Nora’s Review of: Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn

The Burden of Proof 

By Davis Bunn 

Published by Revell 

320 Pages

NORA’S REVIEW: If you love John Grisham’s intense courtroom drama and stories about second chances, you will love this novel. The characters and their situation grabbed my heart and never let it go. Ethan comes to terms with the fact doctors gave him a few months to live. Just when he was coming to terms with his new reality, in walks his estranged scientific Professor sister-in-law with an opportunity he would not have considered if cancer were not eating up his body. It is an out of the box, wild option but what did he have to lose. He would be her human lab rat.

This story had throwback elements from the 1980’s on Coco Beach Florida, there were no cellphones, no internet, no video games, and the Nasa Program was in it’s heyday. Life was simple back then. One thing remained constant, how people prepared for hurricane season. Ethan loved to surf, and the best surfing could be had on Coco Beach during dangerous times. I enjoyed surfing with Ethan and his friend.

Another fun thing is the Back to the Future elements sprinkled throughout this intense page turning novel I could not put down. This would be a wonderful book club pick. There is so much to discuss. If you have not read a book by this author, I highly recommend this one.

FROM THE BACK COVER: Three weeks after his twenty-third birthday, Ethan missed the chance to save his brother’s life when he was murdered on the steps of the courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida. Ever since that fateful day, Ethan has sensed a deep disconnect between the man he should have been and the one he has become. His days play out a beat too slow, his mind replaying the scene of his failure again and again.

But when his brother’s widow appears, asking for his help in uncovering what was really behind his brother’s death, Ethan is stunned to hear that she and her late husband were involved in a much larger case than he knew–one that threatens the global power structure. As Ethan joins the search for answers, he will enter into his own past–and discover a means of redeeming his future.

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

Nora St. Laurent 

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Mea Culpa by Kathy Carmichael

One of the complaints my family makes about me is that I’m too literal. Essentially, it’s part of my nature and try as I might, I can’t seem to change this leaning toward the literal. And the exact. And facts. And how it works. You see my point.

It doesn’t always get me in trouble, but when it does, it’s often a doozy. 

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@bethlaird?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Bethany Laird</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/bible?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

In general, all I want, besides our Heavenly Father and my family and friends, is either a good book read or writing materials so I can write my own good book. I’m not deep enough to sit and plot anything other than stories, and I’m shallow enough that my internal thoughts are mostly all about me or all about the Lord. Sometimes they focus on worry over a loved one, but that’s about who I am in a nutshell.

And because of this self focus and my literal attitudes, I made a pretty bad misstep recently. Mea culpa. Or, as my son would say, “My bad.”

If someone’s religious doctrine differs from what you believe, who is right? Does it matter?

I once told a friend that I thought the Bible (or God in inspiring the Bible) was intentionally vague in places, thus allowing it to resonate with more people, leading them to becoming believers. We need a little flexibility.

My friend told me that I was wrong. The Bible was consistent and specific. Okay. She’s allowed to believe that, but I think I’m allowed to believe as I do. I didn’t argue with her but I still think there is some give, especially when it comes to certain details — often lost to history and the passage of time.

An example for me is that we are commanded to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy. Yet it doesn’t specify the day of the week nor does it specify exactly how. I personally believe the Sabbath is the day we designate to keep it. Some people believe it must be Sunday and others believe it’s Saturday. Yet, one size doesn’t fit all.

If you choose Wednesday as your Sabbath, then you would rest that day in Honor of all the Lord created. (After all, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. — read Matthew 12.) You might elect to find a worship service on that night, or you might attend a Bible study that day. You may honor it with hymns, worship or prayer. How you honor it is up to you, but the fact you are honoring God’s labors, and how Great He Is, is what it is about. In my humble opinion.

This is what I mean by doctrinal differences. You may believe completely differently, and that is good with me.

So based on my core belief I was recently shocked to find that I was judging one of my sisters for not believing exactly what and how I believe.

Thankfully Holy Spirit stepped in and corrected me. (I’m so grateful He stepped in, but it makes me flinch to realize I need that sort of correction — yes, I’m a sinner.) Holy Spirit reminded me of what a Godly and devout Christian my sister is. She is so much better than me! And He reminded me it’s not my place to force my beliefs on others. God loves her as well as me and these small differences aren’t important in the big scheme.

The next day I apologized to her and thanked her for bringing up a subject I found to be controversial. I honestly don’t remember exactly what our disagreement was, but I needed to hear and learn that someone can be devout and not endorse the exact same things as I believe. They are beloved by God because they sincere believers. They are good and Christian. I don’t need to attempt to argue them around to my way of believing.

This was an extremely important, and timely, lesson for me. Let’s just say that I’ve been living this and receiving barbs for not believing the exact way as some others. I found that hurtful, and now I’m over being literal. God loves us all. And we need to love one another. That’s all we need to know and do.

I so very much needed the reminder. Now I’m including a request in my prayers to open my eyes and ears so that I can welcome learning, and loving those who differ from me. It’s what our Heavenly Father and Jesus asks of each of us. I’m just a little later getting on board than I had thought.

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Easter Again by James R. Coggins

Once again this year, in spite of COVID and the attendant restrictions, the Christian church has celebrated Easter. Why do we keep returning to the same themes year after year? The reason is that there are certain foundational Christian doctrines, central biblical themes, which are the basis for everything else. Christmas and Easter are at the heart of these central themes, and we neglect them at our peril. We dare not become so absorbed in the fine details of the Christian life that we overlook the foundations.

Consider, then, three great themes of the Christian faith.

1. Creation

Occasionally we get involved in debates with evolutionists about the origins of the material universe, but, other than that, I’m not sure that a lot of us spend much time thinking about creation. Yet it matters vitally that we have been created by God, in His image—and that we have been created for God. The fact that the universe has been created by God gives us a profound respect and responsibility for the world around us. Moreover, the fact that we ourselves have been created gives us an identity, value, meaning, and purpose. Going even further, the fact that other people have been created by the same loving God leads us to value them; this is the basis for love and respect in all human relationships.

The truth of creation has been simplified into catchy slogans such as “God don’t make junk.” Yet that is how it is with the great truths. They are simple but very far-reaching. They change everything. How the world needs to hear this truth of creation! Meaninglessness, despair, purposelessness, hopelessness—these are the characteristics of our modern society. How people need to hear that they are created by a loving God, that they have value, meaning, and a purpose!

2. The Fall

There is a common argument in the LGBTQ community that “I was born this way.” In church contexts, LGBTQ members sometimes say that God has created them with “a diverse sexuality” and loves then “just as they are.” But the concept goes way beyond that community. How often have you heard someone say, “Don’t mind me. That’s just the way I am”? The assertion can be used to excuse any number of faults—a critical attitude, irresponsibility, a bad temper, dishonesty.

People who assert that God loves them in spite of their faults have grasped the reality and significance of creation, but they fail to understand another foundational Christian doctrine: the fall.

We are created in God’s image, but we are also fallen. We were created good, but our nature has become corrupted by our decisions to sin, collective and individual. We are subject to immoral desires, anger, hatred, fear, and corruption. This is why the argument “That’s just the way I am” doesn’t work. Some of us are child molesters, gossips, murderers, thieves, complainers, and liars—but that doesn’t excuse it. The answer is that we shouldn’t be that way.

The problem goes beyond individual human beings to creation as a whole. How many times have we heard atheistic scientists talk about the “balance of nature” as if it represented the most ideal of worlds? The reality is that nature is fallen too, that the whole creation is groaning and suffering (Romans 8:22). A nature that stays in balance by the cruel devouring of some animals by other animals is not ideal. Such cruelty and fear represents a fallen world that is badly out of balance. This is not how God’s creation was originally intended to function.

3. Redemption

Many people—surprisingly, even many non-Christians—understand the fall. They know that the world is an evil place. They know that they themselves are broken. They have been badly damaged by the words and actions of other people. In turn, they know that they have messed up their own lives and hurt many others in the process. They know by experience that they are unable to control their evil desires, their anger, their hatred, and their petty cruelties. Yet that is all they know. They may have been created, but that is overshadowed in their minds by the reality of the fall. They know they are abject failures, and they despair. Often they try to correct the situation by blotting out the source of the problem: themselves—either quickly by suicide or slowly by drugs and alcohol.

Yet the foundational Christian beliefs do not end with the fall. Thank God they do not. More astounding than God’s creative power, more awesome than God’s perfect holiness and justice, is the reality of God’s redemptive love. God made a perfect creation, we have ruined it horribly, but somehow, for reasons we cannot fully understand, God still loves us and redeems us. And He doesn’t just redeem us—He redeems us at the cost of His only Son.

That also is something the world desperately needs to know. We have messed up our lives and the lives of those around us, but God has redeemed us. He offers to save us from our evil desires, our immoral motives, our cruel actions, and our sinful pasts. In Christ, He restores us to meaning and purpose and to loving relationships with Himself and our fellow human beings. He will ultimately re-create the heavens and the earth so that they are perfect once again, a place where the lion will lie down with the lamb. He will ultimately perfectly restore us as well, making us resemble Him again. It seems to me that that truth is worth celebrating again and again. And that is a good reason to celebrate Easter.

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Come To The Table

As we celebrated Easter Sunday recently, my family gathered around our table after the church service like we have so many times in the past. Among the delicious food served was a wealth of cherished memories.

If I close my eyes, I can picture all the Easters that have passed, and I see the ones seated around the table from my childhood. Almost all are gone now. Parents. Grandparents. Uncles and Aunts. Brothers.

When I grew and moved away from my childhood home, had a family of my own, I became the grownup hosting the holiday meals. New faces were seated around the table and passing years became filled with new memories.

Eventually, there were more vacant seats. More loved ones celebrating this blessed holiday with the One who sacrificed everything so that we can have a seat at God’s table.

No matter who is seated next to you this year, whether you are surrounded by loved ones or it’s just you, know that you are always welcomed at God’s Table thanks to His Son’s amazing sacrifice.

So, Come To His Table.

My latest book, Shielding the Amish Witness recently released in e-book. It comes out in print on April 13th.

Here’s a little about the book:

Seeking refuge in Amish country puts everyone she loves in danger.

On the run after discovering her brother-in-law was behind her husband’s murder, Faith Cooper can think of only one safe place—her Amish grandmother’s home. But when danger follows Faith to the quiet Amish community, her childhood friend Eli Shetler is her only protection. And their survival depends on outlasting a relentless killer…one who has nothing left to lose.

All the best…

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

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When Things Don’t Work Out as We Think They Should by Vicki Hinze

Things often don’t work out the way we think they should, or when we think they should.  That doesn’t mean they don’t work out.  It only means that our view isn’t as big as God’s plans. 

It’s easy to find doubt creeping in on things of which we once were certain.  It’s easy to talk ourselves out of our certainty or of what we had supported, but these we should recognize for what they are:  tests of faith.  

We were told to lean not to our own understanding, warned that God’s ways are not our ways.  And yet we judge developments and events by our ways and our understanding.  When we’re hit with a curve ball, the first thing shaken is our faith. Often it is taken as truth and is the first fatality.

We doubt we understood, interpreted correctly, had misguided intentions or that spiritual warfare is at play—and all that might be true.  More might also be true.  But faith is hope in the unseen, right?  So isn’t this—the times of doubt and frankly fear–exactly when faith should be stronger not weaker?

Isn’t that when we affirm or confirm that our leaps of faith truly are leaps of faith?

My point isn’t to say that when good sense intervenes, and our every instinct tells us that we’ve veered off path not to turn around.  My point is to say that when we feel we’ve veered off path and are considering the wisdom of turning around, we first act in faith.

In other words, we hit our knees and seek guidance and counsel and wisdom first and not as a last resort.

We are never without God, or in a place where His wisdom and guidance is beyond us.  That’s important to remember.  One of our greatest challenges is in that leaning to our own understanding and not into His counsel and instruction.

Unlike ours, God’s timing is perfect for His plan.  It is incumbent upon us to determine as best we are able His plan and to follow it.  We won’t always hit center-target at it.  But if we can teach ourselves to seek Him first, to do so with a constructive and positive mindset—an open mind and heart—and to listen to the small still voice inside us which is a major communications hub between us and Him, we’ve done our best, and that is all that is required of us.

Often with good intentions, we think we’ll do our part and God will do the rest.  That could be.  But given a choice between that and going to God first, we see the benefit of guidance from the start of His plan.  Even when we don’t see the path, we are sure as certain He does.  Which action not only confirms the leap of faith but provides the surest path for the most productive (and constructive) journey?

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A Prickly Lesson by Nancy J. Farrier

I love growing cactus and succulents. They are prickly but they have the most beautiful blooms and are such unique plants. I love how they adapt to environments where many plants would not survive. 

The problem comes when I have to do transplanting or weeding. Ouch! Even when I wear gloves, I end up with stickers in my fingers. No matter how careful I am, one little move will have the prickly end of a cactus spine reminding me of their nature. 

Sometimes it’s easy to remove that spine, but some of them are so small and they blend in with my skin to the point that I can’t find them to remove them. I have to wait until the wound shows up and gets sore to be able to remove the sticker.

I am reminded of these cactus spines and the way they aggravate me when I read this story in Judges:

Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.” Judges 2:20-22 (NKJV)

God allowed testing by leaving these nations to become a thorn that poked at the Israelites. What would they do? Would they turn to God for help? Would they succumb to temptation and embrace foreign gods? Would they be drawn away from the one true God, the God of their fathers or would they stay true to Him? What would the testing of those annoying stickers, the nations around them, bring?

Likewise, we have those things in our lives that bring testing. We have those around us who are not walking with the Lord. We have many distractions outside the church and within the church that can lead us away from our walk with Christ. We harbor little impurities within us that cause problems.

Is it a superior attitude as we settle into our secure Christian life looking down on those around us who don’t know Him? Are we blinded to what God wants us to do or to become because we are confident in our beliefs? 

Is it the comfort of our material possessions that makes us forget our calling, or the importance of sacrifice? Maybe we need to cut back and ask God what He wants us to do. Think of the rich young ruler who walked away sad when Jesus asked him to give up the one thing he treasured most – his wealth. What is God asking each of us to sacrifice?

Maybe that thorn is an actual person and God is using them to refine our character. We must learn to love with God’s love and to trust in His grace and mercy. Loving is not always easy.

Having a sticker that is painful can keep us humble and reminds us of God’s goodness just as this thorn did for Paul.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12: 7-9a (NKJV)

God’s grace is sufficient. We can depend on His strength when those thorns of life poke at us in uncomfortable ways. Through prayer we can have an attitude like Paul demonstrated:

“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12: 9b-10 (NKJV)

As I work with the cactus in my garden, I know I will get spines in my fingers, but I can be reminded that my weakness shows God’s strength.

Let’s learn to be thankful for those trials, those painful moments of testing. Instead of complaining, we can praise God that He is the strength we rely on, not anything else.

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An Easter Prayer by Bridget A. Thomas

When I was growing up, Easter Sunday was a fun day. After church, we had an Easter egg hunt with hard-boiled, dyed eggs (indoors since I grew up in the north). A basket filled with sweets awaited us, courtesy of the Easter Bunny. My sister, who is three years older than me, would sample this and that from her basket. Being a little sister who wanted to do whatever her big sister did, I tried to keep up with her. But I usually had to quit because I wound up feeling sick with all the candy.

Nowadays, Easter looks different. We don’t have an egg hunt at my house, because we don’t have any little ones. And I rarely get much, if any, Easter candy. But the most important difference is my focus. When I was younger I knew what Easter was about. But now that I am an adult, I have more of an appreciation for the true meaning of Easter. I don’t put my attention on what the Easter Bunny will bring me this year. Instead, the emphasis is on what Jesus brought for all of us over 2,000 years ago.

Last Easter we were all in the throes of the pandemic, so my husband and I watched church on television and then we watched The Passion of the Christ. This movie is such a genuine depiction of what Jesus went through. It can be difficult to sit through this movie without tears, or at least a deep sense of mourning for what our Lord and Savior had to suffer for each of us.

Even reading about Jesus’ death in the Bible will bring remorse. But when we keep reading past the pain that Jesus faced on Good Friday, we find the joy of Easter morning. With Jesus’ death and resurrection, He paid the price for our sins and He bridged the gap between our Heavenly Father and us. We can never repay Jesus for what He did. But we can use our time to worship the Lord, to remember what Easter is all about, and to give Jesus our gratitude. Let’s take a moment to do that now. Let’s thank Jesus for what He did for us on the cross. Will you pray this Easter prayer with me?

Dear Jesus, how can we begin to thank You for what You did over 2,000 years ago? The words “Thank You” will never be enough. In fact, no words could ever fully express our heartfelt gratitude. We are deeply humbled to think about what You did for us and for all who would accept You. You, who knew no sin, took on the sin of the world. You knew each and every one of us would stumble and fall. But You still loved us all so much that you went to the cross for us. You paid our sin debt that we could never pay on our own. And as a result, you washed us clean. You made us as white as snow. You redeemed us from our sins. You saved us from death. You gave us the gift of salvation. You gave us the opportunity to have a relationship with You. And this relationship is more precious that anything we will ever know on this earth. Nothing compares to the price you paid for us. But today and everyday, we give You our hearts. We surrender all to You. We honor You. We worship You. We love You. You are our Redeemer, Provider, and Shepherd. We praise Your Holy Name. May our lips praise Your name every day of our lives. In Your Holy Name we pray, amen.

If you have never accepted Jesus as Savior, I invite you to do so today. If you want to know how, you can say the prayer found here. This will be the best decision you ever make. This will bring true contentment into your life. And this will bring you hope. In these uncertain times, we all could use hope. And the only way to find true hope is through Jesus.

I pray you all have a blessed Easter!

© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

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Spiritual Reminders by Tara Randel

He says, Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Ps. 46:10

The beginning of this scripture has been my go-to for a large part of my life. It is simple, yet at the same time, so very deep. What I love is that when you meditate on these words, there are many layers of understanding and devotion. As I get older and look back at my life, I see that this scripture helped me refocus in so many life experiences when I needed to be grounded and reminded that I can’t do everything by myself, no matter how many times I try to prove otherwise.

The first time I really felt the impact of these words was a period when I was overly stressed. My husband and I own a business and at that time, our children were young. I was also working, so between the three responsibilities, I felt like I was hanging on by a thread. We had a specialized truck we used in the business that had to be serviced. Of course, the only garage capable of doing the work was over an hour away. My husband left early to drive it over, then I was to follow after getting the girls to school to pick him up.

I remember being wound tight, my mind racing with the tasks that awaited me later that day. Even that week. I started talking to God, whining about my busy life, how I needed a moment to slow down, but countering with, if I did, nothing would get done.

Does that refrain sound familiar?

As clear as a bell, I recall the Spirit saying. “Be still.

Well, that caught my attention. What I translated was, “Stop talking and let your mind dwell on Me.” So I did. I abruptly halted my internal dialogue and waited. In the time that followed, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, reminding me that no, I can’t do it all. Nor do I need to. Spending time with God is more important than anything on my to-do list. This was a moment in time I still call to mind when I get overwhelmed.

Years later, when my oldest daughter died, there was a long period when I spoke to God but didn’t really hear anything. Looking back, I think this was because I had a lot to get out of soul. A lot of grieving. Once I was ready to listen again, a peace came over me when I waited quietly enough to acknowledge that God’s presence had never left me during that terrible time. He was patient, always listening to me, and when it was my turn to listen, His wisdom and love helped me heal.

Flash forward to the present. Now that I have established a career as an author, I still allow the same types of struggles to overpower me. Deadlines that are too close together, along with the ancillary things that go with promoting a book. Worrying about getting that next contract. Balancing time between work and my quiet time with God. All the day-to-day worries, even if you work in a different profession, that we all go through. And when the dust settles and I step away from the noise, the words that comfort me are always the same. Be still and know that I am God.

I finished a project last week. In my devotion time , I realized I’d let myself get wound up again. Instead of focusing on God, I was planning for the next few months and making myself worn out before I started. I’ve since taken the past few days off to slow down and listen. To savor the special time I only experience when I am quiet and hear from the Spirit of the Lord.

As I was reading a book, I came across another scripture that caught and held my attention this week. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; Psalm 37:7a.

See a theme here?

My point is, we all get busy. We all have too much on our plates from time to time. We still think we can do it all. And once we realize that God is bigger than any of our problems or stresses, that ultimately He is in control, these words from scripture are a beautiful reminder of how much God loves us.

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, STEALING HER BEST FRIEND’S HEART, available  August 2021. 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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The Man on the Park Bench: A Short Story by James R. Coggins

The man on the park bench looked utterly forlorn. He was sitting with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.

“Good afternoon,” I said. “How are you doing?”

“It’s hopeless,” he said. “It’s hopeless.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said, sitting down beside him. “I’m an outreach worker with Downtown Mission. I’ve been able to help a lot of people. Maybe I can help you.”

“There’s nothing you can do. It’s hopeless,” he repeated.

“Why don’t you tell me what the problem is, and I’ll see if I can help. Do you have a job?”

“Yes. I just moved here a couple of months ago to accept a new job as sales rep for Nolix Corp.”

“Well, that sounds good. What is the problem?”

“I’ve got a long list of contacts I’m supposed to be meeting this afternoon and later this week.” The man caught his breath and continued. “But I lost my cell phone. It has all of my contacts’ information. Now I don’t know where I am supposed to go or who I am supposed to meet.”

“Why don’t you go back to your office at Nolix?” I suggested.

“I guess I could, but I don’t go there very often, and I would probably need my GPS to find it.”

“So, use your GPS.”

“It’s on my phone,” moaned the man. “And so is my pass code for the employee entrance.”

“So, use the public, customer entrance.”

“It wouldn’t do any good. I don’t have any back-up files in my office. All my client info and my presentation materials were in my cell phone. That’s why I don’t have to go in to the office very often.”

“Do you have any friends or family members you could call to help you?”

“I don’t have any family close by. I have friends, but I don’t know their last names or contact info. All of their phone numbers and addresses were in my cell phone. I didn’t memorize their phone numbers because I never had to dial them.”

“Do you have a car?” I asked.

“Yes, but how could I turn off the security lock and get into it without my cell phone?” the man complained.

“What about a home? Do you have a home?”

“Yes, I have a home in the suburbs, but I only moved in a couple of weeks ago. It’s in one of those neighborhoods where all the streets twist around and go off on angles. I don’t remember the address, and I need my GPS to find it.”

“That’s too bad,” I said.

“Besides, even if I got there, what good would it do?” he asked. “Without my cell phone, how would I turn off the security alarm or open the garage door or the house door? How would I turn up the heat or turn on the lights or start up my entertainment system or program the stove to cook dinner? How could I order groceries to be delivered or food from a restaurant?”

I sat there beside the man for a few moments deep in thought. The man was right. His case was hopeless.

I stood up, mumbled a half-hearted goodbye, and headed down toward the next park bench. There were a couple of homeless, long-term drug addicts there. Their situation was undoubtedly far more hopeful.

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How’s Spring Look Where You Are At?

Saturday was the first official day of spring and here in Texas the signs are all around.

I spotted my first bluebonnet yesterday, a sure sign the rest of the wildflowers are soon to follow.

The trees are beginning to bud, the fields are turning green. And the first mesquite tree on our property has bloomed. My father-in-law was a wise man. Though he only made it to the eighth grade in school, he was blessed with common sense and one thing he always said; when the mesquite trees bloom, winter is done. That was one of the many words of wisdom that he taught me through the years.    

Spring is a wonderful time of the year. A reminder of God’s promise of renewal. He renews our spirit daily. And just like springtime, he showers us with His blessings and restores our strength.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Just seeing the new life blooming all around me definitely renews my spirit. It’s been a long hard 2020 and more than ever I think we all need our spirits renewed.  I pray that wherever you are—whether spring is popping its head out for you to enjoy, or winter is still holding fast—God will renew your sprit and help you run and not be weary. Walk and not grow faint.

Happy spring!

Today, I have a new Christian Suspense release entitled Firestorm, book eight of The Courage Under Fire series.

Here is a little about the book:

To save her brother’s life, Sarah Hancock must risk everything to find the one man who can bring Blake home. Former Navy SEAL, James Cooper.

Amidst talks of peace and the rise to power of Daniel Pamphili, the unthinkable happens—an attack like no one in Strike Force could have predicted proves the depths in which Pamphili is willing to go to silence Strike Force.

After a daring attempt results in Blake’s rescue, Pamphili steps up his attempts to find Strike Force.

Hiding out in the wilderness of Wyoming, Sarah’s and James’s relationship grows stronger. With the world quickly moving toward unprecedented times, Sarah knows she loves James and she’ll spend whatever time they have left here on earth loving him.

When Pamphili announces his pledge to rebuild the Jewish Temple, he sets in motion events that will mark the beginning of the end.

And the countdown clock is ticking down to zero!

All the best,

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

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Having a Bad Day by Nancy J. Farrier

We were all horrified at the shootings in Atlanta this past week perpetrated by the gunman who took the lives of eight people before being stopped by the police. Eight lives cut short in a senseless act that is impossible to understand. 

What I found just as disturbing was the police captain who gave the press conference to talk about the crime. He stated that the shooter was having “a really bad day for him and this is what he did.” 

Having a bad day. And he killed eight people.

I have had a lot of bad days. Heart crushing loss and grief. Days I thought couldn’t get much worse. I’m sure most of us have faced such circumstances. Thankfully, they are rare, but they do happen. However, I did not unleash my frustration, hurt, or anger by killing someone. That isn’t a reaction to having a bad day. Not at all.

When I think of having a bad day, I consider some of those who have gone before me and left their testimony. I think of Job losing all that was dear to him. I think of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. I think of Moses coming off the mountain with the ten commandments after meeting with God only to see the people indulging in horrible sin. I think of David faced with the truth of his sin and the death of his own son. I think of the Mary and the disciples on the day Jesus was crucified and their hope was shredded.

What is the proper response to having a bad day?  What did those who went before us do?

Job—In one day Job faced the loss of his livestock, the death of his servants, and the death of his children. His response: “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.” Job 1:20 (NKJV) He didn’t rant or go after those responsible. He worshiped God in the midst of his grief.

Joseph—Joseph was a young man when his brothers conspired against him, threw him in a well, and sold him to be taken to Egypt as a slave. Years passed before Joseph and his brothers were reunited. After their father’s death, the brothers worried what Joseph would do to them since by then he was the second most powerful person in Egypt. When they fell to their knees before him, hoping for mercy, Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…”And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” Gen. 50:19-21 (NKJV)

Moses—When Moses came down Mount Sinai after talking with God and receiving the stone tablets with the ten commandments, the people had fallen into sin. They turned away from all Moses taught them and all the miracles they’d seen God perform. Moses had good reason to be angry. What did he do? “…So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain…” Deut. 32:19 (NKJV) This is after God wanted to destroy the Israelites for their sin and Moses interceded and begged God to forgive them. 

David—Nathan the prophet came to King David to confront him with his sin of adultery and murder. David had taken Bathsheba in adultery and then killed her husband Uriah. When faced with the enormity of what he’d done, “…David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Sam. 12:13 (NKJV) David humbled himself instead of blaming others.

Mary and the Disciples—Jesus’ followers were there as he was crucified. Mary’s beloved son and the disciples’ teacher, whom they knew to be the Son of God, died and they could do nothing. While there were many reactions to Jesus’ death on the cross, we read this about the disciples and Mary, But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” Luke 23:49 (NKJV) We read after this that they were together, most likely praying since this was their habit as seen in the book of Acts.

What great examples of how to handle a “bad day” or the crushing hurt or grief that can overwhelm. We are to pray, be humble, ask God’s forgiveness for those who hurt us, worship God in the midst of our bad day, and consider that God works out all things to our good, when we are called according to his purpose. (Ro. 8:28)

Our response is not to be one of hatred or violence and likewise we are not to excuse those who act in this way. Instead, we must encourage the above attributes and promote love toward all. We must love as God loves us.

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Cutting With Scissors by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by Valeriia Kogan on Unsplash

Yesterday, my five-year-old grandson was working on his school work at home. He had one last assignment to complete—cutting out figures with his scissors. He loves doing this, although in his enthusiasm he doesn’t always stay on the line. 

Still, having a task he likes frees my daughter to do other things while he works. She went to get dinner started while he was studiously cutting the papers assigned by his teacher. 

When she went to check his progress a few minutes later, my grandson has his bangs between his fingers and snips of hair scattered across his homework paper. He’d gotten distracted from his homework by the lure of using this tool in a way he wasn’t meant to. 

What could be wrong with this? His mom takes him to get his hair cut and that person uses scissors on his hair. Why can’t he?

I’m sure every parent here understands this frustration and many of us have faced this as we raised children. The hair cutting episodes usually precede some important event and our child looks lopsided for a while. Thankfully, hair does grow out.

How many times do we, as adults, receive tools or gifts from God, and in our enthusiasm to see how they work, use them the wrong way? Or, we see someone else using the same gift and decide that must be what God wants us to do without ever asking Him for guidance. 

When we do this, we end up with lopsided results and blows to our faith that can be damaging for us and for those around us. God gives each of us a gift or talent and a specific way to use that gift.

For instance, if you have the gift of teaching. There are many ways to use this talent: teaching children in a school, teaching a Bible study, teaching classes online, etc. The list is endless and may simply be teaching your child about your faith. What could be more important?

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deut. 6:6-7 (NKJV)

If you have a talent for music, maybe you are to use that in the church, or on a stage somewhere, or simply to sing to someone who needs a comfort that words won’t reach. Maybe you only need to use that gift to raise your instrument to God in private worship. 

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” I Cor. 12:4-6

We are all different. Our callings are all different. But all are blessed when we follow God’s leading. When we ask Him to show us what to do.

Whatever tool we are given, whatever gift or talent, we must ask God His intent for our lives. How does He plan for us to use this for His purpose? Then we need to grab out sheet of paper and our little pair of scissors and do what He wants. From that will come beauty beyond what we can imagine.

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Nora’s Review of: The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Nora St Laurent, Christians Read, Reviews,

 

The Key to Everything

By Valerie Fraser Luesse 

Published by: Revell

348 Pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

NORA’S REVIEW: This novel reminds me of the movie Forrest Gump (as both characters went on an adventure that had them meeting fascinating people). There is a Forrest Gump kind of feel mixed with a coming of age story minus the graphic sexual side of things.

From the start readers get to know Peyton and his mother after a tragic event. They are waiting for medical news about their loved one. It’s then Peyton learns the details of his mother and father’s love story and a few surprising things about himself.

This is a heart-warming and delightful story of Peyton and his quest to go on the same journey his father went on when he was 15 years old. He sets out with his bicycle and backpack filled with his stuff and goodies from his mom.

The expedition begins in Georgia and goes all the way to Key West, Florida. I enjoyed Peyton’s adventures and the interesting people he meets. I lived in Georgia and Florida, so I appreciated the trip through the streets of Georgia and Florida and all he saw there. Peyton says to Lisa, “Do you think my father found it?” Peyton propped on his elbow, looking down at Lisa. “Yeah, I think he did. But the sad thing is, he left it here.”

“I don’t want to do that, Lisa. Because there’s something else I’ve figure out. You can’t follow anybody else’s path, like I tried to do with Daddy – Like Daddy thought he had to do with Granddaddy.  Somewhere along the way, you gotta draw your own map.”

Good point. I loved the charming cast of characters (including the ones you were not meant to like) with a captivating deep story I could not stop reading. It was a grand adventure mixed with a splash of young romance, family drama and a remembrance of a life well lived.

At the end the author shares what inspired her to write this story, “…General Patterson really did ride his bike to Key West and back, Sleeping in police and fire stations, ..Like Peyton, General Patterson loved to fly, completing 101 missions as a US Air Force fighter pilot during the Korean War… couldn’t resist giving Peyton Cabot just a little bit of my own dad, Junior Freser, whose creative, adventurous, take-it-as-it-comes spirit always amazed me growing up. There’s just a touch of Daddy in my protagonist. I don’t think Holly will mind. There’s room for both of our heroes in Peyton.”

This is a book that would work well for a book club pick. There is so much to talk about. If you have not read a book by this author, I highly recommend you read this heart-warming tale that will leave you with a smile on your face and a happy heart.

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

Nora St. Laurent 

TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! 

The Book Club Network Blog www.bookfun.org

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Freedom from Perfectionism by Bridget A. Thomas

There are many days when I fret and worry about all the things on my to-do list. I wonder when I would have time to get it all done. Twenty-four hours in a day just doesn’t seem like enough time. Other days I beat myself up for small mistakes. A harsh word, a forgetful moment, a small mishap. Thoughts of failure marched through my head. I wonder why I am so incompetent.

While these two scenarios look different, for me they both boil down to the same thing – perfectionism. According to Oxford, perfectionism is a “a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” The world teaches us we have to do everything right, that we cannot fall short, and that weaknesses aren’t acceptable.

We also have the enemy whispering in our ear, reminding us that we are not good enough, not strong enough, not smart enough, and just plain not enough. We easily accept his lies and think badly about ourselves. And sometimes, in an attempt to feel better about ourselves, we work harder, pushing ourselves beyond our limits.

We have to be careful in this area of perfectionism because it could easily evolve into working for our righteousness. When we check off everything on our to-do lists, it makes us feel accomplished. When we succeed at something, we seek approval and recognition from ourselves, from others, and from God. We believe our achievement will gain our acceptance. And the messages we receive from the world seem to agree with this theory,

On the flip side, when we fall short, we feel weak and useless. We believe due to our lack of performance, others won’t love us and accept us. So we push ourselves even more to get back on top. The enemy is all too happy when we fall into this trap. If we keep pushing ourselves, we will lose sight of our true identity.

When we see this issue stirring in our lives, it would be helpful to remind ourselves of Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

But that’s not all. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul also said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

And another verse to keep in mind also comes from one of Paul’s letters. In Romans 8:1, it says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

I believe Paul is one who rested in the security that Jesus offers, without the need to strive or to prove himself. Before Paul was converted, he did terrible things against Christians, imprisoning them and not thinking twice about their deaths. But one day, Jesus appeared to him and he was instantly a changed man. If anyone felt like they had to prove themselves, I would think Paul would be first in line. But he wasn’t. Yes, he worked hard, out of his love and devotion to Jesus. But he didn’t work to gain approval. He knew he was already accepted and loved by His Lord and Savior.

If this is an area that you struggle with, take one (or all three) of the verses above and tuck it into your heart today. We are already righteous, thanks to Jesus. We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to get everything right, we don’t have to beat ourselves up for small mishaps, we don’t have to walk around with guilt on our shoulders for our mistakes and regrets, and we don’t have to work to earn God’s love. We are already loved, accepted, approved of, and chosen children of God. As you remind yourself of these truths, I pray you find a new sense of freedom. Extend grace to yourself, as you rest in the loving arms of Jesus.

Photo by Samuel Silitonga on Pexels.com

© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

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Introducing Proverbs 9:10 Ministries by Julie Arduini

From Julie: I recently had the opportunity to host Christine Paxson and Rose Spiller at juliearduini.com. I was so impressed with their ministry that I invited them to share more here. I hope you check them out!

We are Christine Paxson & Rose Spiller. Co-founders of Proverbs 9:10 Ministries, co-hosts of the Podcast, No Trash, Just Truth, and co-authors of books, No Half Truths Allowed – Understanding the Complete Gospel Message (book & study guide released on May 8, 2020) and The Bible Blueprint – A Guide to Better Understanding the Bible from Genesis to Revelation (due out Spring 2021)

            We both come from different backgrounds, but in 2009, God brought us together by putting us both at the same church. The friendship was instantaneous; and out of that friendship has grown a partnership and passion to serve the Lord by learning, discipling, teaching, writing, and speaking.

About four years ago, we felt led to create Proverbs 9:10 Ministries. We chose that title because Proverbs 9:10 says, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom; knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The only way to grow in your faith and in wisdom is to know God! And the only way to truly know God is to study Scripture. We saw a deep need for Biblical literacy while we attended a church that had did not put a high priority on knowing Scripture, doctrine, or theology. Sermons and Bible Studies offered there were little more than moral lessons and self-help sessions. This ignited in us both, a passion to help women move away from the garbage that is being pedaled as “Women Bible Studies,” but is instead, false teaching that is dumbing women down with fluffy, often times heretical nonsense that is much more about the individual and her victories, than about learning the Bible or understanding and glorifying God. Our motto for our podcast says it all, “Taking out the trash of false teaching and replacing it with Biblical Truth.”

We had both been teaching Bible Studies for over 20 years, but it was at this time, that we felt God leading us to begin to write our own Bible Studies. It was out of one of those studies that the book, No Half Truths, was born. Along with need for deeper study and more knowledge of the Bible, is understanding and being able to articulate the complete Gospel message. The Gospel message is the life-saving, life-giving, life-transforming message that every human being of every age needs, and is the central message of the entire Bible! It’s crucial that we get it right so that we are not selling those we witness to, and more importantly God, short. Just like false teaching, there are a lot of false gospels out there and they are often used in Christian circles on a regular basis. In the book, we go through many of these false gospels, and point out why they are not the Gospel. Besides explaining every facet of the true Gospel message, the book also gives a solid foundational theology, with chapters on each of the three Persons of the Trinity and touching on a few essential doctrines.

No Half Truths Allowed – Understanding the Complete Gospel Message has recently won bronze in the “Illuminations” award for theology! We are very excited about this honor and pray our book continues to bless those who read it!

Next, in the very near future, is the release of our second book, The Bible Blueprint – A Guide to Better Understanding the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The original release date was February, but with Covid, production was pushed back to this spring. The Bible Blueprint divides the entire Bible chronologically into six easy to read sections. It provides a basic understanding of Scripture as a complete story that links all the various books together. It gives an overview of each book, touching on highlights and some of the amazing and significant events in each, while helping with comprehension of the more difficult sections.

And everyone is always welcome to check out our podcast, No Trash, Just Truth, for weekly 20 to 30 minute episodes. The audio podcast is available on all major podcast platforms, while the video version is available on YouTube and Rumble.

May you all have a blessed day!

Chris & Rose are co-founders of Proverbs 9:10 Ministries and co-hosts of the No Trash, Just Truth Podcast. They have been teaching Bible Studies for over 20 years and have written many of their own studies. Along with teaching together, they also speak at conferences and retreats. Both have graduated from the “Dimensions of the Faith” Program from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary; and continue their seminary studies by taking online classes through Reformed Theological Seminary and through Biblical Training’s “Institute” Program.

Chris resides in Lancaster County with her husband of over 31 years, John. They have twin sons in the USAF. Rose and her husband, Ed, have recently sold their home and now live full-time in their RV to travel between their four children and eight grandchildren.

Besides their first book, No Half-Truths Allowed – Understanding the Complete Gospel Message, Chris and Rose have a second book, “The Bible Blueprint – A Guide to Better Understanding the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, is due out in spring of 2021. They are in the process of writing their third book.

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