Protest and Folk Songs by James R. Coggins

I grew up in the 1960s listening to protest songs and folk songs sung by such artists as Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Those songs spoke to me then, and they still resonate with me today.

To be sure, many of these singers were naïve in their expectations and were often themselves quite imperfect people, but they sang about perfect ideals. Whether they were aware of it or not, their songs were filled not only with biblical concepts but even with biblical phrases and images. This was perhaps due to the extent to which biblical concepts had permeated general culture as a result of the resurgence in church attendance in the 1950s. For some of the singers, the biblical content was more conscious than for others. Bob Dylan and Paul Stookey later embraced Christianity, however imperfectly.

Recently, I rewatched a recording of a Peter, Paul, and Mary concert from 1986. What struck me was how much their songs were permeated by a plethora of biblical concepts. Love. Peace. Truth. Justice. Human dignity. Respect. Humility. Gratitude. Gentleness. Freedom. Family. Brotherhood. Unity. Community. Work. Compassion for human suffering. Lament over the brokenness of our world. Sacrificial giving. Forgiveness. Delight in the natural world. Fun. The innocence of childhood. Life. Joy. Hope.

I think that the biblical content is the reason these songs still resonate with me today. They certainly offer a more elevated set of concepts than much modern popular music (which is often very narrowly self-centered even when not blatantly immoral)—and even much social activism today. To be sure, modern social activists still advocate for justice and compassion. But much else has been lost. There are undercurrents of anger, selfishness, division, and pride in much modern social activism. Sex and pleasure have replaced the emphasis on love and family. The right to die has replaced the joy of living. Human rights (however badly defined) are still emphasized, but not humility, work, sacrificial giving, and forgiveness. On all sides, truth is fought over rather than genuinely sought with humility. Rather than people working together to achieve justice and change opinions, justice is to be imposed from the top by governments, which themselves have often proved to be unjust. Perhaps most crucial of all, trying to build an ideal world on a human level without even a subconscious awareness of the God of the Bible is futile and likely to be misguided and go astray.

We live in an imperfect world, where we often fail to achieve lofty goals, even with the best of intentions. But I still think that we should sing about, celebrate, believe in, and work for: love, peace, truth, justice, human dignity, respect, humility, gratitude, gentleness, freedom, family, brotherhood, unity, community, work, compassion for human suffering, lament over the brokenness of our world, sacrificial giving, forgiveness, delight in the natural world, fun, the innocence of childhood, life, joy, and hope.

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Weather, Crisis, and Christians by Julie Arduini

Image: Cowboy State Daily

Although my Ohio residency is close to 20 years, I’m an Upstate NY girl. When I went to college at SUNY Geneseo, the Buffalo Bills were at their zenith under quarterback Jim Kelly, Coach Marv Levy, and a list of all-star players. The Superbowl against the Giants when the Bills missed the kick?

My dorm shook.

No lie.

Now that my kids are grown and I have time, I’ve paid better attention to the Bills. I tell friends Bills fans are die-hard and if anyone deserves to see a Superbowl win, it’s the Buffalo area. It’s been a long time coming.

Last week I watched the snow footage as the Bills game moved to Detroit because of the six feet of snow the greater Buffalo area received. A farmer named Squirrel Winters became a celebrity as soon as his famous neighbor, quarterback Josh Allen, mentioned him in thanks for plowing him out.

It got me thinking. When there is a weather event like a blizzard, hurricane or tornado, neighbors come out and help. There are no excuses or ducking out, everyone digs in and helps.

I was a toddler when Hurricane Agnes traveled to Upstate NY and decimated the Finger Lakes Region. Years later when my office was located inside a senior center, I heard stories as if the flood had been yesterday. They remembered everything. The smell of mud. The ruined pictures. The help that came from next door, from Corning Glass, and from the military.

Just last night my husband and I were talking about the back-to-back blizzards I endured in 1993. I didn’t know Tom then, but I knew his family. Tom saw the storm coming and drove 24 hours straight to visit his parents in Florida. Everyone else? We were trapped home with more snow than we could shovel. But once the snow stopped, I remember our neighbors helping us, and we helped them.

I wish I could say the Body of Christ operated this way. I’m not pointing at my local church, but the entire church as a whole. When AIDS came about, what was the church doing? When women had the courage to announce they were in an abusive situation, what feedback did they receive? I know of women who were told to stick it out because divorce was not an option. Yikes.

Not long ago I was chatting history and I recalled a quote from Hitler when asked about moving in on the US and her allies. Wasn’t he afraid? Was that really a smart idea? These were Christian countries, especially America.

Hitler’s reply breaks me to this day. He said not to worry, the church was asleep. They wouldn’t know what was happening until it was too late.

—Julie Arduini

Beyond being an author, I’m a reader. More than a reader, I’m an intercessor, and all my reading and prayer times tells me the world is embroiled in corruption and abuse far greater than our imagination could guess. I believe God has had it and these sins will be exposed on a global scale.

And the church will be in part active participants, compliant, and passive when the truth comes out.

Specifically, I believe we’re going to learn a LOT about trafficking, and sadly, there will be church-y names attached. It will be horrific what the world learns. The little I’ve read is sickening.

But when, not if, this happens, it’s the opportunity for the church to shift.

To repent and become that neighbor in crisis. To stop the excuses and apathy and run toward the wounded. To offer love, grace, resources, provision and throw off religion and the “I told you so” we are sadly known for.

I’ve been praying for two years to know my part. I don’t want to be on the sidelines. Trafficking isn’t just in my country or state, it’s in my county and the places I shop. It’s an every day crisis, bigger and more devastating than a blizzard.

I’m praying we rise up in Christ’s love, awake and ready to help.

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And Just Like That – Everything Changed!

Isaiah 9:6 proclaimed the future coming of a Child. But not just any child. This one would carry the government of the worlds on His shoulders. He would be the Wonderful Counsellor, The mighty God, The Everlasting Father. . .the Prince of Peace.

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.

Though Isaiah wouldn’t see the Prince of Peace during his earthly life, he prophesied about a future event to come just like he prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin in 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.

Michal 5:2 predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem:

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.

Moses wrote in Numbers 24:17, I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: There shall come a starre out of Iacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel. . .  

Hundreds of Old Testament prophesies foretold the Messiah. The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the future event that would change the world. But they didn’t see it in their lifetimes.

And then. . .that miraculous moment happened. A Child was born to a virgin. God worked all the events together to fulfill His prophesies. Joseph, from the house of David, would take his betrothed Mary who was great with child to Bethlehem for a census because of a degree from Caesar Augustus. What are the chances!  

Luke 2:6-7,

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

In God’s amazing wisdom, the first to see the Child were not royalty, or the religious leaders at the time, but the lowly shepherds. I love that about God!

And throughout Jesus’ ministry, it was not the religious leaders who would come to him, but the lowly, those desperate for what Jesus offered – eternal life.

The Christmas season is upon us and its about to get busy. But I hope you keep in mind the greatest gift of all won’t be under our trees this holiday, but in our hearts.

With those simple words from Isaiah, the future was told. The God who created the universe would step into human history and change everything!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

www.maryalford.net  

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Thanks by Tara Randel

I hope you and yours had a beautiful Thanksgiving. There is nothing better than bringing family, friends, and food together for good times. It is also a time to reflect on thankfulness. Looking back over the year, we can see the ups and downs and how we handled situations thrown our way. When I do this, the bottom line for me is that I always thank God for what He has done.

I thank Him for His presence in my life. For leading and guiding me. For giving me wisdom. How do we get through our daily lives without the Spirit of the Lord? I know that I can’t, so I trust Him to be with me.

Sometimes life can be messy. Other times amazing. All the time, God is there.

Years ago, when my daughter was very ill and I had no idea what the outcome of her illness would be, there was one scripture the Lord spoke to my heart over and over again.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

I clung to that scripture. Today, when I hear the words or think about the scripture, it brings tears to my eyes. God knew what the outcome of that season would be, and he walked beside me the entire way. My daughter is in heaven and still, God has never left me because I needed Him. I still need him every day.

We serve a God who cares about our lives; from the big issues, to, for me, getting through writing deadlines. Life has challenges and wins. Through it all, we are never alone, and that makes me thankful.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HER SURPRISE HOMETWON MATCH, available March 2023. For more information about her books, visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter.

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THE ALLY–new suspense by Peggy Webb

THE TEAM

It was such a pleasure to team with the amazing writers/friends who put together The Philanthropists, a series of suspense and romantic suspense short reads for you!  The talented and wonderful Vicki Hinze and I have been friends almost forever. Years ago. she introduced me to another terrific woman and writer, Kathy Carmichael, who is such a superb Christian and good friend. I’m blessed to work with and get to know the other fine women on the team, Mary Alford, Patricia Bradley, and Ann Malley. God is good!

NEW TODAY, THE ALLY 

Today is pub day for my suspense novella, The Ally, fourth book in The Philanthropists series.  It’s set in my home state of Mississippi in the historic river-front city of Vicksburg. Like the Pulitzer Prize winner from Mississippi, the late, great author Eudora Welty, I enjoy putting a sense of place into my stories. When you read The Ally, you’ll discover that the setting is almost another character.

I always fall in love with my characters. When I finish a book, I feel as if I’m saying goodbye to old friends. The same is true of The Ally. I created two protagonists, who had lost everyone they love, in order to explore what that would be like and how they could find their way out of the darkness of loss and into the light of love. 

Of course, this is suspense, so I filled the pages with enough unsavory characters to keep you guessing about the identity of the villain.  Or is it villains? You’ll have to read to find out.  

I do hope you’ll enjoy the ride!

HOT CH OCOLATE AND REVIEWS

I have been writing professionally for thirty-seven years, nearly a hundred books and still going strong. Through the years, my readers/fans have cheered me on, written letters to me, prayed for me, and written reviews for me. 

In this busy holiday season, I hope you’ll find a moment for yourself to pour a cup of hot chocolate and read The Ally (a clean read)Like the other stories in this series, The Ally has no cliffhanger. The book can be read as a standalone (though I know you’ll want to read all six). 

After you’ve finished reading, I hope you will leave a review at Amazon and wherever else your social media takes you. Thank you so much for reading! I’ve included the buy link to all six books at the end of this post to make it easy for you to find The Ally. 

Have a blessed holiday! God is good.

Link to THE ALLY

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Give Thanks by Bridget A. Thomas

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. All across the country, many will take time today to reflect on the things they are grateful for. How amazing it is to have a holiday that revolves around gratitude. However, I feel this is a habit we should cherish all year long, not just one day out of the year.

And personally, I take gratitude a step further by writing down my blessings in a gratitude journal. Every day for the past five years I have a kept a bulleted list of good things that happened during my day. I might also include Bible verses, quotes, prayers, or anything that spoke to my heart. Therefore, the items in my gratitude journal can vary.

But there is one thing I try to keep consistent. For the most part, I don’t write down negative things that happened in my day. Overall, my intent is to keep the tone positive.

For example, one particular day this year, I wrote down that my new iPad arrived (which was a gift from my hubby). I wrote down a Bible verse that my friend featured in her blog post (Philippians 4:5). I mentioned that we had nice, cool weather. I reflected on the joy of seeing Christmas lights on different homes. And I jotted down that I got my hair trimmed.

But on that same day I was wearing a brand new pair of boots for the first time, and I accidentally stepped in my dog’s “droppings” in our back yard. I did not write that down in my gratitude journal. (Yes, this really happened. I wasn’t happy at the time, but I can joke about it now!)

Gratitude is all about focusing on the positive, not the negative.

Years ago, I tried journaling, but it didn’t last. I used the journal to do a lot of venting. As a result, I hated journaling and gave up on it quickly. Since I have changed tactics, this has helped me to keep my gratitude journal going.

I realize that not everyone wants to journal. And that is okay. Expressing our gratitude in prayer is also a wonderful habit.

When we take notice of the things we are grateful for each day, this helps us to draw closer to God. Looking around for the blessings in life helps us to embrace the Lord’s goodness and love. Gratitude helps us to look back and see how much God has been there for us, which in turn helps us to see how trustworthy and faithful God is.

Gratitude towards God leads us to trusting God.

But gratitude is a muscle that we have to intentionally strengthen. The more we work this muscle, the more things we will find to be grateful for.

Gratitude breeds more gratitude!

In the world we live in, it can be easy to fall into complaining and negativity. However, when we choose to look for the good, it affects every area of our lives. We will find we have more joy and peace. A big part of this is because it draws us close to our Heavenly Father. And we begin to see how much He is there for us, helping us, guiding us, protecting us, and caring for us.

I hope today you will take a moment to thank God for the blessings in your own life. Take a look around and you will see He is there for you. He loves you. And He is good, all the time.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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The Wings of the Lord by James R. Coggins

Fourth in a Series

Reading the story of Ruth gleaning in the vineyard of Boaz (Ruth 2:1-12), I was struck by the force of Boaz’s words to Ruth: “May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” The words sound strange since Ruth had come to the land of God’s people only because of her loyalty to Naomi. She did not seem to have consciously sought refuge with God.

A church I was a member of many years ago had a blessed experience. There was a woman whose husband had beaten her and her children, taken all of their possessions, and left her and her children with nothing and nowhere to live. On a Sunday morning, in desperation, she phoned the pastor of the church. He met her on the front steps of the church that morning and after the service took her home to his house for dinner. At the evening service, the church members filled the church foyer with food, clothing, and household necessities for the family. The next day, the church found her an apartment and paid the rent. In time, the church bought her a car.

When desperate people turn to the church, they are turning to God, whether they know it or not. And it is God who ultimately helps them if they are helped. It was God who had given the church members the love and the resources to help this desperate woman and her children. And it was God who had established the rules of gleaning and redeeming that were Ruth’s salvation.

There is a sequel to the story of the destitute woman who came to our church. She became a Christian and was baptized. She found a job delivering meals to shut-ins. When the church sponsored a refugee family, she donated some of her possessions and offered to chauffeur them around.

There is also a sequel to Ruth’s story. She bore a son, who became an ancestor of David and of the Messiah, Jesus, the Savior of the world. 

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Words Matter by Peggy Webb

Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness. Mother Teresa’s advice resonates more than ever in a world where civility seems to be vanishing and hateful speech is becoming the accepted norm. 

Now more than any other time in my life that I can remember, I am aware of the need to think before I speak, to hold my tongue when I want to lash out in anger, and to let my words lift someone up instead of tear them down. I am cognizant of the need to let my speech reflect the love of Jesus in my heart.

What is in the heart comes out the mouth. Matthew 12:34

Bestselling books have been written about the connection between what we think and what we do or say. Two I have enjoyed reading are The Power of Positive Thinking, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Both tell exactly how our thoughts are manifested, not only for our actions, but also for our success or failure.

We need look no further than the greatest book of all, the BIBLE, to find instructions on the power of our thoughts and the words we say.  Look to the Old Testament and King Solomon for this wisdom:

 The tongue has power of life and death. Proverbs 18:21

In the New Testament, the disciple James wrote clear instructions about the enormous impact of the tongue and how Christians should guard it. 

All of us often go wrong; the man who never says a wrong thing is a perfect character, able to bridle his whole being. If we put bits into horses’ mouths to make them obey our will, we can direct their whole body. Or think of ships; large they may be, yet even when driven by strong gales they can be directed by a tiny rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses. So with the tongue. It is a small member but it can make huge claims. James 3:2-5

Read James 3: 2-12 to discover more of his wise counsel regarding the power of the tongue. 

This tiny muscular organ is capable of inflicting untold harm. Dear reader, if you were in my Sunday School class along with the adorable two-to-six-year-old cherubs I teach, I would say, “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been hurt by something someone said to you or about you.” They would all raise their tiny hands. Probably every person reading this blog would raise a hand. 

I’m passionate about this subject, particularly since I recently experienced the hurtful fallout from a vicious tongue.  A month ago, I had surgery to repair an abdominal hernia. After my surgeon told me I would be helpless for at least three days afterward, unable to even lift myself out of bed, I enlisted the help of a woman I considered a friend. She promised to stay with me a couple of days during the early recovery process, but then backed out of her commitment the day she was to come, while I was still helpless. Her excuses were vague and rang false. I later learned that the harmful, wagging tongue of a person she and I both know had convinced the woman that she should NOT help me, that it was not her responsibility. Fortunately, I have a large group of true friends who stepped into the gap after my son had to head back to Florida for work. They took wonderful care of me when I was literally flat on my back. By the grace of God and with the help of family and true friends, I have recovered and am getting stronger every day. 

In addition to knowing how to guard the tongue, we should also know how to use it for good. The Psalmists (especially King David) and the Apostle Paul are very specific on this subject.

May all that I say and think be acceptable to thee, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm:19:14 

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth. Keep watch at the door of my lips. Turn not my heart to sinful thoughts nor to any pursuit of evil course.” Psalm 141: 3-4

“Be generous to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

“In a word, as God’s dear children, try to be like him, and live in love as Christ loved you and gave himself up on your behalf as an offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God.” Ephesians 5:1

Words matter. They are not empty or harmless. They are filled with power, and once they are spoken, they cannot be unsaid. We can build up or tear down. We can make people laugh or we can make them cry. We can motivate people or we can just make them mad. Our choice.

Words matter!

Thank you so much for stopping by to read this blog. I’m delighted to be joining my dear friend Vicki’s Christians Read blog, and will be posting here regularly.  I hope you will leave a comment. If there is any subject you would like to see addressed in this blog, tell us about that, too. Have a blessed day.

God is good.

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Growing in Love by Nancy J. Farrier

Last week we traveled to California for a little vacation. We visited our daughters and their families and had a great time with out grandsons. The highlight of the trip, and the reason for the timing, was to be there for our youngest daughter’s boyfriend to propose. He’d arranged with us to be present, along with his parents, and some of their friends from church.

It’s so fun to see new love. The excitement. The total focus on one another. The way they go out of their way to please each other. The first bloom of love is beautiful to see and to experience.

They are planning an April wedding which reminded me of my parents, who also married in April. My parents were married for 62 years and had such a wonderful love. To me, they were an example to follow of going from first loving one another to continuing to grow in love. They spent a lifetime getting to know each other, always put the other one first, and loved one another no matter what.

In Revelation 2:4, Jesus says to the church in Ephesus, But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first…”

How many of us have kept up that first love we had for Jesus? That enthusiasm we had to tell others about our new relationship. The way we loved reading the Bible and thanking God for our salvation. How many of us simply go to church now and do our best to get through life without ever working toward a better relationship with God and a deeper love for Him? Are we willing to put in the work needed? And how do we do that?

  1. Get to know Him: We can spend a lifetime—and should spend our lifetime—getting to know God. He is deep and we are told to seek Him out and know His ways. This is something we need to do every day by reading the Bible and praying for understanding and wisdom. The closer we get to Him, and the more we understand Him, the stronger our relationship will be. 
  2. Put Him first: So many times we approach our faith with the idea of “what can God do for me?” Instead, we need to consider what we can do for Him. Ephesians 2:10 tells us God has a work prepared for us to do. In John 6:29, Jesus tells his disciples, …“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Believing in Jesus is a work we are called to do. We are also told to share the gospel. If we look to what God is asking us to do, our whole perspective changes from one of selfish desire—what can God do for me—to one of love and grace and outreach, a reflection of God.
  3. Love Him no matter what: God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want or arrange our lives in the manner we prefer. Sometimes, we don’t understand His ways at all. Yet, God is sovereign. His ways are perfect. He always has our best interest at heart. We need to realize we don’t see the whole picture, and to trust him to be right all the time. He will give us the peace we need for the moment and carry us through the tough times.

While first love is thrilling, love that continues through hard times and grows is even more lovely. It is lasting and fulfilling. It is a love to work for and fight for. A love worth the time and effort to build.

Whether you are just beginning your journey of love or have been in a relationship a long time, consider these points. For your earthly relationships and for your spiritual relationship with God. Take the time to let love grow.

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Nora Review of: Woman in Shadow

Woman in Shadow

By Carrie Stuart Parks

Published by:  Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 13, 2021

336 Pages

HashTag# Tragic Dramas, Romantic Suspense, Christian Mystery, Forensic linguist, Mule Shoe lodge

BACK COVER: Award-winning author Carrie Stuart Parks combines her expertise as a forensic artist with her talent for crafting a gripping story in this page-turning web of light and shadow. A woman off the grid.

Darby Graham thinks she’s on a much-needed vacation in remote Idaho to relax. But before she even arrives at the ranch, an earthquake strikes. Then a barn on the edge of town is engulfed in flames and strange problems at the ranch begin to escalate, and Darby finds herself immersed in a chilling mystery.

A town on fire. More fires erupt around town, and a serial arsonist sends taunting letters to the press after each. As a forensic linguist, this is Darby’s area of expertise . . . but the scars her work has caused her are also the reason she’s trying to escape her life. A growing darkness. 

NORA’S REVIEW: I like how this author quickly engages readers with her endearing characters and sweeps them onto a Ranch in the middle of nowhere. I enjoyed the mysteriously deadly situation in the hills as we meet Darby Graham, a woman trying to cope with PTSD (survived an unimaginable event) and is a forensic linguist. Not only that, but I’m always fascinated at how the author weaves her expertise as a forensic artist into her stories. It’s amazing what someone can discover when she delves into matters. I couldn’t put this fast-paced, intriguing story down. I loved how this author blends mystery, humor, suspense, and the hint of romance in the mix.

Deputy Bram White is aware of the problems at Mule Shoe Ranch, but he is also investigating a serial arsonist. After getting more information about Darby Graham, Bram listens to her analyses of the situation. He can’t overlook all the “accidents” that have happened at the Ranch in such a short time. Things could turn deadly if they aren’t careful. Deputy White and Darby Graham try to narrow down what they are looking for. Was it an arsonist who is also a killer, or was it a separate perpetrator altogether?

I enjoyed the splash of romance and how both wounded souls are trying to heal their hearts before they can go forward in the romance department. I enjoyed the plot twists and turns, and I liked how these two unlikely partners work together to fight crime. This is a fun standalone story and one that would work well for your next book club pick.

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

Nora St. Laurent

TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!

The Book Club Network blog www.bookfun.org

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Death, Be Not Proud by James R. Coggins

We all know it is inevitable. We know it is coming. But we never seem to be ready for it. It’s death. And Walter Wiens wants to change that. Not death. He can’t do much about that. But he can do something about our lack of preparation.

Walter has served as a chaplain at a correctional center and a health center, and for the past two decades he has been Pastor of Care Ministries at the Clearbrook Mennonite Brethren Church, in Abbotsford, British Columbia. This is an aging congregation which is continually renewed with new retirees joining it. It has sometimes averaged a funeral a week. Walter discovered that in spite of this, many individuals and their families had made almost no preparations for funerals and other end-of-life issues until death intervened and they were thrust into making a host of decisions when they were often overwhelmed with grief.

Walter’s son followed his father into ministry and became pastor of another church. When a member of his new congregation died, the son realized that, like many young pastors, in all of his theological studies he had had no training in leading a funeral. He quickly phoned his father for help.

Walter felt led to respond to both issues by writing down what he had learned. The result was two books.

Preparing to Cross the Finish Line: A Guide to Help Families and Individuals with End-of-Life Issues and Funerals is a 166-page paperback which churches can give to families in need of guidance or that individuals and families can buy for themselves. It contains detailed instructions on the need to plan a funeral service, how to plan a funeral service, selecting a funeral home, the parts of a funeral service (viewing, flowers, donations in honor of a loved one, a eulogy and tributes, the presence of children, bulletins, music), and a burial service (including selecting coffins and pallbearers). But the book offers much more than this. It offers helpful instructions on dealing with family brokenness (which often surfaces during a funeral), restoring peace in families, and the need for community. It also contains chapters on dealing with issues of old age and declining health, on the role of seniors in a church, on reflecting on one’s life, and on preparing spiritually for heaven (which should begin long before old age and death). Each chapter closes with questions to encourage reflection and a prayer. The appendices include technical information on legal and financial matters, information on health issues, forms for funeral planning and for gathering financial and family information, and a list of other helpful books.

Preparing to Cross the Finish Line: A Guide to Help Families, Individuals and Pastors with End-of-Life Issues and Funerals is a 354-page hardcover book intended to serve as a manual for pastors. It includes everything that is in the book for families and individuals but also includes detailed information on how to pastor families and individuals as they prepare for and deal with their own death or the death of a loved one, a discussion on changes in funeral practices and the philosophies underlying them, many more details on planning funerals and burial services, advice about what to preach on and what not to preach on, guidance on handling a pastor’s own brokenness and limitations, and advice on handling difficult funerals (for victims of suicide or murder, for children, and for nonbelievers). It also contains further theological reflections on how people can be prepared for death and how they can be assured that they will reach heaven once they have “crossed the finish line.” This pastor’s guide is one that pastors will find useful over and over again throughout their ministry.

Both books are published under my own Mill Lake Books imprint, are distributed by Ingram, and are available through online retailers such as Amazon and bookstores throughout the world.

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Be The Light!

Be the Light!

With the world becoming increasingly darker, as Christians we are called to be the light.

In Matthew 5: 14-16 Jesus tells us, Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

So, how do you become the light to someone in need?

Pray and ask God for guidance then dive into the word and learn about Him.  Don’t go blindly into the world unequipped to face off with the darkness coming your way. Knowing God’s word is like having a light shining into the dark crevasses. But if you don’t know what God’s word says then you can be easily swayed and won’t be able to lead someone in need to God.  

Psalm 119: 105

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Let your life reflect God. Just as the moon reflects the sun’s light, we are to reflect God.

In John 1 1-5 says this about Jesus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Jesus stepped into human history to a world filled with darkness and that darkness could not destroy over overtake His light.  

And we must reflect His light and shine it into the dark places where sin lives because now, more than ever, our world needs His light.  

Jesus came very humbly onto the human stage. He wasn’t dressed in royal clothing. He didn’t come from a wealthy family. He was born into a humble beginning and worked as a carpenter alongside His earthly father. Jesus’s appearance didn’t reflect His heavenly, kingly stature. He remained humble and obedient until death.

We, as his hands and feet, are to serve others and show those in need our amazing Savior.

And we are to stand firm. Remember the enemy’s goal is to seek, kill, and destroy. He focuses on your fears and tries to distract us from our purpose. Keep your light shining. No matter what’s happening in the world or how difficult the journey becomes, keep shining. And remember, while we are here on earth, we are called to be the light that leads those lost to Jesus, but don’t get too comfortable, because this world is not our home.

Hebrews 13:14 says, For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

All the best. . .

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

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New Series: The Philanthropists

As you know, I love doing multi-author series.  I’ve teamed up with Mary Alford, Ann Malley, Peggy Webb, Patricia Bradley and Kathy Carmichael in THE PHILANTHROPISTS! 

The Philanthropists is a series of suspense or romantic suspense stories that are short reads, meaning you can read each book in 90 minutes to 2 hours.  I’ve developed a fondness for short reads!  Let me tell you about the series…

There are 6 projects, and all are connected in that they have a philanthropist at their core.  But, warning, do not expect your run of the mill philanthropist.  You’ll find an interesting array of them in this series.  There are no cliffhangers, and the stories can be read in any order.

We’re releasing them one per week from November 5 – December 10.  These are exclusively at Amazon, written for Kindle, and in Kindle Unlimited.

Here’s a bit about the stories:

Mary Alford, USA Today Bestselling Author of The Champion

New Mexico.  A killer hunts in the dark.  Rachel and Aaron must ring him to justice before he disappears . . . again.

 Coming 11/5

 Vicki Hinze USA Today Bestselling Author of The Guardian

Florida.  Harper Adams Holt has been kicked hard twice—the assault of her only brother, who remains comatose, and the murder of her husband, who has been “dead” before and returned.  Now comes the third kick…and the Guardian agrees, it could be lethal.

Coming 11/12

Ann Malley Amazon Bestselling Author of The Protector

Louisiana.  Car chases, bullets, Columbian drug lords, bawdy Bourbon Street, a missing girl, and a brush with the supernatural are only part of this clean, interracial, undercover romance!  Buckle up and take a ride!

Coming 11/19

Peggy Webb USA Today Bestselling Author of The Ally

Mississippi.  A chilling phone call, made in the dark of night, changes everything for Jena and Adam.  When they join forces to take down the evil and save the innocent, they unexpectedly save themselves.

 Coming 11/26

Patricia Bradley Award-Winning Author of The Defender

Florida.  When a human trafficker captures fifteen girls the billionaire defender of lost causes must break into his compound and extract the girls.  But his plans are thwarted when a victim’s sister has her own plans for rescue.

Coming 12/3

Kathy Carmichael USA Today Bestselling Author of The Patron

Alabama.  Author Lady Denis D’Ever gathers a group of her fans for a mystery-themed weekend at Skullduggery Inn.  All goes well—until a murderer strikes.  Can Innkeeper Ash solve the mystery of the untimely death of The Patron, or will the murderer walk away?

Coming 12/10

 Two of the stories have been released. The entire series is up for preorder on Amazon.  You can find all of The Philanthropists stories in one easy location.

 Take Me to the Books

We’re excited to be able to bring you these stories and we hope you enjoy them as much as we’ve enjoyed writing them!

Blessings, and as always thank you for your support!

Vicki

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Pure Joy by Bridget A. Thomas

I was recently reading some familiar verses found in James 1:2-4 where the Bible tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I imagine that most of us can agree that trials don’t bring joy. And these verses don’t merely use the word joy, but they say “pure joy.” That takes joy to a higher level. And it tells me that the joy we find should be deep inside of us. How can this be possible when we are facing a difficultly?

The key is to keep our attention on the Lord. No matter what we are facing, He is with us and He allows difficulty to come into our lives. He is not surprised when something hits us. He knew it was coming. And He promises to never leave us, nor forsake us. When we cling to Him, we can trust that He will get us through anything and everything.

Before trials come, it is important to establish a solid relationship with God. Day by day, we spend time with Him. As the days, weeks, and months go by, we will see our relationship grow and strengthen. This builds our trust in God. We come to realize that He truly has our best interest in mind.

Then when a difficultly does come, we can face it with joy. We will know that the Lord allowed this for a purpose. Perhaps He is growing us to become more like Jesus. Or perhaps this difficulty is strengthening us.

At my full-time job, I create reports with a lot of data and compliance numbers for my customers. At times it can be difficult to get these reports to work the way I want them to. There have been many times when I was frustrated and prayed for wisdom. But as I look back on my years in this job, I am amazed at how each difficult task was a stepping stone. Each time I had an assignment on my plate, I learned something new. And task by task, my knowledge continued to grow. I recently had to tackle an urgent request within only a few hours. If I had this task years ago, it would have taken me several days. But thanks to the projects I had faced before, I was able to get the report out in record time.

This reminds me of how difficulties are in life. We face many things that make us uncomfortable or frustrated. Yet each time we press through, we learn and grow. Then, down the road, when something bigger comes our way, it is easier to tackle. And then we truly can look back at our past difficulties with pure joy, because we can see how God used them to strengthen us and mold us.


Thank you for reading!

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com
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No Matter What by Julie Arduini

As you read this in America, mid-term election results are most likely in and you’re probably either very happy, or really not. I used to call myself an “armchair commentator,” watching news and paying attention to current events and giving my thoughts on it.

Since 2020, I definitely keep my eye on current events, but I’ve felt God turn that interest into intercession. There are certain words (launch, reset, awakening, for example) He has given me to pray on, as well as time frames and seasons. To be obedient, I backed away from watching the news and have tried to hear His thoughts on global matters.

I do believe the mid-terms are important not just for history, but for eternity. Whatever the results reveal, I believe God has used past results and what’s happening now to bring about His purposes and plans. My sense in prayer is that time is up for individuals to sit on the fence when it comes to what and Who they put their trust in. The time to say one thing and do another will no longer be tolerated. The church will not be in slumber.

And our response is everything.

I recently finished teaching on Hosea and that was a challenging experience. That’s a hard book to market, honestly. Now I’m in Joel, and I believe the circumstances in Joel aren’t much different than today. Our reaction is key. His promises are the same.

Let’s take a look at Joel 2:21-27, NIV, courtesy of Bible Gateway:

    Do not be afraid, land of Judah;
    be glad and rejoice.
Surely the Lord has done great things!
22     Do not be afraid, you wild animals,
    for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
The trees are bearing their fruit;
    the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
23 Be glad, people of Zion,
    rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
    because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
    both autumn and spring rains, as before.
24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
    the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.

Joel 2:21-27, NIV, Bible Gateway

No matter who has been in leadership the last couple years, times have been hard. I don’t have to list why because you’ve most likely attended a funeral or struggled to pay something as much as I have. But in Joel and throughout His Word, we see that we are to rejoice. We are reminded He has done great things, even and especially in hard times. Reading on, He promises to repay for all the locusts have eaten. I don’t know what that looks like, but I know He is not a liar. God has our back. He goes before us. He surrounds us. I am so thankful for that.

This Thanksgiving season, I want to proclaim He has done great things. In my life, my family is healthy. Our child with special health needs has been virus free. She’s attending college and planning to go on a missions trip. Our son graduated, got married, and is teaching, knowing his position is a ministry to offer Christ’s light in a dark world. My husband has a job he loves. Who says that these days? Not many. But we have daily provision, and I don’t take that for granted. We have our Wisconsin children who are healthy and have daily provision, and our grandchildren are healthy and loved. I am able to share the amazing things Jesus is and has done in my life in writing and in person. Not everyone has that.

So where are you? Are you all in for Jesus and what He’s asking of you? Is your response to the last few years or even last night full of bitterness and complaint or thanksgiving? Can you list the ways the Lord has been good to you?

I’m so glad we can connect here at Christians Read. I pray you hold tight to His robe and be ready for the rest of Joel 2 to play out.

Image: Heartlight.org

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