Angels and Space Aliens: An Unexplained Personal Account

Opinion by Jim Denney

In the summer of 1970, before my senior year in high school, I went with a high school youth group from California to a Young Life camp at Malibu, British Columbia. During the long drive up the Pacific Coast, we stopped at a home in Oregon for the night. The girls slept inside and the boys sacked out in sleeping bags in the backyard.

As I lay awake, looking at the stars, I noticed one “star” moving erratically, zig-zagging from side to side and up and down, dancing rapidly in a seemingly random pattern. I wanted to call out to someone to confirm what I was seeing, but everyone else seemed to be asleep. I pulled back the flap of my sleeping bag and stood up.

“Hey, Jim,” someone whispered. I turned and saw that Dave, a guy I knew slightly, was sitting up in his sleeping bag, watching the same manifestation. “Do you see that?” he said.

“Yeah. I see it.”

We both watched the zig-zagging “star” for about a minute — then it shot straight up, fading to darkness as it ascended. In seconds, it was gone.

I asked Dave what he thought it was.

“I dunno,” he said. “All I know is that thing was weird.”

Airship-California

Front page of the San Francisco Call for November 23, 1896, reporting on a UFO seen by hundreds of witnesses in a number of California cities and towns, including Sacramento, Folsom, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Modesto. The UFO appeared for a number of weeks from late 1896 to early 1897, and the phenomenon has never been explained. 

About a year ago, I sat and talked to a man in his eighties named Kenny. He’s a longtime friend of my mother and my late father, and a sober man of good judgment and good Christian character. He told me that, one time in the 1950s, he drove his pickup on California Highway 33, near the little oil town of Coalinga. Seven or eight miles north of the town is a place unofficially known as “Stinky Hollow,” due to the sulfurous “rotten egg” smell that lingers around the many pumpjacks that extract crude oil from the ground.

It was late at night when Kenny passed through Stinky Hollow. He noticed a bright glow off to the side of the road. Curious about the light, he pulled off the road, got out of his truck, and walked toward the glow. Coming over a rise, he saw something disk-shaped perched on the ground, glowing brightly and large enough to hold several people. He stopped, and while he was deciding whether he should approach it, the object lifted off the ground, ascended into the night sky, and faded as it traveled straight up.

He had no explanation for what he had seen, and he said he’s never seen anything like it before or since. I have no explanation for what Kenny saw, nor for what I saw. He and I both saw “unidentified flying objects” (UFOs) — with the emphasis on unidentified. Many people want to believe that UFOs are flown by alien beings (often referred to as “extra-terrestrial intelligences” or ETIs). That’s certainly one possibility.

I recently came across an article at the Huffington Post by science writer (and atheist) Jeff Schweitzer. His piece is called “Earth 2.0: Bad News for God,” and he suggests that the discovery in July 2015 of a seemingly earth-like planet orbiting the Sun-like star Kepler-452 (about 1,830 light-years from Earth) suggests that life may be common in the universe. He concluded that the discovery of alien life on other worlds would be “bad news” for those who believe in God.

I was intrigued. Why would the discovery of alien beings on other planets be “bad news” for God? Schweitzer explains: “Let us be clear that the Bible is unambiguous about creation: the earth is the center of the universe, only humans were made in the image of God, and all life was created in six days.”

Where does the Bible unambiguously say that “only humans were made in the image of God”? I’ve never seen any passage in the Bible that makes such an “unambiguous” statement as Schweitzer claims (he hangs his hat on a forced interpretation of Genesis 2:1).

The fact is, the Bible clearly contradicts Schweitzer’s claim. The Bible actually states that there are alien, extraterrestrial, nonhuman, intelligent beings in the universe. The Bible calls them “angels” (which means “messengers”). And if the alien race known as “angels” exists, why not other nonhuman races?

In fact, Genesis 6:1-4 refers to a mysterious race called the Nephilim. These are clearly nonhuman beings, as we understand humanity, but little is said about them other than that they were the offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” prior to the Flood of Noah (the Nephilim are also referred to in Numbers 13). Some students of the ancient Hebrew language believe the word Nephilim means “those who cause people to fall.”

Airship-LA-1942

Page B of The Los Angeles Times for February 25, 1942. A UFO was spotted over the city of Los Angeles less than three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The UFO was spotted and tracked along the California coast and over the city for several hours, beginning a little after 7 pm and continuing sporadically until 4 in the morning. Ground-based searchlights lit up the object, and thousands of rounds of artillery were fired at the it, apparently without causing any damage. Falling artillery rounds damaged buildings, and the chaos caused automobile accidents that killed three people. The sightings were never explained, but Navy Secretary Frank Knox dismissed the entire incident as a “false alarm.”

Are UFOs piloted by aliens from distant planets? Are they piloted by angels? By demons? I don’t claim to know.

When I was writing my Timebenders science fantasy series for young readers in 2001-2002, I showed my editors a draft of the fourth book in the series, Lost in Cydonia, which featured some blue-skinned, golden-eyed aliens on the planet Mars. My editors said, “You have to rewrite this. You can’t have space aliens in the story.”

“Why not?”

“The Bible says there are no space aliens in the universe, only human beings.”

“Where does the Bible say that?”

“I don’t know, but that’s what I’ve always heard. We don’t want Christian parents to think that our books have space aliens in them.”

“Have you ever read the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis? He has intelligent alien races in Out of the Silent Planet — the eldila, the sorns, the hrossa. And there’s the Green Lady and her husband in Perelandra. No one objects to the space aliens in Lewis’s books.”

“When you sell as many books as C.S. Lewis, you can have space aliens in them. But right now, you have to take them out.”

I solved the problem very simply. I changed my aliens to angels, and otherwise left the story exactly as it was. My editors loved the book. Why? Because angels are an alien race. Both the unfallen angels of the Lord and the fallen angels known as demons come from — and belong to — an unearthly reality.

As the apostle Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

What did I see in the sky that summer night in 1970? What did Kenny see lift up from the ground and fade into the night sky over Stinky Hollow? Were they visitors from another star system far from Earth? Where they manifestations of spiritual “rulers” and “authorities” from the “heavenly realms”?

What do you think Kenny and I saw?

___________________________________

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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A Bouquet of Words by Nancy J. Farrier

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Last weekend, on November 3rd, one of my daughters got married. Although we live in separate States, I still helped as much as I could. My husband and I  fixed most of the food, traveling to California a week before the wedding to help with last minute details and preparations. I loved being a part of this exciting event, but I wanted to tell you about an unexpected blessing that happened through the wedding.

 

My daughter didn’t have a long engagement so she had to be on top of getting things arranged and ordered. She contacted me one day in late May to talk about the Bridal bouquet and the flowers she planned to order. My daughters and I are almost all allergic to scents so having a floral arrangement so close to your face is a real challenge. Ardra decided to do something different and scent free. She wanted flowers made from the pages of books.

 

She found an artist on Etsy who makes flowers from books and has a list of titles to choose from. My daughter and her bridesmaids each chose a different book for their bouquet. Ardra chose The Hobbit for her bridal bouquet. She asked if I had a preference for what book would be used for my flower. My first thought was how wonderful it would be to have one of my own books made into flowers for her wedding and I said so to her.

 

Ardra contacted the flower artist, who lived in England. The designer said if I shipped her a book right away, she would use that to make flowers for me. I was so very excited. Ardra’s fiancé is a pre-published author. He sent me one of his stories to print out and send with my book, Bandolero. That way one of the flowers from his writing would be in his mother’s corsage. I believe Ardra carried one of his in her bouquet too.

 

Another of my other daughters crocheted some beautiful flowers in the wedding colors to use in the bridal bouquet and to add some color. The bouquet is pictured above. Most of the paper flowers are from The Hobbit, but mine is in there as well as the crocheted blossoms. This is a bouquet they will treasure, and one they don’t have to dry and try to keep.

 

I would never have thought of one of my books being used this way. What a privilege to have my words take part in their ceremony. As an author, you never know how your writing will be used. What a unique way to participate in the wedding.

Bandolero-Kindle

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Christian Unity in Times of Hate and Division

Opinion by Jim Denney

One of the great tragedies of the church today is the way Christians divide from each other and attack each other over politics. I’m not saying our political views are unimportant. As Christians, we are to engage with the world around us, and our political views ought to reflect our Christian convictions.

But in recent times, I’ve seen many Christians separate from each other, attack each other, and mistreat each other over a difference in political viewpoints or party affiliation. This behavior is condemned in God’s Word.

Civil War

“The world is divided. America is more divided than at any time since the Civil War.”

I’ve seen Democratic Christians condemn and attack Republican Christians, accusing them of having no compassion for the poor and oppressed, accusing them of being selfish or racist or greedy or “evil.” And I’ve seen Republican Christians condemn and attack Democratic Christians as unbelievers, closet secularists, and apostates. By labeling and stereotyping people we disagree with, we dehumanize them, de-Christianize them, and convince ourselves it’s okay to hate them.

I believe that the Christians who disagree with me politically are not really all that different from me. If they are followers of Christ just as I am, then we have much more in common than we have in opposition to each other. 

You may have voted for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or some other candidate. No matter who you voted for, I trust your heart. I believe you want a more secure and peaceful world. You want to end poverty and oppression and injustice in America and around the world. You want a strong economy, full employment, and a compassionate society. You want your children and grandchildren to have a secure future, a good education, safe neighborhoods, and protection from being bullied or abused. You want to end racism and hate, just as I do.

So if we agree on so much, why I we divided? Answer: Because we disagree on how to achieve those goals.

Democrats believe in accomplishing these goals through a strong central government, Keynesian economic controls, large-scale government initiatives (like Obamacare and a strong social welfare “safety net”), and the redistribution of resources to produce fair outcomes. Republicans believe in accomplishing these goals through free-market forces, lower taxes, less regulation, respect for property rights, and the rule of law. With few exceptions, your average grassroots Democrat and your average grassroots Republican pretty much agree on overall goals, but they disagree on how to get there.

If you and I have a political disagreement, that’s fine. Let’s talk about it. Maybe we can find some common ground and build on that. When it comes to our friendship, it’s not a deal-breaker that your vote canceled out mine. What matters to me is this: Is Jesus Christ the Lord of your life? If you can say, in all sincerity, that He is, then you and I are brothers and sisters in the Lord. As long as you don’t shout at me, defame me, or vilify me because of my political views, I consider you my friend.

Peter said, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8). Paul told the Colossians, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). And he told the Corinthians, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

And the Lord Himself prayed in His high priestly prayer, the night before He went to the cross, “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). As someone once said, our oneness is our witness.

What does it mean to have unity of mind? Does it mean we should all think exactly alike, vote exactly alike, and become politically homogenized? No. That would be impossible. Being of the same mind means that we agree to love one another, accept one another, tolerate each other’s differences, and respect each other’s right to think for ourselves. It means that we trust each other’s best intentions, not assuming the worst about each other. It means listening to each other, learning from each other, and constantly looking for common ground upon which to build stronger relationships.

The world is divided. America is more divided than at any time since the Civil War. And yes, the church is divided all too often over politics. If someone in the church is corrupting doctrine, undermining the authority of Scripture, and teaching a false gospel, well, there are many passages in the Bible that speak to how we should deal with that.

But let’s not treat each other as enemies because of political labels. Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world. His gospel is not a political gospel. His goals are not political goals. His methods are not political methods.

His kingdom is the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, and His methods are grace, forgiveness, justice, and love.

___________________________________

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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It Is Well with My Soul

I am sure you have heard and even sang the words to the timeless hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.” These six words alone can teach us a lot. But when we look at the story behind the words, we stand to learn from them all the more.

These words were written by Horatio Gates Spafford in 1873. Spafford was a renowned lawyer in Chicago, an active member in his church, and he owned numerous pieces of real estate. Things in life seemed to be going quite well for this man and his family, until suddenly everything took a dramatic turn.

First, Spafford and his wife Anna had a four-year-old son who died of scarlet fever. Later, in the Great Fire of Chicago, Spafford lost most of his investments. Things now seemed to be dismal in the Spafford home. In an attempt to give the family a much-needed reprieve, he decided they should take a trip to Europe. He was delayed due to business, but he sent his wife and four daughters ahead.

In November of 1873, while they were crossing the Atlantic Ocean their ship collided with another ship. Most of the passengers perished, including all four of Spafford’s daughters. Spafford’s wife survived and was floating on a piece of the wreckage when a sailor rescued her. When Anna made it to dry land, she sent her husband a telegram, telling him that she was “saved alone.”

Spafford left immediately to reach his grieving wife. He got on a ship crossing the Atlantic, and when his ship was over the area of the ocean where his daughters had died, he wrote the words that would become a legendary hymn. I am in awe that one hundred forty-five years ago, these encouraging words were written in a place of deep pain. Yet they have inspired countless people for over a century.

This story has motivated me to look at my hardships from a different perspective. I have not had to endure the loss of four daughters at once. But like everyone, I have gone through my own trials. While it can be tempting to fall into despair, this story has stirred my heart and helped me to look at those difficult moments with a new vision.

By the way, life continued to have its ups and downs for the Spafford family. They had three more children, but one of them died of pneumonia. The Spaffords moved to Jerusalem in 1881. Spafford died there in 1888.

 

It Is Well with My Soul:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

 

Refrain:

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

 

Refrain

 

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—

My sin—not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

 

Refrain

 

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life

Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

 

Refrain

 

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,

The sky, not the grave, is our goal;

Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!

Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

 

Refrain

 

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so—it is well with my soul.

 

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Thankful to Blog by Julie Arduini

I can’t believe it’s November. I also can’t believe this is most likely the ELEVENTH year I’ve presented some form of a thankful series on my blog during this month. This year I’m taking it back to the beginning where I posted for 30 days. I did it back then as part of NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. Now I’m doing it because I love being thankful and it leaves me time to work on NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. 50 k words in 30 days. Eeek!

Anyway, there is so much I’m thankful for and throughout the month on my blog I’m going to dig deep at times, and other times, be a little superficial. All of it, I believe, is ok in the praise department. When praise is going on, there can’t be dark thoughts. And I’ve been there.

Let’s do this.

I thought I would share a snippet of thankfulness here. This originally posted at juliearduini.com.

I could give the Sunday School answer where every answer, no matter what the question, is “Jesus.” And I am. And I don’t take that lightly or flippantly. But today I am thankful for blogging.

I don’t feel it is the star it once was, but I also believe everything comes back, so I’m not giving up on this. Blogging was the first avenue God showed me to test the writing waters. Everything about me is surrender oriented, and back then, fear paralyzed me. Fear of man, to be specific. I was so afraid of what people would think that I didn’t write for YEARS.

When I felt the stirring to write that would not stop, I knew I had to surrender the fear. I know this post is short compared to the level of fear I had to let go of. I prayed, I vented, I cried. I sought advice, and I received a mantra of sorts that I keep before me to this day. It set me FREE.

“Have the heart of a dove and the skin of a rhino.”

I’m a tad dramatic and a whole lot about giving God credit, so I went to blogger and started an account on December 31 at 11:30 PM. That little blog has changed to WordPress and seen lots of changes over the years, but one thing hasn’t changed. I love blogging. I love sharing my heart or what I’ve learned in order to encourage someone else. I love showcasing authors and organizations I believe in and I want people to know about.

Blogging changed my life, and I’m so thankful God gave me this vehicle to start with. I never thought when I hit “create” that not long after I would be an author. Now reviews are part of my life and although I don’t love low reviews, they don’t define me. God has done an amazing work in me, because that fear used to emotionally cripple me.

So, that’s what I’m thankful for.

How about you?

 

Let’s have fun! All this month I will be watching on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and my new subscribers for my monthly-0r-so newsletter. If you tag me @JulieArduini and tell me you’re #thankful or #juliearduinithankful, I’ll enter your name to win a copy of my fiction books. This includes Entrusted, Entangled, Engaged, You’re Beautiful and the boxed set of A Christmas to Remember (only available as eBook.)

If you live in the United States, you have the choice, if you are the one winner randomly chosen, of print (except A Christmas to Remember,) or eBook. If you are outside of the US, it is automatically eBook. 

I’ll add your name once a day for each shout out I receive (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, plus one total entry if you are a new subscriber to my newsletter.) You may or may not receive confirmation from me for those entries, and my random draw is final. If winner doesn’t respond after 30 days, I will choose another. I’m thankful for you.

 

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Don’t Forget! (by Hannah Alexander)

Hannah Alexander here to remind you that if you haven’t left notes for yourself everywhere in the house, and if you don’t typically know what day it is because your personal schedule is like ours–never the same day twice–this is the day! Time to vote! Mel and I  have voted. This is one of our civic freedoms.  Take advantage!

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What Are You Thankful For?

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When the calendar flips over to November, it seems that the times flies by to Thanksgiving, and then before you know it, Christmas. It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy surrounding the Christmas season and overlook the importance of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving began as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. A perfect time to look back on the year and give God thanks for all its blessings.

And what better time to kick-off the Christmas season than to give thanks for the greatest gift ever. The gift of Jesus.

This year, I am thankful for my husband and family. For good friends and the community, I live in, the freedom to worship in church each week without fear of being arrested or worse. I am thankful to have a roof over my head and food to eat. And I am thankful that I get to write the books I love to read. I am blessed beyond measure.

And at this time of year, I am thankful for the day of Thanksgiving as well because it gives me a day set aside to pause and look back on all the blessings of the year and give thanks to the one who created it all.

Have a blessed and thankful month!

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

 

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One Incident Changed Everything by Vicki Hinze

One incident changed everything, Vicki Hinze, christians read

Can one incident change everything?  Your whole life?

It can, and does for many. It did for Dr. Dana Perkins, a psychologist who taught Kindergarten because that’s where she felt she could do the most good for the kids.  Dana is all about the kids.  Getting them off on the right foot, giving them what they need to succeed in life.  Giving them a love for learning and all she’s got to help them become their best. And then tragedy strikes her school and it is the one incident that rocks her world, and that of the students. Her deepest fear becomes reality.

Innocence is lost. The kids learn the meaning of death, of loss and grief.  Dana struggles.  But the children…their burden is even heavier.  They don’t fully understand the finality of death.  When you’re young and lack experience nearly everything is new and different.  But when death occurs as a result of violence in the presence of kids… it’s life-changing. And for Dana, life-defining.

Kids are not shielded from the harsh reality of grief any more than adults.  They look to adults they trust and how they react to see how they should react.  And both need tools to cope.  To know it’s okay to be sad, to miss those who died.  Tools to protect themselves so they don’t always feel so vulnerable. They need to know they can heal and recover and continue on in life.  That it’s okay to laugh and play and be happy again.  It’s not an insult to those no longer with them.

Dana wants nothing more than to leave the school and forget what happened.  But she can’t abandon her students now. Not when they most need her. So she struggles, determined to give them what they need.  She’s a woman on a mission.

But that one incident changed everything.  For her and for the kids.  At the end of the school year, the kids moved on, and so did Dana—to Shutter Lake, where she accepted the position of principal at a new school. 

Shutter Lake.  The perfect town in a tranquil and calm community where there was no crime.  Exactly what Dana needed to heal.  And she was healing, had healed, until Sylvia Cole is murdered and Dana’s star student confesses to a crime Dana knows he did not commit.  Again her world is rocked…and then in attempting to prove his innocence it is rocked again…and again.  And yet again.  Because nothing is as it seems, and who knew behind the illusion of perfection, Shutter Lake was rife with life-altering, life-shattering illusions.  Who knew that the truth would rock not only Dana and her student but the entire town.  Because it seems everyone is trapped in lives with so many secrets…

An Excerpt from So Many Secrets by Vicki Hinze

 

Five days.

Impossible to believe but that’s all it had taken for the idyllic vision of Shutter Lake, California, lauded by Country Living as the most perfect town in all of America, to prove  perfection is a façade and all the safety and security sought and found in it had been an illusion.

One murder. Illusion shattered.

One murder, and so many secrets…

A shiver crept up Dr. Dana Perkins’s backbone.  She stiffened against it, determined to reclaim her sense of security here. At the deli counter inside Stacked, a block off downtown’s main square, she ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with a side salad and a bottle of Evian berry-flavored water, then glanced over to the cluster of two-dozen tables. About half-full. A lot of people were having a late lunch today.

Dana took a table surrounded by empties then settled in and reached for a sheaf of papers from her tote. She had been through the school records at least a dozen times, but maybe in the sandwich shop, she would be more objective, gain some new insight, and see something she had missed.

Oh, but she needed to be certain she hadn’t missed anything.  After Phoenix, to retain her sanity she had to be absolutely certain she hadn’t missed any warning sign.

There had to be a reason this year’s best and brightest student had confessed to murder.  Some logical, rational reason that Vinn Bradshaw, gifted future nanotechnologist, studious, popular basketball player, who exhibited nothing short of fantastic leadership skills, confessed.  Vinn could not have killed anyone much less a prominent Shutter Lake founder’s daughter like Sylvia Cole.

Nolan Ikard, about thirty, tall and lean with sandy blond hair and a handsome man’s confident swagger, paused at her table. Nolan owned The Grind, a coffee shop sharing a common wall with Stacked that Dana frequented every morning on her walk from home to the school.

“How’s our favorite principal?” Nolan asked. “Things settling down any at S.L.S.?”

Many students, current and former, referred to Shutter Lake School as S.L.S. “Getting better,” she said because it was expected and not because it was true.  “The students are still rattled, but then aren’t we all?”

He nodded and avoided her eyes, his own gold-flecked ones clouded and troubled. “Guess the kids won’t settle down until their parents do.  Maybe we will all get back to normal soon.”

“Maybe we will.”  Dana smiled.

He walked on to his favored table beside hers and next to the front window.  How many times in the last year had she seen him staring out that window as if he had lost his last friend?  She’d been tempted often to ask if he was okay, or to offer to listen if he needed to talk, but something had held her back.  She couldn’t say what, but she always followed her instinctive urges on things like that.  In his case, she hoped she didn’t live to regret it. 

A waitress Dana didn’t recognize delivered her order.  She must be from Grass Valley.  She hadn’t been one of Dana’s students.

That was a perk of being principal of a school with three-hundred students. You knew them, and they knew you. The other items on the waitress’s tray were Nolan’s.  Cuban sandwich and a side of slaw. A hint of citrus, garlic and a splash of white wine gave the mustard on his sandwich a distinct scent that set her mouth to watering. It smelled spicy and tart, interesting. It smelled great.

When the waitress placed his food on the small square table in front of him, Nolan barely glanced at her. That piqued Dana’s curiosity and fired a red-flag warning too bold to ignore.  Nolan Ikard not flirting with an eligible woman?  Normally, he’d flirt with a lamppost.  Oh, not offensive flirting, just friendly flirting.  It was as natural to him as breathing.  But not today.

Apparently his perfect façade of Shutter Lake also had shattered—and Dana certainly shouldn’t make too much of it. Everyone in the community seemed disturbed and wary and disillusioned these days.

Shifting her thoughts to her work, she studied the details in Vinn’s files and nibbled at her food, wishing she’d dared to order Nolan’s hot and spicy Cuban.  Stacked made the best sandwiches and slaw in the tri-county area, but with Dana’s stomach acting up since Vinn’s confession, she didn’t dare to risk eating anything not mild. 

About a third of the way through the teachers’ observation notes, she spotted KristinaSharapova’s name. Her image sprang to mind: long dark hair and eyes, pale skin and a mischievous smile that was nothing short of infectious because it was so rare. Kristinabent toward being serious, which was normal for a teenage Russian exchange student.  They competed so fiercely for the chance to come to Shutter Lake to study.

Thanks to the wealthy and childless benefactors, the Windermeres, there were always foreign exchange students at Shutter Lake School.  Attending there was an amazing opportunity for all the students really.  A group of the most gifted professionals in the world in science, medicine, and industry designed and created the nearly self-sustaining community and they often shared their vast pool of knowledge and expertise with the students.

Dana was proud of the program she and Mayor Thomas Jessup had created. In two short years, its success rate at preparing knowledgeable, socially mature and motivated graduates had surpassed expectations and her wildest dreams.

On Kristina’s first day with them, she had been like a fish out of water. Who wouldn’t be?  Strange school, no familiar friends or faces. Living in a strange country and speaking a foreign language. But Vinn Bradshaw had picked up on her uneasiness. Without prompting, he’d taken her under his wing and helped her fit in. They were, according to the file observation note, good friends.

Dana too had been wrong about that.  She reached into her tote for a pen, accidentally pulled out a large Ziploc bag, and smiled to herself.  Every teacher she’d ever known carried a waterproof bag in her handbag or tote. Old habits die hard.  Stuffing the frosted bag back in, she snagged the pen and then scribbled a new note on a page she had labeled “Things to tell Laney.”

Laney Holt was the Deputy Chief of Police and lead investigator on Sylvia Cole’s murder case. A beautiful young blond who favored long hair and ponytails over short red hair like Dana’s and, guessing, a year or two younger than Dana’s thirty-four.  Not just friends. She added the note to the list.

Laney Holt breezed by Dana’s table with an order of fries and a bottle of flavored water then dropped into a seat at Nolan’s table. 

He didn’t look happy to see her.

Gauging by the level look she laid on him, she wasn’t happy to see him either.   “I still need your DNA,” Laney told Nolan.

Dana didn’t deliberately listen but, when people seated three feet from you talk, unless you cotton-stuff your ears, you can’t help overhearing their conversation.

“Why?” Surprise flickered through Nolan’s eyes. “You’ve got your killer.  Word’s out all over the lake Vinn Bradshaw confessed.”

Laney finished chewing a fry, swallowed and then sipped from her water bottle.  “Paperwork,” she said. 

“You want my blood to check off a box to make sure your case sticks?” He shot her a resent-laced look of disgust.

“Exactly.”  Her lips curved in a smile that never touched her eyes.

“And?”  He pushed.

“And a witness saw a man fitting your description running away from Sylvia Cole’s house the night she was murdered.  Chief McCabe wants no loose ends.”

“I don’t care what McCabe wants.”  Nolan frowned. “You clowns get a description that fits half the men around here and naturally you come after me.”

Laney’s voice stiffened, but her expression appeared as calm as it had before the tension between them rocketed. “This clownis trying to eliminate you as a possibility, Ikard.”  She tilted her head.  “Wait a second.  Are you saying it was you?”

Silence.

Laney bit into another fry, let the silence stretch, yawn, settle.  Finally, she asked, “Did Sylvia tell you she was planning a vacation to Venezuela?”

Dana’s heart rate sped. She kept her nose down and her gaze focused on her papers. One night after Yoga class at the Community Gathering Center, Sylvia had told Dana about that trip.  A few weeks ago, Sylvia had even come to Dana’s cottage to see her mask collection. They’d talked for a few hours.  Before Phoenix and coming to Shutter Lake, Dana had loved to travel. She’d spent her summers exploring, including three trips to Venezuela.

Nolan answered Laney. “Sylvia didn’t tell me anything about any vacation anywhere.  We didn’t talk much.”

“So was it you—running away from her house that night?”

“No.”

As if she hadn’t heard him, Laney went on.  “There’s one thing I don’t understand.” She polished off her last fry, took a long draw on her water. “Why did you climb out of the window instead of leaving through the door?”

No answer.

She dusted the salt from her fingertips with a paper napkin.  “I get that Shutter Lake is a small community and maybe you two didn’t want to broadcast your intimate relationship, but…the window?”

“I told you.” Nolan’s jaw tightened and he leaned forward in his seat. “Sylvia and I were friends back in school.  It was a long time ago.  You knew her. That woman had no interest in a relationship with me or anyone else. She was as independent as people come.”

“Just in it for the sex. Got it.” Not one to cower, Laney leaned in, spoke to him nearly nose to nose. “So you went out the window to show her you’re independent, too.  Uh-huh. Well, that makes perfect sense.” Her sarcasm couldn’t be missed.  She scooted back her seat then stood up.  “You’ve got twenty-four hours to come to the station and handle that DNA sample.”

“Or what?” he said, his voice a sharp and cutting tone Dana had never before heard him utter. “No. You know what?  Forget it.”  He glared up at Laney.  “You want my DNA, get with my lawyer.”

“You have a lawyer?” Laney bared her teeth in a would-be smile. “Does he have a name?”

“Morris Barton.”

Her smile turned genuine. “Ah, here’s a tip.  You might want to start looking for a replacement. Barton is Vinn’s lawyer.”  She turned. “Twenty-four hours, Ikard.”

Nolan didn’t draw a breath until Laney exited the door of Stacked and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

Muttering and agitated, he finished his meal.

Dana ordered a cup of coffee, studied her papers with her mind whirling, and waited.

Finally, Nolan left and, when the door closed behind him, she phoned Laney.  “You need to come back to Stacked right away.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.  Just get back here as fast as you can.”  Dana caught the waitress two steps away from Nolan’s table.  “Don’t touch anything.”

The startled waitress jerked back and darted a worried look at Dana.  “What?”

“Don’t touch anything on that table.”  Dana hated this.  But Vinn’s whole future could ride on what happened next, and no one was going to rob him of it.  Not on her watch.

Scant minutes later, Laney entered Stacked and rushed straight over to Dana.  “What’s wrong?”

“I told you on the phone, nothing is wrong.”

Laney stilled, parked a hand on her hip.  “Then why am I here, Dana?”

“On TV, I saw an investigator going through a person of interest’s trash.  The can wasn’t on his property, it was at the curb, waiting for the collector.  He said once trash is abandoned, it’s legal for him to look in it for evidence.  Is that true?”

“Well, yes,” Laney said, looking a little bewildered.  “If it can be proven that it wasn’t contaminated.”

Dana rubbed an itch at her earlobe, tugging it.  “Meaning, no one else touched the abandoned trash?”

“Right.”

Dana nodded toward Nolan’s table.  “Well, Nolan Ikard abandoned his trash at that table and left Stacked.  His DNA is on that fork and glass.”

Laney’s eyes narrowed. “Has anyone—“

Dana cut in. “The waitress delivered his food, but since he abandoned the trash, the table and departed, no one else has come near that table.  It’s untouched,” Dana said.  “I’ll swear to it.”

Laney nodded, appreciation lighting her eyes. “Let me grab an evidence bag.”

Dana pulled the Ziploc from her purse.  “Here you go.”

A smile curled Laney’s lips. “How long has that puppy been in your purse?”

Good question.  One Dana couldn’t answer.  “Not a clue.”

“Best use mine, then.” Laney retrieved a bag and gathered the evidence.  She turned to the waitress. “You can clear the table now. Thanks for waiting.”

Dana gathered her papers and put them back into the sheath, then dumped the file into her tote.

Laney stepped over to her, the filled evidence bag in hand. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Why did you do this?” Laney’s sunglasses rested parked atop her head. 

“I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.  An opportunity rose, so…”

“You seized it.  I see.”  Laney faced Dana squarely.  “You’re convinced Vinn is innocent.”

“I know he is innocent, Laney.  Just as I know, until the real murderer is behind bars, I have three hundred other kids still in jeopardy.”

“How do you know Vinn’s confession isn’t real?  You’re a school principal and a psychologist, for heaven’s sake. You know better than most that given the right circumstances anyone can kill.”

“Yes, of course, I do. But Vinn didn’t.  For those same reasons, I know that, too,” Dana said quietly. “I just can’t prove it.”

Amazon:  So Many Secrets    Her Deepest Fear

* * *

A Note from Vicki:  I’m crazy about the BREAKDOWN series.  There are four suspense novels of women seeking Sylvia Cole’s murderer in Shutter Lake and four short reads about the one incident—that life-defining moment—that drove each of those women to Shutter Lake.

GIVEAWAY:C omment with your life-defining moment, follow me on Amazon or Bookbub and post that you have in comments, or sign up for my mostly monthly newsletter and you’ll have a chance to win a copy of her deepest fear and so many secrets!

Her Deepest Fear is a short clean read about the life-changing incident Dana experienced in Phoenix.

So Many Secrets is the clean read suspense novel that rocks Dana’s world over and again in Shutter Lake.

Blessings,

Vicki

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Citizens of Another Kingdom

Opinion by Jim Denney

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Fred Saberhagen, 1930-2007, author of the Berserker series (photo courtesy of Patricia Rogers, used under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license). 

I was reading a science-fiction story today by Fred Saberhagen. Titled “Stone Place,” it is a story in his futuristic Berserker series. The story contains this interesting exchange between two characters, a skeptical poet-warrior named Mitchell Spain and a devoutly religious commander named Karlsen:

“Poet,” Karlsen asked suddenly, “how do you deal with deadly enemies, when you find them in your power?”

“Don’t ask me,” Mitch said. “Ask your God. But didn’t He tell you to forgive your enemies?”

“He did.” Karlsen nodded, slowly and thoughtfully. “You know, He wants a lot from us.”

It was a peculiar sensation, to become suddenly convinced that the man you were watching was a genuine, nonhypocritical Believer. Mitch was not sure he had ever met the like before.

Karlsen, the Believer in the story, is right. God does want a lot from us. Jesus laid out what God wants from us in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 though 7 is all about how to be spiritually, eternally blessed. It’s about how to be salt in a tasteless world. It’s about how to be light in a darkened world. It’s about how we are to live together and treat one another.

In a real sense, it’s about one all-important issue: How to be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. A citizen of Heaven doesn’t think or act like a citizen of this world. A citizen of Heaven thinks and acts the way Jesus did.

Jesus tells us that He is a King, but His kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven, and it operates by a different set of rules than earthly kingdoms.

Again and again in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts earthly expectations against heavenly principles. The world tells us that the powerful and exalted are blessed. Jesus tells us that, in His kingdom, the humble, the afflicted, the merciful, the pure, and the persecuted are blessed.

The Sermon on the Mount is a study in contrasts. You’ve heard it said, “Do not murder,” but Jesus says, “Do not even hate!” You’ve heard it said, “An eye for an eye,” but Jesus says, “Bless your enemies. Forgive those who do you harm.” You’ve heard it said, “Do not commit adultery,” but Jesus says, “If you even lust in your heart, you are already guilty.” Again and again, Jesus challenges our thinking with heavenly thinking.

To think like Jesus, we must learn to think in new ways, and our lives must reflect this new way of thinking. We can’t engage in all the hate, rage, and bitterness we see on social media and the cable news channels and the halls of Congress. We must work to heal the divisions we see all around us. We must forgive those who attack us because of our religion, our race, our values, our political views, and on and on. We must forgive and love as He forgave and loved us.

We live in the world, but we are not of the world. We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

___________________________________

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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Reader-Shared Recommended Reads by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Reader Recommended Reads, ChristiansRead.com

At Christians Read, I receive news of recommended reads often.  While I can’t possibly read them all without reading 24/7, I can pass along some of them so that maybe you’ll find books that interest you.

Recent Recommendations I’ve received are:

Description (courtesy of Amazon)

Ghosts.  One is laughing down from heaven.  One wears rags.  One is falling in love with her.

Melanie’s faith is shaken.
Her husband Larry is dead. They had only been married a few hours before he was arrested. Will her best friend Natalie be enough? Who will understand about Larry’s crime, his deception and how he died? Surely not her new friend Robert who lost his wife to cancer; no deception there. Just sadness.
Should she believe the homeless old woman who claims to be Larry’s estranged mother, calling herself Melanie’s mother-in-law? Especially when the raggedy old lady stalks her and camps on her doorstep. Why did the woman abandon her son and husband over thirty years ago? Robert gives her empathy and support . . . until his own secret is revealed.
All Melanie has left of Larry is the gorgeous blue diamond ring!
Her special group of friends, the Candy Canes, promise to pray for her. But, is prayer enough? She counts on all of them for support and answers! The love of a dog with her shaggy fur, big eyes and her kisses may have to be enough.
Larry, his homeless mother, and even Robert, all haunt her. Her only normalcy is teaching the adorable three-year-olds in her preschool class. Maybe little Jackson will help put the ghosts to rest.

 

SPECIAL NOTE:  Today, 11/1:  The Melanie Stories (Melanie’s Blue Skirt and Melanie’s Ghosts are on sale at Kindle in a 2 for 1 book duo sale.  $0.99.  Amazon Kindle


 

Dana Mentink is a guest on Jo Huddleston’s blog:  https://bit.ly/2P2zokk .  Dana is a national bestselling author with 35 or so books to her credit.  Suspense and romance.  She’s being interviewed, and her JUNGLE FIRE appears.

 

 

 


Mary Burton’s CUT AND RUN 

Christian Suspense.  Separated twin sisters are reunited by unspeakable crimes in a “throat-clutching” suspense novel.

 

 


This sweet and clean romantic comedy by Kathy Carmichael is a great way to “get your merry on.”

CEO Nat Danvers has good looks, money, power, prestige—everything—except the one thing he really needs. But only in the loneliest corners of his frozen heart is he aware something is missing. Christmas Eve arrives to find Nat alone in his penthouse office, filling out layoff notices while his employees unknowingly celebrate at the office holiday party. In breezes the most incredibly beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Daphne, part angel, part human, has been sent by the Angelic Council to teach Nat some tough lessons in the hope his hardened heart will melt. She has only one night in which to help him. With the clock ticking before he must go, can love find a way to touch them both?

Find it ON SALE here for $0.99.


A Psychological thriller by Ninie Hammon.

It’s been described this way:

“If you’re a fan of fast-paced action, tangled plots, believable characters and themes that will challenge some of your most cherished beliefs, don’t start this book at bedtime –or you could be in for an all-nighter.”

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?  You can find more on it here.

 

If you like these shared recommendations, please drop a comment below to let me know. And if you’d like to recommend a book, feel free to email me at: https://vickihinze.com/contact

Blessings,

Vicki

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World Traveler in My Own Backyard by Tara Randel

One of the perks of living here in Florida is being able to use my Disney Annual Pass. Orlando isn’t far away, so my daughter and I will jump in the car and head over for a few hours of fun. Since I’m not a world traveler, I can visit countries like Italy, France or Germany, to name a few, at Epcot. Just last week we went over for the Food and Wine Festival and tasted different foods from around the world. The culinary choices are awesome and well prepared, the portions are just the right size to taste but not fill you up. We ate while we walked around the entire park and never felt stuffed. Definitely worth the trip.

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I can also visit exotic places like Asia or Africa. Our favorite attraction is the Kilimanjaro Safaris. We love seeing the animals up close and personal. In June of this year, a female giraffe named Aella was born. So cute! She happened to be out on the savanna as our tour passed by.

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Every time we go on the safari ride, we have a wonderful encounter. Last year, we took the tour at sunset. In the lion enclosure, a female was resting on top of a boulder. The tour guide was telling us that the female makes a loud purring sound. As if on cue, the lion sat up and started making the sound. Not a roar, exactly, but it was loud enough to carry to our bus. The entire group went quiet and my daughter was able to record the lion. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

Here are just a few pictures of the incredible animals we’ve been able to see on our trips.

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If you’ve never been to the Animal Kingdom, and you love animals, it’s worth the trip. There are walking trails where you can take your time and watch the birds or animals in their native habitat. Not the same as going to the actual countries of origin, but fun just the same. At least I can drive home and sleep in my own bed after a day trip!

 

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nineteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her Harlequin Heartwarming romance, THE LAWMAN’S SECRET VOW and her Christmas Town romance, OUR CHRISTMAS PROMISE, both available now.  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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Football and Faith: Remembering Reggie White, the Green Bay Packers’ Minister of Defense

Opinion by Jim Denney

The called him The Minister of Defense. Whether he was preaching or playing football, Green Bay Packers defensive end Reggie White always worked hardest on Sundays.

InTheTrenches-ReggieWhite-CroppedIn the spring of 1996, I spent several days with Reggie, working with him on his football-and-faith memoir, IN THE TRENCHES. It was a fascinating few days, and I got to know Reggie, his wife Sara, and his children Jeremy and Jecolia. He told me about the injury he had suffered just three months earlier—a torn hamstring which should have ended his season. And he told me about the miraculous healing he experienced, which enabled him to play again after missing only one game.

The Packers team physician, Dr. McKenzie, had scheduled Reggie for surgery to reattach the torn hamstring. But shortly before Christmas 1995, Reggie was playing with his kids in the living room by the Christmas tree when he suddenly felt the strength come back to his leg. He flexed the leg, walked on it, then ran on it. The more he exercised it, the better it felt. Then he went to Coach Mike Holmgren’s house and told him he was ready to play. And he was.

Dr. McKenzie couldn’t explain it, nor could Coach Holmgren. According to the MRI of his leg, Reggie shouldn’t have been able to walk, much less play football. But on the football field, he was as powerful as ever.

The following season, Reggie and the Packers went all the way to Super Bowl XXXI (January 26, 1997). Reggie set a Super Bowl record of three sacks in a single game, and won a championship ring. And he never had the operation to reattach the hamstring.

Fast-forward eight years.

The morning after Christmas Day 2004, my family and I were in a hotel room in Ojai, California, where we were visiting relatives for the holidays. I stood in front of the muted TV, getting dressed, when I saw Reggie’s picture on the screen. I said to my wife, “Hey, they’ve got a story about Reggie—” Then I was shaken to see the caption under Reggie’s photo: “Reggie White, 1961-2004.”

I sat down, grabbed the remote, and un-muted the TV. The announcer said that Reggie had died in his sleep, having suffered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia. He was 43.

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Reggie’s jersey at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, photo by Erik Daniel Drost, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Back in 1996, I had watched Reggie work out on the Stairmaster in the private gym behind his home. I remembered feeling the concrete floor tremble beneath my feet. At six-foot-five and 290 pounds, Reggie White was the most powerful human being I had ever met in my life. He seemed indestructible.

Now he was gone. I couldn’t believe it.

I thought about Sara, Jeremy, and Jecolia. And I thought about Reggie’s Christmas miracle—how he had experienced a healing while he was at home, playing with his children. Why should a man like Reggie receive a miracle at one point in his life—then die so young the morning after Christmas 2004? I couldn’t understand it. I still can’t.

But I remember what Reggie told me when we talked together about his miracle of healing: “God didn’t do this for Reggie White. I didn’t ask God to heal me—I couldn’t believe he would do that. But other people prayed for me to be healed, and God answered so that people’s lives would be impacted.”

And many lives—including mine—were certainly impacted by Reggie White. That’s why, every fall when football season rolls around, I remember Reggie, and I send up a prayer for Sara, Jeremy, and Jecolia.

___________________________________

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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Peaceful Wife and Peaceful Mom by Bridget A. Thomas

Recently I read two books by April Cassidy – The Peaceful Wife and The Peaceful Mom. I must say, both books are a treasure. They are like handbooks for Christian wives and Christian mothers. In today’s culture, it can be very difficult to be the Christian wife and mother that God intended for us to be. There are so many things we encounter each and every day that steal our peace. This causes us to worry and become anxious. And then, in turn, it has a negative effect on our families.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! If we make God the center of our lives, He can help us to live more peaceful lives. And reading April’s books will help tremendously on this path.

These books cover key topics for every Christian woman. Whether you are tired of trying to balance everything, or someone who thinks she has it all figured out, I believe you will get a lot of insight out of these books. There were so many tidbits that I wanted to re-read in the books, that I decided it was best just to read them both again. April has such an extraordinary gift, you will feel more peaceful, just by reading her words.

April also has two blogs that are a powerful resources for Christians women, Peaceful Wife and Peaceful Single Girl. So many young women in today’s world have no guidance on how to be the lady that God intended. We are all going to make mistakes. But through April’s resources, I honestly feel this can help alleviate many of our stumbling blocks. And the guys are not excluded. April’s husband also has a blog Peaceful Husband.

So if you are looking for a good book to read, I recommend both of April’s books. They also would make nice gifts for newly married ladies or new moms. Happy Reading!

 

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Blocked Peace by Julie Arduini

Blocked Peace by Julie ArduiniChristians Read_edited

I’m always on the lookout for an opportunity to learn via the everyday things. Recently I had one of those moments thanks to a Peace Race.

I heard on the news that there would be a Peace Race, but I didn’t pay much attention beyond thinking how cold those runners would be. I didn’t think about their route because I take an obscure one to reach church on Sundays.

I should have paid attention.

I stopped counting after I was blocked three times. It wasn’t just a delay waiting for runners to pass, the road was blocked and patrolled by police. There was no warning this was coming, and the road wasn’t very wide. Bigger vehicles made for a bigger block by trying to turn and go back.

While I sat, I watched a few cars approach, only to be turned away. Even the media wasn’t given access to pass the barrier.

It was observing this unfold that I realized how similar my path to peace receives similar blocks and delays.

Peace is hard to describe but it’s obvious when it’s flowing. When I have peace, a bad hair day or the dog deciding to do his business inside the house doesn’t ruin my day. It’s a sense that if I could give an anthem for peace it would be, “Not today, Satan.”

But how the true defeated one tries. If you have peace, you’re going to praise. The enemy of our soul knows what that’s like, and he can’t be around it. He literally has to flee. He’s not stupid, though. If he can rob your peace, he’s going to take your praise.

Sometimes my peace is blocked by my own doing. Those three letters. S-I-N. It’s easy to justify and we may even get a pass from those that love us, but the reality is when we miss the target, as I have taught my kids, we’ve left God’s covering and started venturing on our own. The true defeated one doesn’t want you to know the real consequences of rebellion but I hate the thought of being an inch out of God’s will. Yet, I often choose it with my pride, mouth, or a host of other sins that bring me down.

Our teen daughter remarked yesterday that at school a classmate shared that there was more going on than a race. If true, there actually had been criminal activity and the police were in pursuit of someone. That was such a visual to me. Runners trying to run for the sake of peace and yet a crime might have been right in their vicinity.

If the story is accurate, our daughter told me that the person ended up surrendering at the police station. Ah, another great visual. I’ve messed up often and although it takes a lot of humility, the smartest thing we can do when we’ve sinned is confess. Surrender.

If you feel your peace has been blocked, go to your Heavenly Father. Ask Him to show you what’s going on. He’s not a secret keeper. He longs to share the deepest most intimate things with you. Perhaps it’s the defeated one trying to take your praise. Maybe you missed the mark and are in need of a good confession.

Whatever the situation, don’t stop running or praising!

Speaking of running, our daughter is part of a fabulous organization called I Run 4. They are in need of buddies like our daughter who has a special needs diagnosis/disability. There are as many as 2,000 runners waiting to be matched with a buddy, and they are waiting as long as two years. We were matched in a day. Our runner dedicates her runs/races/workouts to our daughter and thinks/prays for her while she’s getting her sweat on. That’s it. It’s a great encouragement and such a sense of community. You can read more HERE.

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A Christmas to Remember has been such a blessing, and I wanted to remind you this boxed set is only available for a limited time. It’s .99, or free for Kindle Unlimited. If you know anyone who enjoys Christmas novellas, the collection contains eight Christian romances. Get yours today!

 

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Clinging to Security? (by Hannah Alexander)

What you see above is a highway built into the side of a mountain. To me, it looked like a precarious perch. We drove on it anyway, but kept our eyes closely on the road. Sure, we like to be able to trust the engineers who built this highway–and to trust our driving abilities–but there are times I just have to trust in God and move forward. Humans are fallible. God is not. Maybe it feels sometimes that He is, but He has proven over and over again that He can be trusted. His ways are not always our ways–maybe they aren’t even often our ways–but I’ve found in the past that His ways are directed by His knowledge. Our knowledge is always incomplete.

Has there been a time in life when you felt as if you were hanging onto a slender thread of hope and didn’t know how much longer you could hold, that God had let you down, failed, turned His back on you? Have you felt that God finally decided He’d had enough of you and that you were no longer worthy of His care?

Some of my friends have so much faith that they seem to never doubt even when life is crumbling around them. I would love to count myself among them but I can’t do that in good conscience. There have been times when I knew God was there but I thought maybe I wasn’t having enough faith for Him to use me. Only after those times, while looking back, did I realize that God was working to build my life into something else, something more. He has the long-term plans. I only have short-term, for the most part.

I shared this picture a few weeks ago. If you cannot see it clearly, it’s a picture I took of a little tree growing up through a rock in the water. Right now I’m thinking that sometimes this tree symbolizes my life. The rock is the state of the world–seems pretty difficult for spiritual growth, isn’t it? But there is power and nourishment coming from the river, and despite all hardship, life thrives. We don’t do this ourselves. God provides the life.

God works in our lives sometimes despite our lack of feelings of faith. He is God. He isn’t tossed around by the whims of our emotions. I don’t cling to my emotions–feelings of faith, feelings of love, feelings of strength–for sustenance. God works in my life no matter the state of my emotions during moments of doubt or fear, or even moments of joy and hope. God is the bedrock of our lives.

I realize there is a lot of conflict going on for many of us right now. We don’t know what direction our country is going to take, and we tire of the battle, the anger, the hostilities. Some of us have personal lives that appear to be turning to dust. We’ve lost so much and it seems we just keep losing more. How much more can we take?

Just remember that it takes a lifetime to become what God intends for us to be. A lifetime and more. He is honing us to His plan, and He has us in His hand. In the end we will look back on our lives and be able to say, “Oh, so that’s what was happening there! I get it now. Thank you, Lord!”

 

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