It’s all over…

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We spend weeks, if not longer, preparing for this special holiday and then it all comes down to one day. It goes by too fast. Yet hopefully, the spirit of Christmas will live in our hearts the whole year long.

By now, the presents have all been unwrapped. The meal has been served. Family is gone. Christmas is over. But Christmas isn’t the ending, it’s just the beginning. That little Baby in the manager didn’t stay a Baby. He grew up. Preformed so many miracles. Changed many lives, and then died on a cross. Then three days later, He rose from that grave to insure that those who put their trust in Him will see Him again in heaven. What an amazing gift.

So, as the New Year begins and the decorations are all put away, don’t forget, while Christmas may be over, it really is just the beginning.

 

All the best…

 

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

 

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Celebrating Christmas Present

A Christmas Carol painting by Dean Morrisey

By Marilyn Turk

In the famous Dickens’ story, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three spirits – the ghost of Christmas Past, the ghost of Christmas Present, and the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read many blog posts, and one recurring theme is the focus on Christmases past. These memories are part of what makes Christmastime so special. We love the nostalgia it brings. We remember family gatherings from Christmases in our past, and we recognize decorations that stir memories of the person or place they came from.

These memories are often bittersweet. We miss the family members who are no longer with us. And although we appreciate the adults they’ve become, we still miss the innocence of our children when they were young. Our minds drift back in time, and part of us wants to go back with it.

However, it is often those memories that can make us depressed at this time of year. Knowing we can’t go back is a fact of life the child in us doesn’t want to accept. We can get so caught up in the past that we fail to enjoy the present.

Lately, I found myself in this situation, and I discovered that those memories were preventing me from experiencing the joy of today. I realized that if I don’t uproot my mind from the past, I could very well miss the wonder of Christmas now.

So in case you’re dealing with some melancholy like I was, here’s some tips to turning your attitude around.

  1. Be thankful for good Christmas memories.
  2. See Christmas through the eyes of a child, whether your own, your grandchild, a relative, a neighbor, put yourself in the child’s shoes and feel the excitement that youth feels.
  3. Get out of the house. As long as the weather outside is not “frightful,” or you’re unable, go some place where other people are – a coffee shop, a mall (unless traffic is a deterrent), where you can be around other people in a festive mood.
  4. Watch a happy Christmas movie. Hallmark Channel has them nonstop this month.
  5. Go visit a friend and bring him/her something – cookies, candy, something simple that shows you care.
  6. Go caroling. Or just play some Christmas music.
  7. Get involved in a community project to help others this time of year – the Empty Stocking Fund or other local campaigns to provide gifts for the less-fortunate.
  8. Decorate your house! I’ve heard some people say that since they don’t have kids in the house anymore or they’re going away for the holidays, there’s no need to decorate. Humbug! You may not need to do as much as you used to, but put something festive up. Burn a scented candle that has a holiday scent.
  9. Wear something festive, even if it’s goofy. If you can make others laugh, you’ll smile too.
  10. Make cookies for your neighbors.
  11. And last, but most importantly, be thankful for Christmas and what it represents, the son of God come to earth as a human, born as a baby to be our Messiah, our Savior. Put out a nativity and read the Christmas story out loud. Then watch this video that tells the story from a child’s perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suowe2czxcA

Celebrate this Christmas, Christmas Present, so in your Christmases Yet to Come, you won’t have any regrets of Christmas Past.

 

May your Christmas be blessed, and your joy be full!

 

 

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A Gift That Keeps on Giving by Margaret Daley

A Gift That Keeps on Giving

By Margaret Daley

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It’s the Christmas season, and if you are like me, you have to decide what to give people on your Christmas list. Sometimes that can be a difficult task, especially for people who have “everything.” I have a gift that can go across all generations and it covers a wide area of interest: a book.

A book can either be fiction, non-fiction or a combination of both. You can discover what a person likes to read, and then you can find a Christian book that covers that subject or genre. If a friend or family member is dealing with a difficult situation, you can give them a book that deals with the same type of problem. It can be a non-fiction book concerning the subject–like grief. But that same subject can be in a fiction book where the story shows how the characters handle their grief, what problems they encounter and how they go through the stages of grieving.

At American Christian Fiction Writer’s FictionFinder.com website, you can put in a subject, geographical area, a time period, and/or a social issue and search for fiction books that cover them. For instance, my book, Shattered Silence, is about bullying. If you are looking for a book about dealing with bullies, you could check the list of social issues for all the books on the site that deal with bullying.

Shattered Silence

Another way to get a specific book on a subject or genre for a person you want to buy a gift for is to talk with a salesperson at a Christian bookstore. The staff will often know what others have been reading, recommending and saying about certain books. The staff can be a great resource to help you pick the right book for a gift for someone on your list.

Why give a Christian book for a present? It is a personal gift, one you’ve put thought into. There is an array of topics that have books covering them whether fiction or non-fiction. Books can be given to all ages, male and female. A book whether purely entertaining or informational gives something to the reader–spiritual depth, affirmation of his faith, enjoyment and knowledge. Giving a Christian book is an extension of your stewardship, a way for you to spread the Word. What a great gift to give a person you care about, not just at Christmas but also throughout the year.

I’ve been writing for over thirty years. In 2000 I was led to write for the Lord, but I resisted at first because I didn’t think I had what it took to write a story with a faith element in it–to help others with their faith. But God had other ideas. He kept giving me stories perfect for the Christian fiction market–stories about forgiveness, redemption, trusting the Lord, hope and many other themes involving faith. I want to leave the reader uplifted. My writing is my ministry, and from letters I have received, I’ve helped people with some of their problems but also entertained them in the process. That is the power of a book.

Come join me with giving books for this Christmas to your loved ones and friends. I have been buying some throughout the year to give. With four granddaughters, I especially want to give them books to read. I’ve gained so much enjoyment from reading over the years. It’s important for me to pass it on to my granddaughters and what better books than Christian ones–clean, well written and faith based.

So make out a shopping list of types of books you can get for different people on your Christmas list and head for your nearest Christian bookstore. You can’t go wrong. Books are the gifts that keep on giving. They can be shared and reread. Have a merry Christmas.

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Peace with Politics by Julie Arduini

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I think it’s safe to write that 2017 was anything but boring. On a national level we inaugurated a new president, weathered literal storms and fires, mourned loss through senseless tragedy, discovered a lot of secret sin played out in public, and more I’m probably forgetting.

Just last week a lot of attention was focused on an election with polar reactions. People were either elated, or quite upset.

What a year.

Especially with the elections and government, I watched my Facebook feed turn pretty nasty. It saddened me, but I also had to be careful. I tend to get caught up in negativity and gossip, so one way I avoided a lot of drama was changing the settings. A few people went from friends to acquaintances, so I didn’t have to get involved, yet I didn’t unfriend. I tried to keep in mind that it’s great to live in a country where we can have opinions without the fear of imprisonment or worse, and that when people share so deeply, that shows passion. That overall can be a good thing.

The challenge was the negativity lasted more than a season. It has been on-going, and tensions are high. With the Christmas season, it is important to me to focus on the Good News, not the fake, or the mean. How is that possible?

“For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6, NLT, Biblegateway.com

It’s a verse so associated with Christmas that it’s easy to overlook it. Do you see it?

The government will rest on his shoulders.

The Christmas Child is not only Our Savior, He’s our Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace. AND—-the government will rest on his shoulders.

Not mine. Not CNN. Not Fox. Not on the president of this country or the ruler of North Korea. Everything that is going on in politics is not for me to worry about. Care? I do, deeply. But the burden is on Him, not me. What a freeing feeling!

Knowing this, my journal is filled with prayer requests I lift up for salvations, wisdom, discernment, provision, and safety for our leaders and their families. The division, negativity, and hate that I am seeing and reading, that’s not where my focus is. My eyes are above because I have faith. I have to believe Jesus has this under control. When I doubt, and I definitely waver, I look to this verse.

Not only does it say the government is on His shoulders, it says it will rest there. Not spin out of control on His shoulders. Not flail or fight, but rest.

That changes everything for me, even when I want to find a reason to join the commentary. Instead, I avoid the drama the best I can and take it all to my prayer closet.

And the peace I’ve had regarding this has been more than a season. It has been on going.

And it’s helped me enjoy a beautiful Christmas season.

I wish you all Christ’s peace this Christmas and beyond. Thank you so much for being a part of Christians Read!

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What’s Your Direction?

Where does this road lead?

I love paths, roads, trails, anything that takes me to a place I’ve never been before, and often I stay on a trail a little longer than expected because I can never resist discovering what is just around the far bend in the distance. In fact, I have a tradition that I didn’t realize had become a tradition until a few years ago. I take a Christmas hike in the snow any time I can find snow. It makes any familiar trail look brand new. But I don’t always get snow, so I don’t depend on it. I still get out there. That’s one of my favorite celebrations of Christmas.

Getting outside and following some kind of trail–be it highway, dirt road, or foot path–draws me closer to God. It’s where I commune best with him, and the farther I am from civilization, the closer I feel to God. I feel safe following a hiking trail, perhaps because I always believe I’m in God’s hands at that time, and whatever happens won’t be out of His will. But that’s just me. You likely have other ways to commune with Christ.

Have I ever gotten lost? Oh, yeah. My pet phrase several years ago was “One-hill-short-of-the-trail.” That’s because, when I would take friends hiking with me, I didn’t always take a familiar path. Sometimes we would have to go cross-country down to the nearest creek and follow it out to the next road. I was always saying, “I think the trailhead is just over this next hill.” I never lost a friendship over it. In fact, when I was dating Mel, I let him get me lost one Sunday afternoon.

He was new to hiking and didn’t know the hills like I thought I did. He chose a different direction from the one I’d have chosen, and we ended up wandering around in hills and forests I didn’t even know existed–for hours. We were totally lost. I tore the seat of my jeans, he got poison ivy and pulled a muscle, and we did begin to wonder if we would get back to the car before dark. We even stopped and prayed at one point because I honestly had no idea which direction we were headed. I liked Mel so much by that time that I was really frightened that I might have convinced him I wasn’t the right person for him.

I was late for a Bible study class that evening, and walked in to hear someone praying for my wayward, selfish soul because I was obviously not dedicated enough to God to get to class on time. Oops. She would have never understood that I’d been communing with God all afternoon. That’s not her fault. Not everyone shares my passion for hiking.

Mel didn’t judge me so harshly. He proved to be an adventurous hiking companion, and has proven to be a wonderful life companion.

I feel the same way about life that I do about hiking. I like new trails to explore, and I like to experience new places and situations. Our move away from our entrenched home in Southwestern Missouri after living there for decades has been fascinating, challenging, and has sometimes made me wonder if I’m getting too old for all this change. I’ve learned a lot, met wonderful new people, and discovered that there is life outside out own little world in the tiny town where we lived our whole married life. I’ve also discovered that the challenges of exploring new frontiers (for us) has enriched our marriage.

But how about you? We’re drawing close to a new year, when some of us will set out a strategy for the future, make resolutions, even make some life changing decisions. Is there something in your life you haven’t yet explored fully? Is there a virtual trail you haven’t followed that makes you curious about what’s around that far bend?

You might be looking for a special book to read, or you might be deciding on a life mate. You might be moving to a different house, even in a different town, or perhaps a different state. It can be frightening if you aren’t accustomed to moving a lot. Mel and I were both born in western states and moved with our parents to SW Missouri when we were children. Boy, did we ever encounter culture shock. That experience has served us well because we know there are different ideas and attitudes in every region of the country. Change can be difficult in ways we can’t imagine, but it can also bring new life to our hearts. It can give us new vistas to appreciate, even some wonderful surprises.

If you’re dreading a change of any kind in your life, give it to God first. Ask Him to guide you each step of the way. If you delight yourself in Him–talk to Him, share a relationship with Him, listen to Him, read His word–then He will give you the desires of your heart. I’ve discovered that He knows the desires of my heart much better than I do. I’ve found this to be true in some of the most painful, frightening times in my life. He hasn’t left my side. He won’t leave yours. Walk with Him into that change and rejoice.

Have a wonderful, blessed Christmas.

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The Countdown Is On by Tara Randel

ChristmasIt seems like everywhere you turn, Christmas is upon us. Not that this is a bad thing, but it can get overwhelming. The season is very busy, so much going on with children and school events, church socials and musicals, family obligations, work deadlines, the list goes on. Sometimes it feels as though the very reason we celebrate this special day, to experience the joy and peace and wonder of the birth of Jesus, passes us by because of too many activities.

Now that the children are grown, I don’t have quite as many commitments this time of year and to be honest, I’m glad. Spending a quiet night at home, with the Christmas tree lights on, is enough to satisfy me. I l gaze at the twinkling lights and think about all the wonderful things the Lord has done for me this year. I can reflect on my relationship with Jesus without all the hubbub sapping my time and energy. I sometimes wonder, shouldn’t this be what the holiday is all about?

Trust me, I’m not all humbug. I still love to see excitement on children’s faces. And one day when I have grandchildren, I’m sure I’ll jump back into the busyness found this time of year. But for now, I’ll sit back with a cup of tea and a good book. Or I’ll contemplate continuing my journey with the Lord in the new year.

So, a few tips to get through the stress of the season.

Breathe. If you’re in traffic, waiting in a long line at the store, or bumping into other shoppers, stop and take a deep breath. You’ll feel better.

Smile. Everyone is in such a hurry that sometimes common courtesy is lost. I make a real effort to smile at the cashiers and compliment them if possible, because they deal with the general public all day.

Take five minutes to sit by the tree and relax. Enjoy the twinkling lights. Maybe pull one of your children onto your lap or cuddle with that special someone.

Pray. In your travels you’re bound to come across a harried parent or someone who needs a lift during the holiday preparations. Lifting our prayers for someone else certainly puts put own circumstances in perspective.

These small steps aren’t hard to accomplish, but I believe they’ll give you a fresh perspective this Christmas. Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

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I’m pleased to announce my newest Harlequin Heartwarming, HIS ONE AND ONLY BRIDE, available January 2018.

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He never thought he’d see her again.

After being reported missing, and presumed dead, globe-hopping photojournalist Mitch Simmons never thought he’d see his estranged wife Zoe again. Yet here he is, back in their coastal Florida town where Zoe is mayor. Turns out she isn’t the only one he left behind.

Discovering he has a baby son awakens thrilling new emotions in Mitch. And there are his still-powerful feelings for the high school sweetheart he vowed to love and honor forever. Thankfully, they’ll have the chance to find the love that was always there…

To celebrate the release, click here to enter my Goodreads giveaway to win one of three signed print copies-going on now until Jan 2.

Pre-order: Amazon

 

Still Available.

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Amazon

iTunes

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Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen 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 next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS ONE AND ONLY BRIDE, available January 2018 and her Christmas Town novella in the holiday collection, HEARTWARMING HOLIDAY WISHES, available now.  Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books.

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The Harvey Weinstein of Star Trek

By Jim Denney

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was the first to fall. In early October 2017, several courageous women stepped forward and accused Weinstein of various acts of sexual misconduct including sexual harassment, assault, and rape. So far, more than eighty women have joined in the accusations. Weinstein was fired from the motion picture company he co-founded, and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He may soon face criminal charges in Los Angeles, New York, and London.

The fall of Harvey Weinstein has led many other women to share their experiences and name powerful sexual predators in the entertainment industry, the news media, and the halls of government. In the past, women have bravely come forward to tell their stories only to be ignored, threatened, or ridiculed. For years, powerful men like Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, and Bill O’Reilly got away with the abuse or exploitation of women because no one would listen to their accusers.

LongestTrek

The Longest Trek by Grace lee Whtiney, with Jim Denney.

Today, women are being heard because of a phenomenon called “the Weinstein effect.” They are sharing their experiences with the world on social media under the hashtag #MeToo. The downfall of Harvey Weinstein has tilted the scales of justice in favor of victims instead of rich and powerful predators.

As a result, many previously unsuspected abusers have been identified and toppled: Today show host Matt Lauer, TV host Charlie Rose, Congressman John Conyers, Alabama senatorial nominee Roy Moore, Senator Al Franken, actor Danny Masterson, Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons, theater director Israel Horovitz, comedian Louis C.K., actor Kevin Spacey, NPR news editor David Sweeney, DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza, Disney-Pixar animation chief John Lasseter, motion picture producer-director Brett Ratner, and screenwriter-director James Toback, to name a few.

I hope this cultural shift is permanent. I hope we never go back to a time and place where predatory men can sexually violate people under their influence and intimidate them into silence. This issue is deeply, personally important to me for several reasons.

First, I’m a husband, father, and grandfather. If I learned that one of these predators had come after my wife, daughter, or granddaughter, I would want to use every legal and moral means to make him wish he hadn’t. And I want justice for all the wives, daughters, and granddaughters who have been used and abused by the likes of Harvey Weinstein, John Conyers, Roy Moore, and the rest.

Second, in the early 1990s, I was negotiating a multi-book deal with a major publisher and an author who was also a pastor. I was to take this pastor’s sermons and turn them into books. As we were about to go to contract on the multi-book deal, I learned that several women in his church had made accusations of sexual misconduct against this pastor. Later, more accusers came forward. I terminated the book deal and I learned a lot about how to spot a sexual predator — and the importance of holding them accountable so they can’t harm more victims.

Third, in 1997, I worked with actress Grace Lee Whitney on her autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy. Grace portrayed Yeoman Janice Rand of the Starship Enterprise, the simmering love interest for Captain James T. Kirk.

In her book, Grace told a harrowing story of being raped by a studio executive during the production of Star Trek. On Friday, August 26, 1966, the Star Trek cast and crew completed the day’s shooting and called a halt for the weekend. They were halfway through the filming of “Miri,” the eleventh episode of the series (though it would be the eighth segment aired, because episodes were shown out of order).

As was the custom on the Star Trek set, every Friday ended with a party. Cast, crew, and executives would gather for drinks and conversation and laughs. During the party, an important and powerful studio executive took Grace aside. He said he wanted to talk to her about expanding her role on the Star Trek series.

He suggested they leave the party and go over to the E Building on the Desilu studio lot, where they wouldn’t be disturbed. They went and found an unlocked office, then settled in and began talking. He had been drinking. So had she.

Grace goes on to explain how this man first attempted to seduce her, using a combination of alcohol and glib talk, until she finally realized why he had maneuvered her into an empty office in an empty building, late at night. Once his real intentions became clear, it was too late for her to escape. This man had complete power over her future. He could make her or break her professionally. As she resisted him, he became increasingly more violent, until she feared for her life.

Finally, she stopped resisting, and he proceeded to rape her.

A few days later, after she completed work on “Miri,” her agent called and told her she had been fired from the show. Her firing could have only been ordered by the man who had sexually assaulted her. Grace Lee Whitney’s character, Yeoman Rand, had a brief part in the next episode, “The Conscience of the King” — an appearance lasting less than ten seconds. Then she was out — gone from the show before the first episode aired.

The book tells the story of her descent into alcoholism and self-destruction — and how a miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ while visiting her son in Israel set her on the road to recovery. Of all the books I’ve written, The Longest Trek is one of my favorites by far. More than a Hollywood memoir, it’s the story of a woman’s journey through sexual abuse, alcoholism, and despair, concluding with her salvation and redemption.

After her conversion to Christ, Grace Lee Whitney lived her life to serve God and others. She passed into the presence of her Lord on May 1, 2015, at the age of eighty-five. It was one of the great privileges of my life to have worked with Grace to help her tell her amazing story.

You may be wondering — who was the man who raped her, then tossed her off the show? Who was the Harvey Weinstein of Star Trek? I can’t tell you his name. In the book, we decided to refer to this man only as “The Executive.” Even though he was dead by the time Grace and I worked together, Grace told me she could not name this man, nor could she blame him for her alcoholism. She believed that if she publicly exposed his identity, she would lose her sobriety. She asked me to honor her wishes, and I have agreed to do so.

If you want to read a truly inspiring story that echoes the experience of so many women who have been sexually exploited or sexually assaulted by powerful, predatory men, I think you’ll enjoy The Longest Trek. You’ll find Grace’s story as uplifting and inspiring as I did. You can find The Longest Trek at Amazon.com, with a foreword by Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) and an endorsement by William Shatner (Captain Kirk).

___________________________________

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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.J.D.

 

 

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Are All Your Christmases Bright?

Christmas catnap

Lyn Cote here and that’s me with my two cats (and my knitting) in front of our Christmas tree. A happy image. However, I’m aware that not everyone’s Christmas is always a happy time. Life has its trials. I don’t need to name them all. You know what they are. I remember one Thanksgiving when two days before our family gathering, I had just attended the funeral a beloved college roommate who died much too young from breast cancer. Keeping my smile in place for the sake of family was tough that holiday.

 I don’t bring this up to make anyone sad but merely to recognize that bad things happen and often can color our holiday season. One of my worst childhood memories happened just days before Christmas. And I don’t need to ruin your day with the details. So what do we do when bad things happen when everyone around is smiling and singing carols?

Personally my emotional release has always been laughter. A few years ago, a dear friend called. She’d just been released from the hospital after back surgery. She was in excruciating pain and what did we do? We laughed! I said, “Sally, we’re crazy. We always laugh through the pain.” But Proverbs 17:22 reminds us, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

I hope your spirit isn’t dry bones. I know it’s tough to get in the holiday mood when life is playing “Wackamole” with you. But try to smile, hum a carol, read a holiday romance. Only you can really make you feel better. And God gives us both cherries and pits, so try counting your cherries and be thankful. A new year is coming and we always have hope as long as we have Christ. If you need a lift, I’ve posted a lovely animated holiday card on my Facebook Page, LynCoteAuthor Drop by and watch it and leave me a holiday greeting. And I’ll wish you an individual Merry Christmas!–Lyn Cote

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The Joy of Christmas Villages

When we authors create our characters, we try to make them likable and relatable. So, since most of us have more than one thing we’re interested in, I like to give my heroes and heroines extra pastimes readers might relate to or appreciate, such as hobbies or talents beyond their job or career.

CLCR CoverIn my latest release, Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion (October 2017), my hero is a no-nonsense small town sheriff who can cause outlaws to quake in their boots. But he also has a talent for carving. Having enjoyed a Grand Tour of Europe as a young man, he took particular notice of the German displays of toy Christmas villages. In my story, he sets out to delight the hearts of his hometown’s children by carving a similar village for them.

It’s quite an ambitious project, and all the while he’s working on it, he has an ongoing conflict with the beautiful widow lady who was once his fiancée. So, of course, I had to give her a talent for painting the delicate houses, church, trees, and people he has carved. The village must be finished by the annual Christmas pageant and party at the church, so this puts them together quite a bit, even though neither of them wants to be. Will they finish the project in time? And will they discover being together is not such a bad thing? I hope you’ll read Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion to find out.

In trying to find pictures of very old toy villages, I ran into the usual problem of copyrights, but I did find this lovely little village that offered free use. Isn’t it a delight?

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(By Julian Colton: I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In some countries this may not be legally possible; if so: I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.)

The lights that brighten this village would not have been available in 1887 when Sheriff Justice Gareau carved his small town, but I know the children and adults were just as delighted in their time. Perhaps if they were careful, they could use candles, as they did on Christmas trees back then.

And here’s our North Pole village and train that we enjoy as part of our Christmas decorations. This year we didn’t set up the train tracks, but you can see how the train would go around the town. If you can’t quite make out the signs on the houses, I’ll explain. From left to right, we have a house where Santa and Mrs. Claus live, the post office, the train depot, the elf dormitory and workshop, the sleigh barn, the reindeer barn, the cookie factory, and the candy factory. And of course the Christmas tree stands in the middle of the town square. BTW, the train cars represent the Twelve Days of Christmas, with appropriate pictures on each car to signify the gifts from the popular Christmas song.

Christmas Train Village 2

Here are links to some other lovely villages: http://alfa-img.com/show/lemax-christmas-village.html and http://vitalsignsblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/perfect-place-for-christmas-village.html. If you click on the links, be sure to check out the details of these beautiful creations.

Carved Church 3Finally, my daughter-in-law has this lovely carved church she sets out each Christmas. Notice the details inside. This was an inspiration to me as I wrote about my carving sheriff.Carved church interior

 

 

Here’s the story:

Sheriff Justice Gareau can make outlaws quake in their boots…yet coming face-to-face with Evangeline Benoit once again takes away all his composure. She broke their engagement, and his heart, to marry a wealthy older man. Despite his reluctance, Justice can’t avoid the widowed single mother of two when they’re collaborating on a Christmas village for the town’s children.

The loving boy Evangeline once knew has become an unyielding lawman. Forced to flee New Orleans over false allegations, Evie doubts Justice will take her side when the past follows her to Colorado. Especially when he and her troublesome son butt heads. But perhaps the spirit of Christmas will soften his heart and give them a second chance at love. Copyright © 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises. ® and ™ Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

I can’t leave you today without one final thought. While it may sound like a cliche these days, in truth, Jesus is the reason for this Christmas season. Don’t let the busyness of your life cloud this true, eternal meaning. We celebrate the baby born in Bethlehem, but he was born to grow up, live a sinless life, and die for you. His resurrection is the promise of eternal life for all who believe in Him. May you find your salvation, peace, and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

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True Love Was Born In a Stable

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As a Christian romantic suspense author, the love story plays a huge part in each of my books. That love can been seen from the beginning to the end. Just like God’s love for us can be seen from Genesis to Revelation.

Throughout the Old Testament, we can see God’s love for us shining through from the creation He made for us to the way He foretold His plan of salvation through the prophets of old,m right down to how Jesus birth would come about, to the lineage in which He would descend from, to the town in which He would be born.

Isaiah 7:14, Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6-7, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Micah 5:2, But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

But God’s love story didn’t end with Jesus birth. Just like His birth, Jesus’ suffering and death was foretold as well.

In Psalm 41:9, we see that Jesus would be betrayed by a close friend.

Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.

Isaiah 53:4-6 we see that He would suffer for us.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

There are so many more signs of God’s love written throughout the Bible, including the promise that one day we will be with Jesus in heaven.

John 14: 1-3, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Our salvation came as a Babe in a stable. And that truly is the greatest gift even given.

Merry Christmas

 

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Christmas In Delaney Mountain, A Christmas Romantic Suspense novella

Blurb: Kara Edwards has been looking over her shoulder for years. After being kidnapped and held hostage by a man who claimed to be her late husband’s friend, she’s no longer in the trusting business. She moves to Delaney Mountain with one expectation: to outrun her stalker. Never does she expect to meet a man like David Delaney—one who not only makes her want to trust again, but to love again, too. David Delaney is drawn to Kara from the first moment he meets her. There’s an attractive strength behind her no-nonsense caution and independence. He knows Kara is running from something, but nothing prepares him for what she has to say. When Eli Redford escapes from prison, Kara and David find themselves on one side of a Christmas Eve showdown that brings everything to a deadly head.

 

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

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Missing the Beauty by Nancy J. Farrier

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When I lived in Arizona, the time of day I loved most was evening because of the many beautiful sunsets. The amazing array of colors and textures would often make me stop and stare in awe.

 

I recall one evening, as I drove home with my four daughters, the clouds caught the rays of the setting sun and changed from pinks and oranges to purples and blues. Three of my daughters and I were oohing and aahing as we watched the display. My fourth daughter glanced out the window and said, “I don’t see what’s so special.” We were shocked that she didn’t enjoy the sight as much as we did.

 

Thinking about that evening makes me also remember the story of the birth of a special baby in Bethlehem. I picture that city teeming with people who were there to be counted for the census. The inns were full. I’m sure people’s homes were filled to the brim with relatives. I imagine even the stables were overflowing with animals brought by the influx of travelers.

 

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:13-14 KJV

 

You are probably very familiar with the story of the shepherds out in the hills with the sheep. A choir of angels appeared to them. An amazing sight. I wonder if the colors were blazing into the heavens making the shepherds speechless with awe. What matters most is those shepherds heard the message and sought out the baby, Jesus.

 

Meanwhile, what about the people in the city? The teeming crowds. This is a question I ponder every year. They were even closer to the Christ child. Did they forget to seek God and thus missed the most important message of all time? I picture the song of the angels rippling through the air, there for anyone to hear, if they take the time to listen. I picture the skies lit up with the glory of God as praises were sung to Him.

 

Were the women in Bethlehem too busy cooking, cleaning, making sure everyone had a place to sleep? Were they visiting with people they hadn’t seen in ages? Sharing recipes? Talking about their children?

 

Were the men busy caring for animals, talking about planting or raising herds? Were they discussing the government and how difficult the trip had been? Were they back-slapping and greeting one another? Maybe arguing or talking about other tribes.

 

What were they all doing that they missed seeing the glory of the message of Christ’s birth? Perhaps, they did see, but for whatever reason, chose to say, “I don’t see what’s so special.”

 

Each Christmas I am threatened with all the hubbub of shopping, candy making, parties, decorating, visiting and on the list goes. Every year there seems to be one more thing added to my to do items. If I’m not careful it’s easy for me to lose focus and to forget to acknowledge the One the season is celebrating. I am in danger of keeping my eyes fixed on all that is around me, pulling me to get this or that done.

 

Like those shepherds of old, I want to hear that singing and to gaze up—to see the wonder and glory of a God who loves me beyond understanding. To see a Savior who gave His life for me. To bask in a reminder of beauty beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before.

 

I hope you will take a moment to “listen and look up” this Christmas season. Enjoy the love that is pouring out of Heaven. Enjoy God’s gift to us all.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” Is. 9:6 KJV

 

 

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The Christmas Story from a Writer’s Perspective

By Marilyn Turk

The more I study the craft of writing, the more I read like a writer. I look at how the author tells the story, what adjectives and verbs they use, whose POV they use, and how many “rules” they break. Since I’m a critique partner with three other writers, I’m used to looking for ways the story could be better – what could be left out or added to make it stronger.

Now, when I analyze a book’s structure, shaking my head at what is wrong, but highlighting those things well done, hoping I can duplicate the strengths of the writer. So is it any wonder that now I read the Christmas story as a writer too?

It’s a simple story, right? If you were to write a one-line synopsis, what would you say? “How God saved the world by sending his Son?” “How Deity Became flesh so we could be redeemed?” “How God showed His love by giving us His Son?” I’m sure you can think of others. But when you read the story, it’s far from simple.

For years, the Israelites looked forward to a Messiah. They expected a royal king born in a palace. A warrior-king like David who would lead the army into battle against their oppressors and establish a new kingdom for them.

But the story didn’t play out as expected. The prophecy said the Messiah would be born to a virgin. However, getting pregnant out of wedlock was a sin, and because the virgin in question, Mary, was betrothed, she would have been considered adulterous. A sin punishable by stoning, especially since Joseph, her betrothed, was not the father. What was he to do?  CONFLICT.

Then an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him the baby was the Messiah and everything would be okay. RESOLUTION.

Joseph accepted Mary’s condition. All was well. The baby was almost due. But wait. Caesar Augustus called for a census requiring everyone to travel back to their home towns to register.  Joseph had to take nine-month pregnant Mary to Bethlehem. CONFLICT.

And so they proceeded, slowly, to Bethlehem. RESOLUTION

But when they got there, there was no place to stay and Mary was having contractions. CONFLICT

But then, they were offered a stable to stay in and share with the animals. The baby Messiah was born there. RESOLUTION.

All is well. The baby was even welcomed by shepherds. So Mary and Joseph had a healthy baby boy they took home to raise. But wait. Some wise men had been looking for him a long time and followed a star to find him. They stopped at the king’s palace to ask directions, not knowing the king wasn’t interested in worshipping a new king and they inadvertently tipped him off to a potential usurper to his throne.

But the wise men found Jesus and worshipped him. But wait. Now the current king, Herod, wanted to kill the baby. CONFLICT.

Then Joseph had a dream warning him to go to Egypt and stay there until Herod was no longer a threat. So Joseph left with Mary and the baby. Jesus was safe. RESOLUTION.

Wow! What a great story! No wonder it has captured the interests of millions for centuries. A great plot, lots of excitement and suspense to grab our interest and keep us reading to the end. And this is not fiction.

But we know the story didn’t end there. It continued to the adult Jesus was crucified for the redemption of the world. It continued to His glorious resurrection when He won the victory over death for us. And it continues today in the lives of His believers. So now, we can read the story not only as an observer, but also as one of the characters, because we’re included. We’re part of the world He came to save. And Praise God, His point of view has now become ours.

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 CONFLICT

“For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 RESOLUTION

 

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An Amana Christmas

With Christmas approaching, I recalled one of my visits to the Amana Colonies during the month of December. Back then, I was writing books set in the Colonies, and needed to complete some research about their Christmas traditions. In an effort to gather needed research, I decided it would be helpful to visit during the holidays and attend the presentation of A Glimpse of Amana Past at the History Museum in Main Amana. And, I was correct. This proved to be an enjoyable visit that added special Christmas joy to the holidays and provided much needed fodder for my writing.

The evening began with the descendants of early settlers dressed in authentic Amana attire to present stories of Christmas celebrations from years gone by (the picture at left shows one of the ladies dressed in authentic Amana clothing). The ladies told us the history of the Christmas pyramids and early Christmas trees used in the Colonies, and prepared us for a visit from Pelznickle (the Amana German version of Santa Claus) who made a rousing appearance. When I say they prepared us for his visit, that’s no exactly true. What really happened is that after singing Christmas carols in both German and English, there was loud banging at the door of the museum followed by the ringing of harness bells. The door opened, and I don’t want to be disparaging, but Pelznickle burst into the room wearing what appeared to be a version of Great Aunt Maude’s tattered fur coat. I nudged my friend sitting next to me and said, “I guess they couldn’t afford a Santa suit.” It wasn’t until later that I learned Pelznickle means “St. Nicolas in fur” and that a rumpled fur coat is traditionally what he wore. Sure glad I didn’t make my comment to anyone else!  Pelzsnickle carried a large walking stick and he did toss candy at us before he ran out of the room., but he isn’t a character I’d want to find in my home on Christmas Eve. (The picture at right is the only picture of Pelznickle I could find, but it gives you a bit of an idea.)

The people of Amana were frugal and could be considered early conservationists. In days gone by, they thought it wasteful to cut down a tree for Christmas display. Some families used a Christmas pyramid carved by Vater or Opa. The pyramid below was on display at the museum and is about two feet high. When the candles were lit, the heat would cause the blade at the top to turn. Small figures, including nativity scenes, were placed inside the pyramid.

The Amana colonists were a people of deep faith—they came to this country to escape religious persecution. They attended meeting (church) eleven times a week, so the birth of Christ  has always been the centerfold of their Christmas celebrations. In addition to hand-carved or ceramic nativities, another thing you would find in their homes during the Christmas holidays was a cardboard crèche that would sit beneath the tree or near the pyramid. These crèches were always available at the general stores in each village during the holidays. If you look closely, you can see it beside the Christmas tree.

If you’d like to learn more about the early settlers in the Colonies and live anywhere near Iowa, I think you’d truly enjoy a visit to the seven villages. And, of course, you can find a list of the books I’ve written about the Colonies at my website or do a search for either of the series under Daughters of Amana or Home to Amana in Amazon. They’re available in both e-book and soft cover through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christianbook.com

May you find great joy as you prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

~Judy

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Sometimes Technology Can Drive Me Crazy by Margaret Daley

Sometimes Technology Can Drive Me Crazy

By Margaret Daley

I’ve never acclaimed I was a technology whiz, but usually I could hold my own, managing the various social media sites, self publishing my books, updating my website and other aspects that a writer needs to do in today’s world of publishing that have nothing to do with writing a story. But recently I’ve been wrestling with my spam program for my website. It’s not working, and I’m swamped with 3000 spam emails during a day. I was upset with the program because it wasn’t working.

Then I realized the real problem is the people who send spam over and over to our emails, websites, blogs, Facebook and anything else we have, especially when I start looking at some of these spam comments left on my website. If they were truly from the people of the merchandise being praised, then how in the world do they think I’ll buy their product when they flood my inbox with emails I never wanted?

And while I’m on a rant how about all the spam calls we get even though your name is on the Do Not Call List. I still get solicitations several times a day!

frustrated shocked business woman pulling hair out yelling

So other than pulling your hair out, how do you handle all the spam thrown at you all the time?

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Loving the Green by Hannah Alexander

Evergreens and Mountains

Don’t you just love evergreens? I haven’t had a Christmas tree for a lot of years–and when I did, it was often fake. But we have spruce and lodgepole pine trees around our house that protect us from the harshest of the snow in winter.

With great regret, we’re afraid we might be moving soon. Wherever we go, we need trees. I’m not really a tree kind of person. I mean, a few here and there work for me, and then I like the wide open spaces. And mountains. And water.

Trees, however, are a sign of life for me, especially the evergreens. I love the feeling of protection I get whenever I see a tree–unless I’m in a lightning storm. Trees give me shelter and hope. A good, strong, sturdy old tree gives me a connection to the past.

I have a family tree that keeps me, an only child, connected to a foundation. My cousin lives within a three hour drive from me. I’ve always had a cousin within three hours of me even when I lived far from most of my family.

But the most important thing to have is a spiritual family tree. That foundation dates back to Jesus Christ, to the beginning of the world, and is more solid and protective than any other foundation that exists. When I’m in limbo, wondering where we will be a year from now, or even next month, I have that foundation to hold me fast and connect me to family all over the country–all over the world.

Don’t you just love trees?

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