qualified he is? That he’s the perfect one for the job? Because that is what we do to one another. We encourage and puff up one another to build teamwork. But, what are we really building?

Perhaps, instead of pointing one another to a dependence on God and what He can do, we are giving a false sense of security in self. Instead of saying, “Trust God, He’s got this,” we say something like, “You can do this. I believe in you.” 

For me, with my low self-esteem, I find myself asking that question, “Who am I…” But, what am I really asking? I am asking that someone affirms MY abilities, when I should be checking to make sure God is asking me to do that task and then trusting He will work through me to get the job done. 

The more I think about this, the more I realize that I am called, not qualified. When I became a worship leader, I wasn’t chosen for my stellar music abilities, because I don’t have those. I was where God needed me to be and answered His call in a shaking voice. He was the one who blessed that ministry—not by my talents, but by Him walking alongside me.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about the thorn in his flesh that God didn’t take away. God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Isn’t that also true for Moses when he faced a confrontation with Pharaoh? Isn’t it true when Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness? Isn’t it true for each of us when we are faced with a task or calling that makes our insides quiver and our knees wobble?

Who am I? 

I am called of God. 

Let me get out of the way and see what He chooses to do through me.

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Two Free eBooks for You January 25-29 by Julie Arduini

I apologize for missing my Wednesday rotation, I missed most of the week with a yucky stomach virus. I didn’t want to miss telling you about a free Kindle promotion I have going on for not just one but TWO of my books.

You’re Amazing is the second of three books that my daughter and I wrote together. Each can be read stand-alone but all follow the members of Linked, a mentoring ministry for girls. What I love about the Surrendering Stinkin’ Thinkin’ series is it is for girls and women of all ages. One chapter is from the mentor’s POV, and the next, the mentee. Both are struggling with the same lie, but neither know the other is. In You’re Amazing, Jazmin was a natural at dance until she’s criticized. Lena remembers how much purpose she had when she was single. Now that she’s married and has young children, she feels like all she’s good for is changing diapers. Can these two surrender the lies they are believing and realize how amazing they are?

And then there’s Restoring Christmas!

Holly Christmas left Geneseo Valley and her family’s holiday tourist attraction, The Christmas Mansion, as soon as she graduated. Now both her parents have passed, and Holly returns when her uncle needs her help running the mansion. On Holly’s first day back, a blunt middle-schooler proclaims Holly hates Christmas. His comment forces her to reconcile the past while planning for the mansion’s future.

Kevin Holt is invested in offering hope to students with challenges. His best friend’s son is in Kevin’s class, and Nathan needs guidance. Their community project placement at The Christmas Mansion is an opportunity to make a positive difference. When Nathan blurts out his thoughts to the beautiful co-owner, Kevin wonders if he has what it takes to help restore the mansion to its former glory, mentor Noah, and convince Holly Christmas she’s exactly where she needs to be.

This story first appeared in the A Christmas to Remember Boxed Set released October 2018.

This free eBook offer for both You’re Amazing and Restoring Christmas is available January 25-29. If you enjoy them, please leave a review. The more reviews, the more Amazon promotes it. Thank you!

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Becoming Your Best Self

Last week I wrote about the importance of being real and genuine. (You can read the entire post here.) In a nutshell, I said that I feel many people today, including myself, walk around with a virtual mask on. We don’t allow others to see our true selves. This has gotten worse with social media. We want our lives to look perfect and we want everyone to think that we don’t ever struggle.

But I want to make something clear. In that post, I did not mean to imply that we should not grow or change. Quite the contrary. I have dealt with many people, and I’m sure you have too, who have said something like, “This is just how I am. I can’t help it.” They dismiss their weaknesses and never seek to change. We all have room for growth in different areas of our lives.

I have often heard Dr. Charles Stanley say that as long as we are on this earth, God will be molding us to be more like Jesus. And I am so glad for that! I do not want to live my entire life with the same hang-ups and issues. I want to become the best version of myself, the person I was meant to be, the person God created me to be.

The first step is to spend time with the Lord. It says 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.” How are we transformed? How do we renew our minds? The number one thing we can do is to read our Bibles every day. When we fill ourselves up with the Word of God, our thoughts are aligned with His. This helps push out the things the world feeds us and the patterns of the enemy. Spending time with God each day is essential.

But we are not an island unto ourselves. We all have loved ones who are a big part of our lives. If we want to grow in our Christian walk, we have to be real with one another. God created us for community. He created us to have relationships and to fellowship with one another. But we can never have a solid foundation in our relationships if we attempt to hide behind a mask, bend the truth, or pretend that we are perfect.

Part of being open with other people means we allow them to see our weaknesses and our brokenness. But we also make it clear that we are working on it and we might even ask for prayer. For example, if someone has an anger issue, I don’t agree with pridefully stating you don’t have a problem and just dismissing it. Rather, when we are real with one another, we would admit our fault and ask our fellow Christians to pray for us.

When we meet one another at a place like this, we build bridges. We can better help those who are hurting. And we can help each other flourish.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” To me this means we help each other become stronger, we encourage one another, we assist each other in growth, and we shine the light of Jesus to those around us.

Note that if you need prayer or guidance about a deep issue, I do believe it’s best to seek this from a Christian who you trust. Your spouse, sibling, parent, a close friend, your pastor, etc. I don’t believe anyone and everyone should spew advice at us and we should listen. Some people will only make matters worse. Pray about this and ask the Lord whose advice is coming from a place of love.

And this doesn’t mean we should change in order to fit in. We should change for the Lord and for ourselves, as we seek to become the best versions of who God created us to be.

My whole point here is to say that none of us are perfect. Yes, God made us all unique. But we all have flaws. We all have areas in which we can learn, grow, and improve. Building a solid foundation with the Lord is vital. But I also believe when we are open and genuine with those close to us, we can help each other grow substantially on the path the Lord has set before us. We can all become our best selves.

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Pick a Book, Any Book…

The best thing about writing is connecting with other writers.  Other book nerds who get what it’s like to live in your head much of the time.  I’ve just recently moved states and I’ve been having trouble finishing a book.  I have quite a few of them started, but I didn’t know which one I wanted to finish. Too many options!

This is why the writing community is so important.  When you get stuck, there is someone there to help you.  Writing is a solitary job, but I’m so grateful for my “people” who keep me at the computer with their daily correspondence and encouragement.

This week, one of my oldest writing friends asked for all the books I have “well-started” — ie., at least 10,000 words.  So I opened Scrivener, collected them all up and compiled them for her to read.  The next day, the verdict was in — finish “The Wentworth Heiress” book.

I’m really excited about this book, which I plan to publish myself because it doesn’t fit neatly into a genre and that makes it difficult for publishers.  So I would describe it as a family saga/chick lit/mystery.  I think it works because it comes from my own passion about how complicated family dynamics can be.  But I wouldn’t have known it was working without the feedback.

That’s why community is so important.  It lets us know we’re not alone. So I’m grateful for the outside influence.  Because every once in a while, it’s important to get out of your own head!  It’s one thing to like your own story, it’s another to let it go out in the world and collect feedback. IMG_0195

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Weeping Over Scripture by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by Joseph Swain
Wikimedia Commons

For me, the best days are those that begin with coffee and Bible reading. Every year, I read through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. And, every time something new jumps out at me. Or, perhaps it isn’t new, maybe I’ve forgotten the impact since the previous year. J

Today, I was reading in Genesis, chapter forty-three, and was moved to tears when Joseph had to leave the room to weep. He is facing all of his brothers, after years apart. He’s seeing his younger brother Benjamin for the first time in many years. Joseph is so overcome with emotion that he goes to his chamber to weep because he doesn’t want to become emotional in front of the very brothers who have no idea who he is.

The lead up to this point in Joseph’s story is that his older brothers planned to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery in Egypt. They told their father a wild animal must have killed Joseph and took his coat, covered in goat’s blood, as proof. 

When famine comes to the land, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain. He doesn’t realize Joseph is now second-in-command in Egypt. The brothers face Joseph in chapter forty-two, but they don’t recognize him. He knows them though, and I can only imagine how he feels face-to-face with the very ones who plotted to destroy him. 

I found it interesting that in Genesis 42:11, the brothers still are hiding what they did to Joseph. When they tell Joseph who they are, they mention they are (1) one man’s sons (truth), (2) honest men (lie), and (3) not spies (truth). They couched the lie between two pieces of truth, never realizing they were in front of the one person who would comprehend their falsehood.

Joseph treats them a little harshly as he sends them home and demands to see their younger brother, keeping one of them in prison to guarantee their return. Then, when they must come to Egypt for more grain, they are still unaware who Joseph is—but he is so very aware of them. 

When Joseph leaves the room to go to his chambers and weep, I too began to cry. My heart ached for this man and all he’d endured. I also ached for his brothers. Why would I do that? Why would I weep at all?

  • Like Joseph, I have been poorly treated by others. No, I haven’t been sold into slavery, or had anyone plan to murder me. (Not that I know of anyway.) But, I have been hurt deeply by someone who never admitted to the pain they caused me. Just as Joseph’s brothers did, this person hid the fact of what they’d done, even to the point of deceiving themselves. This left me to learn forgiveness in a way I would never have faced otherwise. 

I am sure some of you also have faced this level of hurt. Many times, I’ve been in bed at night, and God has brought to mind Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”I may have been suffering hurt, but hurt leads to anger and many other negative emotions. I needed to let go and forgive, not for the other person as much as for my own peace of mind and physical health.

  • The other reason I wept had to do with Joseph’s brothers. Why? Because I have been in their shoes too. No, I haven’t murdered anyone or sold anyone, but I have done some things I am not proud of, and that are sinful in nature. Sin is sin. And, I’ve tried to cover up those embarrassing things, even hiding them from God. As if. 

I’ve had to realize that I am a sinner saved by God. (Romans 3:23) And, I do know that God sees me wherever I am. (Psalms 139:1-12) I must be as honest with God as possible. I must be open in all that I think and do. Others may not see my sin, but He does. He is waiting for forgive, but I have to admit that sin and ask for the forgiveness.

If you know the story of Joseph, you know the beautiful ending. He reveals himself to his brothers. They return to bring their father, Jacob, or Israel, to Egypt. After Jacob dies, the brothers are fearful of what Joseph will do to them. In Genesis chapter fifty, we see the brothers still haven’t changed. They send a servant to Joseph and lie to him once again, saying their father asked that he forgive them for what they had done to him.

God’s grace and mercy shine through as Joseph tells them, “…You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Those words resonate for me. 

Has God allowed me to face the hurts and wounds from others because He meant them for good? Yes, I believe so. I may not be in charge of saving thousands of people as Joseph did, but I am grateful that God would allow me to grow through these experiences, no matter how difficult they are. 

This is why I wept along with Joseph. For him. For his brothers. For me. For us today. Consider letting scripture speak to you and weep.

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The Nonexistent Picture That Caused Me to Reflect

Several of us went out to lunch on one particular afternoon. We all had a nice visit with one another, and enjoyed good food as well. It was a treat and a blessing all the way around. I wanted a picture of all of us to keep as a memory of the occasion. I mentioned that perhaps the waitress could take our picture. Or maybe someone with a long arm could manage to get a selfie of us all. However, two members of our party didn’t want their pictures taken because they didn’t like the way they looked. I jokingly said that we wouldn’t have a memory of the occasion and five years later we might forget all about it. I probably sounded harsher than I meant to. And I do regret that. I really did mean to joke. But the truth is that it did bother me that we didn’t get the picture. I was thinking about this and wondering why it bothered me so much. I discovered several reasons.

1 – First, sad to say, life is short. I had no idea when I might see some of the people in our party again. There have been some seasons where we went years without seeing one another, due to living in different states. Pictures are important to me, because they capture the joy of the moment. Also, several years ago I lost all of my pictures and many memories were lost as well. I now take a lot of pictures because some days it seems a picture is all I have to hang onto of special moments.

2 – I am naturally a quiet person. But what adds to that is I often get the impression that I am not heard. This is one reason why I write. I can get my words, thoughts, and feelings out. So when I have encounters like this, I feel shot down, and it reinforces the thought that I should not speak up. This is something I hope to work on, with the Lord’s help.

3 – The final reason why this bothered me, I will unpack a little more. To me it relayed the message that we all have to be perfect all the time. And it poked at an underlying issue that I have been struggling with for a long time. I would love it if I (and people in general, especially Christians) could be more open. I want us all to be more real. Many of us have a mask on, myself included. We never allow people to see our true hearts. When we remove the walls that we have built, we bridge gaps. This allows us to meet in the middle. It allows us to know we are not alone. It allows us to really hear each other out and have deep conversations.

(Disclaimer: Please note I am not saying these two people who didn’t want their pictures taken are never real. I am just saying this is how I read the situation, especially since this topic was already something stirring inside of me.)

I recently heard David Crowder being interviewed on my favorite radio station. David is a funny guy. However, due to being a Christian singer and songwriter, he also has to be creative and spread an important message. Jayar, the afternoon DJ on weekdays, asked David, “How difficult is it for you to slide between the creative and the funny … write a song or to say something on the stage that could be life-giving? How difficult is that transition for you as a naturally funny person?”

David replied, “… When we laugh our guard comes down… It’s an aid to turn a corner… To be able to then speak the truth of what I know of God.” David went on to say that it’s received more easily “to hear it from somebody that you had just shared a laugh with… That’s what I try to do all the time is to tear down the perception that we are separated in some sense.” If you want to listen to the interview, here is the link. It’s broken out into clips. The “Funny and Spiritual” clip is the one I am referencing here.

I told a friend once that I treasured how genuine she was. She told me that was the best compliment someone could give. And I think she is right. As for me, I would like to be more genuine as well. I don’t want to be perfect and I don’t want to confuse perfection with being authentic. I pray that this is something I can change, with the Lord’s help.

adult blur camera dirt road

Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

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Drummers Drumming

When my daughters were teenagers and began to bring home young men, I would attempt to engage them in conversation.

One day, the conversation gravitated toward music.

“Are you a musician?” I asked one prospect.

Yeah,” he replied. “I’m a drummer.”

The problem wasn’t that he thought drummers were actually musicians. The problem was that he was a drummer.

Oh, I admit that drummers may be useful in some ways, but they are hardly husband material. You see, drummers travel to a different beat.

Way back, when I was in the school band at my high school, the band was playing in rehearsal one day when they conductor suddenly stopped us by banging on a music stand with his baton.

When silence was achieved, he glared at the drummers and demanded, “Is that what is in your music?”

The drummers looked stupefied. They looked at the conductor, looked at each other, and then looked back at the conductor. Finally, one of them reached forward to his music stand and opened his music book.

The drummers didn’t care what the rest of us were playing. They didn’t care what the composer had written. They were just doing their own thing.

As I said, not husband material.  

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A New Kind of Word (by Hannah Alexander)

Home on the Range

This is where the deer and antelope play…literally. It’s home on the range. It’s where seldom is heard a disparaging word (I believe the original word was disparaging, not discouraging, though I could be wrong) and the skies are not cloudy all day. I can attest to this. There is seldom heard a disparaging OR discouraging word because there are very few humans out here on the rangelands of Wyoming. I can also attest to the fact that, even on the cloudiest days in the stormiest seasons, the sun cannot resist the urge to take a peek at least once through the clouds.

Unfortunately, where there are humans, there are disparaging words. I don’t care where you go, you’re going to encounter strife when you’re amongst people. And it is so very discouraging.

Proverbs tells us that there are six things the Lord hates, and actually seven that are an abomination to Him. He hates haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.

Now, to me, one who spreads strife among brothers isn’t lying, since a lying tongue is already mentioned. It’s so easy to spread strife over petty irritations. Proverbs 26:30 says that for lack of wood a fire goes out. Where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.

To me, this would suggest that even though we might blow it from time to time and irritate a brother or sister in Christ, that person needs  to show grace to us and remain silent about the offense and give us a chance to repent and grow. If they go complaining to others about us, this is not grace. It spreads strife. I appreciate it when I have someone I can trust to keep my deepest secrets. I’m talking about little things, here, not abuse of any kind, or breaking of the law. That’s a whole other subject. I’m talking about daily irritations, words spoken out of turn, a lost temper. There are times when the truth needs to be told. But not over petty human complaints or irritations or a clash of personalities.

And you know what? I’ve been convicted recently that if I even listen to someone who is spreading strife, even though I don’t repeat that person’s words, I’m partaking in that sin. It was a painful dose of reality to me.

I’ll go a step further and say that since love covers a multitude of sins, then perhaps I’m not showing enough love if I complain about the words or actions of my fellow believers. I think that works in a local community, as well.  Proverbs 20:19 warns us not to associate with a gossip.

Now, honestly, we all have different weaknesses, but there are apparently a lot of people in our world who are seduced by gossip. I mean, really, it’s kind of difficult to separate a kindly interest in the welfare of others, and the gentle slide from interest to attitude to gossip that hurts the reputation of a fellow believer. Have you ever walked into a room and had the odd feeling that others have been talking about you? If you’ve been listening to the gossip of others, then you’re eventually going to start wondering what those others have been saying about you. Tables have turned. Ouch.

When I was a little girl, one of my friends came to me in the playground and told me that another one of our friends was going to Juvy. I thought that was cool, and I told everyone that my friend was going to Juvy! How exciting! I thought it was a special honor. It wasn’t until that friend came after me with her buddies to beat me up that I wondered what, exactly, Juvy was. I found out. In fact, our principal called us in to his office and explained to me that I should not be gossiping about another classmate. It was innocent then, because I had no idea what Juvenile Hall was at the time. I was eight! But I learned a good lesson. Don’t repeat things. Just don’t.

My husband, Mel, is the opposite of a gossip. People come up to me all the time and tell me how much they love my husband because he treated them so kindly in the ER. And I have a stupid look on my face because he never mentions a word about seeing them. He can’t. And I would never want him to. Medical personnel are legally bound to honor a patient’s privacy. I believe we should all honor the privacy of others.

I Corinthians 13 tells us that love is patient and kind and does not envy or boast, nor is it proud or self-seeking or easily angered. Love doesn’t keep an account of wrongs, nor does it delight in evil. Love always rejoices with the truth, it protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. This kind of love does not gossip, because it chooses to think the best of others, despite all. Love covers a multitude of sins.

I want to be that kind of Christian. I want to believe the best in people, and I want to look for the best in those around me.

Emily Dickinson wrote a poem: Some say a word is dead when it is said, but I say it just begins to live that day.


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Kick Start 2020 by Tara Randel

Add headiHng(1)

Welcome to the new year! Time sure passes quickly. I just got used to the idea of Thanksgiving being around the corner and now we’ve morphed through Christmas and have ushered in a new year.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t make new year’s resolutions.  I never have, and many people I speak to feel the same way. But it is good to have goals and expectations for the upcoming year. So, what tools can we use to achieve those goals?

One Word. I’ve heard quite a few people saying they pick one word for the year. It can be anything from; exploration, fitness, time, family. Instead of trying to keep a resolution, the word can be a reminder of the things that are important to you this year. Perhaps you need to be more aware of your time. Or choosing to be with family more. Or you want to get out of your comfort zone. There’s no failure if you don’t carry through, but it’s amazing how one word can stick in your mind for a long period and make you think about what you’re after.

Healthy Lifestyle. If you have a gym membership, I’m sure you’ve seen the gym fill up in January. We all want to shed those unwanted pounds from the holiday parties. Being healthy is a choice. You work out, or you don’t. You eat well, or you don’t. I do belong to a gym and if left up to me, I’d skip often. So knowing that about myself, I make sure to attend classes. I enjoy those days, and find that the more I learn in class, the more I don’t mind going on the off days and working out alone.  It’s all about finding a rhythm that works for you.

This is also the time of year I notice those unwanted pounds. I’ve been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers for many years. I need the accountability to maintain a healthy weight. Sure, I slip up, but I have the program to get me back on track. That’s the thing about joining groups like this, there are people there to help you. Don’t be afraid to admit you need help. We all do from time to time. Asking is the first step toward change.

Living Well. I try to carve out my personal time with God, an intentional time I spend with our heavenly Father. Some days are better than others. Perhaps you like to take a Bible study to stay on track. Or join a prayer group. Or get out of bed fifteen minutes earlier in the morning. There’s nothing more fulfilling than time spent with the Lord to make us better people.

One area of my life that I don’t need to fix is my reading habit. I’m sure if you read this blog you’re the same way. Reading will always be my go-to, no matter what is going on in my life. Each year I try to discover an author or two I’ve never read before. It’s fun to start a new series or find someone who tells stories I fall in love with.

I hope you look forward to the new year. It’s exciting, a little daunting and always an adventure. Who knows what might happen in 2020!

New in February 2020

Always the One



She’s the love of his life…

…but is he still hers?

FBI agent Derrick Matthews has finally found his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life—but she isn’t exactly happy about it! Years ago, Hannah Rawlings disappeared overnight when her family went on the run, and she blames Derrick. She tells him she’s moved on and he should, too, but Derrick fears Hannah’s still in danger. He vows to protect her—even if that means betraying her trust…again.

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 in February.  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 Newsletterand receive a link to download a free digital book.

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Giving God Your Whole Heart by Bridget A. Thomas

Do you want to have a stronger relationship with God in 2020? Do you long to draw closer to the Lord? If so, I invite you to check out my book Giving God Your Whole Heart. God is always there, by our sides, every moment of every day. Unfortunately, there are times when we forget this and we allow obstacles to get in the way of our relationship with Him. Due to our busy lives, we tend to push God to the back burner. When we try to work God unto our lives, we fail because of other priorities on our plates. The key is to make God the center of your life and then you can’t go wrong. In this book I touch on numerous points which helped strengthen my own Christian walk. When you seek the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, you will discover true fulfillment.

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Remembering Christmas by Yvonne Lehman


Remembering Christmas, Samaritans's purse, yvonne lehman, Christians ReadChristmases . . . and the many stories about Christmas, considered good, bad, happy, sad, as a child, an adult, with family, with groups, alone, overworked, Santa, Jesus, traditions, poverty, plenty,

receiving, giving…


My thoughts linger for a while on the hundreds of authors who have so generously given stories for the Moments series. Remembering Christmas is the 143h Moments book and the 5th Christmas book.



I get emails from the authors, telling me what a blessing it is for them

to share their stories. Others say someone else’s life has been positively

changed or strengthened. There have been family members, even entire

families, that have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord because of Moments

stories. Some are used as devotions.


One of the writers, whom I see frequently, goes out of her way to seek

me out, hug me, and thank me for accepting her story. She acts as if

she received a wonderful gift by being able to share her story. She is the

happiest giver I’ve ever known.


Some have said, “I don’t know if you can use this article. It’s not much.”

Well, that depends. The widow’s mite wasn’t much (the smallest

Roman coin; two pennies), but Jesus tells us in the Bible that he was

more impressed with her gift than with the rich man’s gift.


Whether light, entertaining, or serious, each story serves a purpose.

When these stories are put together in a collection, and published, they

become a part of world-wide giving since all the royalties go to Samaritan’s

Purse, the organization that reaches out to the world in physical and

spiritual need. They become a life-changing possibility in the moment

a child, who lives in a poor country, has never received a gift, excitedly

opens a shoebox.


Thanks to all who for remembering . . . and sharing.


You’re welcome to share a Christmas memory, or your thoughts

about Christmas for our Christmas 2020 Moments book. Simply

attach it to an email to me at yvonnelehman3@gmail.com.




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New Year Reflection

Reflection is one of my favorite things to do when we embark on a New Year. I like to look back on the year that is ending to see the wonderful events that occurred throughout the year. This could include accomplishments, fun things I did with my family, or blessings from God. And I also like to look at the year in front of me, deciding what I want to focus on in my spiritual walk, what goals I have, and in what areas I hope to grow.

So I did just that the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s. I will admit that this took a lot of time. I felt like two whole days were consumed with perusing through journal entries. So I have decided to change it up in 2020 and do a monthly reflection. Then at the end of the year, I hope to already have the highlights (and lowlights!) compiled.

Even though it was time consuming, I still enjoyed taking the time to look back over the things that filled my days during the year. And I learned along the way. Here are just a few things that I learned from my reflection:

1 – Progress is not always seen in the moment, but it is still there. In our minds, sometimes things don’t seem to change. We feel like the same person we were last January 1st. But when I looked back at my year, I could see that I changed, I learned, and I grew. My walk with the Lord is stronger than it was a year ago. And my overall attitude and outlook is more hopeful. So at times when you are down because nothing seems to change, remember that change really is occurring. Sometimes small steps are not noticeable in the moment, but they add up over time.

2 – When you keep pressing forward, you will see results. I was amazed to read some journal entries where I felt like the book I was writing was basically a mess. I had so many doubts about the book. It seemed like I couldn’t organize my thoughts nor write anything coherent. But miraculously, the Lord helped this book to come to life and get published. So, no matter what your goals are this year, you might have days where you feel discouraged. Just keep pressing forward. God will get you there!

3 – God is always there. One constant I found in the last 365 days was that God was always there, right by my side. When we open our eyes, we will see His wonders all around us. I noticed so many things in nature this past year, such as beautiful sunsets, lovely rainbows, amazing views of the moon, and so on. But more than that, I also noticed how God worked miracles in my daily life. Things like saving me and my loved ones from car accidents, through events that only God could have orchestrated.

4 – There really is a silver lining to every dark cloud. When I went through my reflection, I jotted down some negative things that occurred throughout the year. However, with each undesirable event, I was also able to find something positive that came out of the situation.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

These are just a few things that I learned from my New Year reflection. If you decide to do a New Year reflection as well, then please let me know how it went. I’d love to hear about it!

beverage blank blank space brown

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Word of the Year Tizzy by Julie Arduini

Happy New Year! I’m one of those people who spends way too much time looking at memes and there were two that left me speechless.

  1. The one that said the 1990’s were 30 years ago. I get my son was born in 1998 and is 21, but to think the cast of Friends are no longer hipsters in their twenties but retirement age? Blows. my. mind.

2. If that didn’t shock me enough, then I read that there will be some babies born this year who will live to see 2100.

Somehow the new year feels like so much pressure. Is it because there’s a new decade, a new zero to write on our checks? Whatever the case, I feel like I need a moment to recover.

Sadly, that’s not quite what God has in mind.

Like Kristin, I have a word of the year (I love hers) and mine is launch.

That sounds busy. Active. Stressful.

Haven’t I had enough of that already?

In terms of writing, launch definitely has significance. I have two books to get out there this year. One is a new contemporary romance series I’m so excited about. The second is the final book in the middle grade/women’s series I co-authored with our teen daughter. I also have marketing goals that hopefully increase readers.

—Julie Arduini

Family wise I’ve prayed a husband into a new decade, a son turned 21, and a daughter is now 16. There have been new positions, college, high school, relationships, friendships and new opportunities for each of them.

Writing, family and keeping a house upright don’t seem that much compared to a NASA launch, but friends, I’m tired. Like can’t I just wear pajamas every day and stay home? Can’t all the dinner plans involve a crockpot? Just thinking about the word launch makes me want to hide under the covers until New Year’s Eve.

Here’s the thing I’m slow to learn. When I pray for a word for the year, it’s not up to me to define what it means or when will it happen. I tend to throw myself into a tizzy every year, and every year, God’s been faithful to reveal His customized plan for me and that word.

Who knows? Maybe launch is something fun and breezy.

This year, I turn 50. I plan to launch into that celebration with laughter. My husband admitted he doesn’t know how to throw a party or entertain, so I announced it’s not his worry. I hope to create a couple simple events where I laugh and surround myself with people who helped me reach the milestone.

It would be great if launch meant start binging a new series on Netflix or Disney Plus.

Maybe I already completed a launch and I can rest? Over the break I was really struggling with my emotions and didn’t want to start the new year feeling toxic. I felt more than just praying that I’d let it go, I felt I was supposed to pray for others. I was nervous, as an introvert the thought of me throwing out an invitation to the masses and asking who’d like prayer felt vulnerable. But I did it. And by only using social media, I had 40 women I prayed for. The experience was glorious. I felt free from my anger and thankful God would let me in on such a precious communication.

If that’s the launch, what a great year 2020 has been!

No matter what your word for the year is, I hope you take a lesson from me and don’t try to figure it all out. God gave you the word, and He will see you through the year in His way and in His time. If you hear a sermon or a song that mentions your word, pay attention. Keep lines of communication open with your Heavenly Father. He longs to share so much with you.

As for me, I’m trying to follow my own advice. Launch isn’t a lazy word, and it holds so much promise. I look forward to launching into this new year with you and discovering all He has in store for all of us.

What’s your word for the year? I’d love for you to share it in the comments.

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