Faith Through Music, by Peggy Webb

I have played piano at church since I was eight years old and knew only two songs, What a Friend We Have in Jesus and Bringing in the Sheaves.  Through the years I have either sung first soprano in the choir or played piano for church services, depending on the size of the church I’m attending–and its needs. Currently, I’m in a very small church, and both singing in the choir and playing for evening services. My repertoire has greatly expanded to include concert versions of the grand old hymns we love. Great is Thy Faithfulness. In the Garden. The Church Is One Foundation, and many more.

Music is one of my favorite ways to worship. Both the melody and the lyrics speak to my soul. That is often the way with musicians. But the lay person who knows nothing of music is left to appreciate only the beautiful sound of organ or piano.

When I became pianist for Sunday evening services at the little church my grandfather built, I decided to share the history of the preludes I play. Some might call my brief exposition a miniature course in music appreciation, but I believe giving the background of a song also increases the listener’s faith. 

Most of our great hymns are based on scripture. Some have murky origins, especially the spirituals such as Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. But some of the truly magnificent songs have a history so compelling it will bring the listener to tears.

It Is Well with My Soul is just such a song. Both words and music were composed by Horatio Spafford from Chicago. He had a thriving business, a wife, and five children. His life was perfect. He was the envy of all his friends.

Then 1871 came along. He lost his son to pneumonia and his business to the now-famous Chicago fire. His family was devastated, his wife cast into deep mourning.

In 1873 Horatio decided to send Anna and their remaining children–four daughters–on a holiday to Europe so they could recover from their grief. They sailed on the French ocean liner, the Ville du Havre. His plan was to join them later.

A few days into the ocean voyage, the Ville du Havre collided with an iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn, putting all 313 passengers in danger. Anna and the girls hurried to the top deck where they prayed for God to deliver them. They also prayed that if deliverance was not in His will, He would give them the courage to endure.

Four minutes later, the ship sank, carrying 226 passengers. A sailor rowing a small boat spotted a woman floating on a piece of wreckage. She and the other survivors were put aboard a ship that landed nine days later in Wales.

Anna was one of those survivors. She wired her husband: Saved alone. What shall I do?

Horatio immediately boarded a ship to Wales. When they came to the spot where all his children had drowned, the captain took Horatio to the top deck. “This is where the tragedy happened,” he said. Horatio stood for a moment over the spot where his four daughters died then went back to his cabin and wrote the amazing hymn, It Is Well with My Soul.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul

Horatio and Anna had three more children, but lost another to pneumonia. His daughter, Beth Spafford Vester, said that her father kept the telegram from Anna framed in his office.

Saved alone. What shall I do?

The message served as reminder to him that no matter what happens in life, God, who put the stars above and the ocean beneath, is always there, a constant port in every storm, a Father who loves us so much He sent His only Son to die that we might be saved.  

God is good.


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Spring: A season of renewal

Welcome to Spring: God’s season of rebirth, growth, and regeneration. Nature awakens from slumber in springtime. New life flourishes. No wonder spring is used as a metaphor for spiritual rebirth and development in the Bible.

Makes sense, right??

There is a season for everything, including planting and uprooting, according to the author of Ecclesiastes. The best time to plant is in the spring since the warm, moist soil is ideal for seed germination and growth. And what of the soil in our souls?

Mankind is formed from the slime of the earth, so its only fitting that we’d be somewhat attuned to those cycles from whence we came.

Winter’s deprivations certainly prime human drives to regenerate by denying us warmth and fruit and light. Humans come to appreciate more for the lack. I certainly do.

Who doesn’t rush to drink when deprived of water? (Seriously. Who?)

Personally, I’ve been known to soak up sun like a lazy cat after a long winter chill. But sunbathing is so much more than getting a tan or manufacturing vitamin D. Sun fuels one’s sense of hope. One can see when it’s bright outside. Opportunity abounds when our landscape is animated by all that’s fresh and new.

But God is wise to grant us humans the cycles required to maintain optimum function. This flux of fasting and feasting encourages us to sow seeds of trust and hope in our hearts just as we do in the ground. Why? Because we survive on stores of hope and trust when darkness comes…and it always comes until we’re finally called home.

The prophet Isaiah mentions spring in his writings as well “Look, I’m trying something new! Do you not notice it as it now emerges?” (NIV) (Isaiah 43:19). This chapter serves as a reminder that God is constantly at work, creating new things, and that we should be receptive to the fresh opportunities and blessings that present themselves to us.

The passing of one thing makes way for the new, for God’s will to work in place of the human will that often becomes stuck in ruts, killing our spirit by holding onto passing phases and refusing his will. Our expectations are limited, God’s not so much!!

As he says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow,” the apostle Paul uses the metaphor of planting and growth in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 3:6, NIV). This chapter serves as a reminder that while we may sow the seeds of hope and faith, it is ultimately God who causes those seeds to grow and bear fruit.

The Israelites are told in the book of Leviticus to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the spring, during which they are to purge their dwellings of all leaven and consume unleavened bread for seven days. This celebration serves as a reminder that we should purify ourselves before God by removing sin from our lives in the same way that we would purge leaven from our homes.

And don’t forget Spring cleaning!!! One man’s trash is another man’s treasure may be a crass saying, but it is absolutely true. I cannot tell you how grateful I’ve been in my life for second hand shops. Clothing, crafts, furniture, teaching tools, and books in abundance.

Have you ever benefited from the largesse of others? From strangers?

Waste not, want not. Embrace the new this Spring. Yield to God’s seasons and realize His goodness in all its splendor!

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The Circle by James R. Coggins

Years ago, I lost a tooth after getting hit with a hockey stick while I was playing hockey—so I can claim to be a real Canadian. But I also broke a finger playing softball, so maybe I am just clumsy.

In the interests of full disclosure, the stick in the mouth was not deliberate. I fell in front of another player just as he was shooting the puck at the net. Neither the puck nor the tooth went into the net.

I haven’t played hockey or softball for quite a few years. Time took a toll on my body. But it can’t be said that my early retirement was a significant loss to the sporting world.

Some of the boys I went to high school with were obviously better athletes and stayed in better shape. They played a lot longer, into their fifties and even sixties.

I talked with one of them a while back. He had been playing in a community old timers’ hockey program for a number of years. He said he was finally forced to retire from hockey a couple of years ago due to an injury. He wasn’t hurt playing hockey. He fell while taking the dog for a walk and injured his arm.

My friend told me that he doesn’t miss the hockey so much, but he does miss “the circle.” Apparently, hockey players sit at their lockers around the outside of the locker room and face inward, toward each other. They talk and become a community. (Baseball and football players apparently sit in a similar circle but face outward, toward their lockers.)

The idea of the hockey circle reminded me of women’s sewing circles of a generation ago. Women, often connected with a church, would get together to make quilts or sew clothes for poor people overseas. While they worked, the women would share their lives and offer each other encouragement and advice. It was a community-building practice disguised as a charity project. Or a charity project disguised as a community-building practice.

Like my hockey career, I fear such circles and such community-building exercises are becoming a thing of the past. Today’s young men and women do not often sit in circles. They mostly sit alone, staring at their iPhones.

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Brand New!

Though this week has felt more like winter than spring, there are signs popping up all around the countryside that all but scream spring has arrived.

The bluebonnets are here; the grass is green, and the fields are colorful with wildflowers. It’s a wonderful time of the year and I believe just a small glimpse into what heaven must look like.

During those long winter months when the trees are bare, and the grass is brown, it’s hard to imagine new life is coming. But it always does. Every spring, those dull and lifeless-looking trees sprout new leaves. The brown grass becomes green and filled with new vitality.

Springtime always reminds me of what happens when we become Christians. The old lifeless person we were is gone and in its place, a new creation is born. One filled with hope and the promise of eternal life.   

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

We become brand new in the sight of God, and we will spend the rest of our time here on earth being sanctified.

And one day, like us, the earth with be made brand new. There will be no more groaning under the weight of sin’s hold.   

As Revelation 21: 1-3 says,

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

So, whatever your part of the world looks like now, know that spring is coming. A season of renewing. A time of brand-new things.

Many blessings,

Mary Alford

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Proverbs 5, 6 & 7

Warnings against Foolishness

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth

Proverbs 5:18

There is little interpretation needed for Proverbs 5, 6 and 7 other than to make a blanket statement, “Do not stray.”

Faithfulness, trust, belonging, commitment, strength, deep friendship, loving family and other such ideals are the benefits of monogamy. Others look at you with respect.

This advice to Solomon’s son provides wisdom, comprehension and prudence. Following his advice to remain true to your spouse, despite the temptations of the flesh, assures that your life will be happier than if you fall.

Some of the warnings seem to be about what we call today STDs. Others are more about damage to your spirit. The temptress may not realize what she does to your soul but nonetheless, the harm is done.

Foolishness, folly, weakness, becoming ensnared, poverty of spirit or material, deceit, impulsiveness, and sure punishment are what may follow if Solomon’s advice isn’t taken to heart. The Lord sees all.

In Proverbs 6, Solomon issues warnings against foolishness. In 6:16-19 he says:

16There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to Him:

17haughty eyes, 

a lying tongue, 

hands that shed innocent blood,

18a heart that devises wicked schemes, 

feet that run swiftly to evil,

19a false witness who gives false testimony, 

and one who stirs up discord among brothers.

Each of these faults may come into play when someone cheats on his or her spouse.

Early in our marriage, my husband told me a little about one of his co-workers. This young man was married and often bragged to the other men at his company about his extramarital conquests. My husband couldn’t help but question whether if a man cannot be trusted by his nearest and dearest could he be trusted by his peers or the company he worked for? In endeavors outside his marriage, would he be any more reliable?

My husband kept his opinions to himself, but he never trusted this co-worker, and I agreed with him completely. Men or women who consider cheating on their spouses need to remember they will be looked on by others, and usually not with admiration, but the opposite. It shows a certain self-centeredness that doesn’t allow insight into other people’s thoughts about them. They are willing to risk their marriage to something fleeting and without meaning. This shows anything but good judgment.

Solomon’s teachings on faithfulness will lead you to greater understanding and wisdom. This insures a more complete and well-respected life, allowing you to walk in God’s good graces.

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Finsta Faith by Julie Arduini

Have you ever heard of “Finsta”?

What does finsta mean?

Finsta is short for Finstagram, or “fake Instagram,” referring to an account made so that a user can post images and interact with other accounts in a more private way, usually reserving the account’s followers to close friends.

—Merriam Webster

As a youth group worker and mother of a teen, I’ve heard the term more than once. The teens have an account they want the world, including adults, to see. Then there is the account only friends can see. Their Finsta. Chances are those pictures would contain things adults/parents probably wouldn’t approve of.

When you think about it, it’s living a double life.

The more I reflected on that, the more I realized there is such a thing as “finsta faith.”

There’s the appearance one wants the world to see. Perhaps that account is generous with money and is at a church service every Sunday.

The finsta faith? That version might be of someone who doesn’t live for Christ Monday-Saturday. Perhaps alcohol or people take first place in their lives. Maybe their language is generous in profanity. Basically no one would be able to tell the difference between someone in finsta faith versus a person with no relationship with Jesus at all.

Years and years ago I witnessed finsta faith up close, and it stuck with me. When that person was around me or my family, they spoke of hymns. Their language included “Praise God” and “what an answer to prayer.”

Then their finsta life collided with their other life.

My family was at an event and so was this other person. They were with a group that was not living for Christ. I watched that person’s eyes as they looked at us, and then the other group. If they talked hymns with that group, they would be found out by the others. If they talked like the group they were with, the charade was over.

They chose to act like the other group.

James 4:8 contains a verse that I think addresses finsta faith pretty well.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8, ESV

It would be easy and tempting to judge the teens for their finsta accounts, but I better take a look at my own life first. I believe with all my heart we are in a time where the faith fence sitting is behind us. No more lukewarm faith.

—Julie Arduini

You are either for Christ, or against Him.

I’m studying and teaching on Revelation and John wrote down everything he experienced as inspired by God. He wrote it from the island of Patmos in 95 A.D. where he was living as what we would now call an enemy of the state.

His crime?

He refused to renounce Jesus as Lord.

He refused to bow to the emperor.

That’s real faith, and as believers, that’s what we’re called to.

No I’ll talk Jesus with this group and live completely different with everyone else.

Do you dare take inventory? Are you ready to ask God where you stand? Is your faith authentic or finsta?

If you align more with a finsta faith, it’s not too late. In fact, now is the perfect time to get on your knees, confess, repent, and watch Jesus make all things new. Most of all, you! (By the way, that challenge starts with me. Heading to my prayer time right now).

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Stay In Your Own Lane

photo by Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

What does it mean to “Stay in your own lane?” And how hard is it? Quite hard, evidently.

I have a friend whose husband is unhappy in his job. He only focuses on the negatives, and when he comes home to his family he shares his negative feelings. Feelings his wife tires of hearing. She asks how the negative things affect him and he says they don’t—he just doesn’t like seeing people slack off. That’s when she told him, if it doesn’t affect him, to let it go—stay in your own lane and do your job.

That made him mad, and he stormed off only to come back a few minutes later complaining about something else that had happened. When he went outside, his five-year-old granddaughter looked up and said, “Pop-pop doesn’t listen.”

We laugh about that, but how many times have we done the same thing? Focus on someone who slacks off and gets by with it and is sometimes even rewarded. But when it has nothing to do with our job, or us…why do we complain? Is it because we resent others getting by while we do our jobs the best we can? Could we even be a little jealous?

Jesus talked about this very thing in the Scripture for my Sunday School lesson this past Sunday. It was from Matthew 20:1-15 and is the parable of the workers in the vineyard. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. (I know there are other definitions, but I like this one.)

The story goes like this: a man has a large vineyard and the grapes are ready for harvest. Early in the day, he goes to the place where workers hang out and hired a crew who agreed to work for a denarius for the day. Then he goes back three hours later (around 9) and hires more men, promising to give them a fair wage. This happens two more times, around noon and then around five, near the end of the work day.

He pays the workers, starting with the last hired (who worked about an hour) and gives them a denarius. Same thing happens with the ones who worked half a day and the ones who work three-quarters of the day. Can you imagine what the workers who had been there all day thought by the time the paymaster got to them? They were certain they would receive more money than the others. Probably their expectations were very high.

And then the vineyard owner paid them what they agreed to—one denarius. The first workers complained—after all, they had worked in the heat all day, and the landowner paid those who’d lazed around in the shade the very same thing they received! It wasn’t fair.

We might even sympathize with the first workers and agree they had a legitimate beef. But did they? After all, they had agreed to work for a denarius. If the land owner wanted to be generous to the others, did it cost the first workers anything? No, they received what he promised.

This is when I remembered that metaphor about staying in your own lane. By the way, Webster’s defines the saying as advice to worry about your own assignment and not worry about someone else’s. But it’s more than about assignments.

Do we cast a jealous eye when God gifts someone else with riches while we can barely make ends meet? Or in the case of an author, how do we feel when another author becomes an overnight success while we’re still on the B-list, struggling to get recognized? Read Jesus’s answer in Matthew 20.

Life is a journey. Don’t compare yourself or your work to others. Be happy for others when they succeed. Stay in your lane and enjoy your journey.

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Thomas by James R. Coggins

John 11:16 mentions the apostle “Thomas (also known as Didymus).” He is commonly called “Doubting Thomas,” but the Bible never calls him that. He did not believe the other apostles when they told him that Jesus had risen from the dead (John 20:25). But we should remember that those other apostles did not believe when the women told them (Luke 24:11). “Thomas” means “twin” in Aramaic, the common language in Palestine, and “Didymus” means “twin” in Greek. The name most likely indicates that he was a twin, not that he was double-minded as some have suggested.

Thomas should also not be accused of being unfaithful. In John 11, Jesus talked about returning to Judea, where some of the local Jews had threatened to stone Jesus (John 10:31-39). Thomas did not even consider the possibility that Jesus might raise Lazarus from the dead. Thomas calculated that Jesus would likely be killed. But Thomas was willing to go and die with Jesus, saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16 NIV).

In John 14, Jesus talked about His death and resurrection and the promise of heaven. Thomas received none of the comfort Jesus was offering. He heard only the part about separation from Jesus and the remoteness of heaven. He said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). He did not accept possibilities that he could not see.

In John 20:24-29, when the other apostles told Thomas that Jesus had been resurrected, he refused to believe it until he could see for himself.

Thomas was not unfaithful, and he did not doubt who Jesus was. But he was a fatalist and a pessimist. He found it easier to believe in death than life, easier to believe in suffering than blessing. He was ready to die with Christ but found it harder to believe that he could also live and reign with Christ. Many modern Christians are like Thomas. Sometimes God leads us down paths of suffering and testing. Sometimes He showers us with blessings and miracles. Most Christians experience both extremes at various times. We do not know what will come our way, but we should be ready for both possibilities. Like Thomas, we should be ready to faithfully suffer and die with Christ if that is our path. Unlike Thomas, we should also be ready to joyfully accept God’s blessings and thank Him for them.

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Forgiveness Through a Child’s Eyes by Peggy Webb

One of my greatest joys is teaching Sunday School to children, ages two to six. No matter what topic I choose, I learn more than I teach. Why? Because I always come away from the lesson with an innocent child’s perspective throwing a spotlight on scripture, illuminating it in a vastly different way.  

Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Children never get bogged down in messy and complicated details. They don’t agonize over nuance and dither over meaning. They don’t race off to consult several friends in order to make up their minds. When you tell them something, they immediately see the big picture. Whole and perfect. Plain and simple. They have no trouble figuring out how a certain scripture applies to their lives or imagining a Biblical concept in a modern world.  They know. Immediately and without angst.

Last Sunday I taught forgiveness to my Sunday School angels. A big concept for a young mind. In order to teach forgiveness, we had to talk about sin.

Me, a teacher of undisclosed age: What is sin?

Boone, an adorable five-year-old: When you do something bad.

 How simple is that? I then asked the children to imagine their mom had packed their favorite cookie for school lunch.

Me, a not-so-adorable older woman: Is stealing bad?

Boone, the little Einstein: Yes.

Me: What would you do if another little boy in your class stole your cookie?

Boone: I’d be mad!

Me: Being angry is a normal reaction when someone does something bad to you. But what would you do if the little boy came over and told you he was sorry?

Boone: I’d still be mad.

Me: Jesus says we should forgive. Do you know what that means?

Boone:  God won’t like it?

Me: God tells us to stop being mad at someone who did a bad thing to us. He wants us to choose to throw our anger or our hurt away. He wants us to be nice and kind to everybody, even the one who did a bad thing to us. Let’s read what the Bible says about forgiveness.

Using the children’s Bible, I read the story of Peter asking Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven, but seven times seventy.”

Me: God wants you to forgive seven times seventy. That’s a big number. More than you’d want to count.

Boone: Okay. Then are we done?

Wow! What a perfectly normal human reaction. Wouldn’t we love to get by with doing the minimum God asks of us, then go back to being mad or nursing our hurt or crying in a corner? “Well, I did what the Bible said, and now I’m done. I can go back to doing what want.”

Boone’s question led to an interesting discussion about the meaning of seventy times seven. It’s such a big number, it would be silly to keep count. It’s an exaggeration of Peter’s question, making the point that our capacity to forgive should be endless. Seven, being the number that means completeness or perfection, reminds us to strive to be perfect, just as Jesus Christ was perfect. 

Five-year-old Boone nodded sagely, said, “Okay,” then hopped up from the kiddie table to ride Pete, the antique rocking horse. After the children took turns riding Pete, the five-year-olds sang “Jesus Loves Me,” while adorable two-year-old Hank, Boone’s little brother, marched around the room plucking a plastic ukelele and singing, “Dee and wi,” his version of “Deep and Wide.” 

Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

God is good.


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New Book Release by Tara Randel

I’m excited to let you know about my newest book release, Her Surprise Hometown Match, a Harlequin Heartwarming romance. This the fourth book in the Golden Matchmakers Club series. I always have fun returning to Golden and this book will not only showcase the matchmakers at work as they try to pair Juliette and Ty together, but it will recap previous characters from the series. I don’t know about you, but I love catching up on characters’ lives, who is engaged, married or expecting. And I hope you enjoy the journey of Juliette and Ty falling in love. I had a blast writing the book.

Can she be honest…

With the rodeo cowboy?

Juliette Bishop is living a lie. And she won’t let any man get close enough to discover she’s not the hero Golden residents imagine. But rebellious former rodeo cowboy Ty Pendergrass slips under her radar…and straight into her heart. No stranger to the struggles of shedding a reputation, the daring trick rider could be her perfect match. If she has the courage to come clean with him and her hometown! 

Here is an excerpt.

A slow, unexpected grin spread over his face, changing him from merely handsome to plain out gorgeous. Juliette lost her train of thought for a second, until another car horn shook her back to reality.

“You must be new in Golden,” she said, hoping to successfully cover her reaction to the stranger. “You can’t charm me to get your way.”

His smile ramped up a notch. “You think I’m charming?”

“That’s not the point.” She crossed her arms over her chest and tapped a foot. “I’m not moving.”

He slapped his hat back on his head. “Then it looks like we’re at an impasse.”

She pressed her lips together, her eyes moving to the empty spot and the sign at the curb. Reserved for the Golden Police Chief.

Disappointed and relieved at the same time, she said, “Seems neither of us can park here.”

“Why not?”

She pointed to the sign. “It’s reserved for the police chief.”

Some of the man’s ire slipped away.

They both approached the sign, standing so close that Juliette could feel his body heat. She was enveloped by his cologne. The scent reminded her of pine trees and a touch of citrus. She hadn’t noticed this many details about a man in forever.

A preview of Golden in the fall.

This book was featured by JustRead Publicity Tours. Here is the link if you’d like to enter the tour giveaway. Today is the last day to sign up! Welcome to the Her Surprise Hometown Match Blog Tour & Giveaway! – JustRead Publicity Tours ( You can also view the tour schedule and visit some of the stops on the tour.

This is the last book in the matchmaker’s series, but I don’t plan on leaving Golden any time soon. In fact, I’m working on new story proposals right now and hope to have good news about future books. In the meantime, thanks for your support!

Her Surprise Hometown Match




Apple Books


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Break the Habit!

Some folks call them routines while others call them ruts. I’m talking about habits here. People tend to fall into patterns, however much we fancy ourselves as being unique. We’re all sheep, according to the Lord, and He would know.

No offense to the Almighty, but does it make you squirmy to think of yourself as a hapless lambkin? If not, good for you. If you do find the wooly reference somewhat annoying, join my club.  Who wants to associate themselves with a dim animal who will happily toddle off to slaughter for a handful of grass? Not me.

But wait a minute. Sheep are perfectly made, perhaps not in the image and likeness of God, but they’re pleasing to Him just as they are. No fallen nature there, folks. But I forget about the perfection of God’s creation sometimes, like when I’m slapping a blood sucking mosquito. They do love me. Yet God did review what he created and deemed the heavens and the earth, the plants and trees, the sea and the sky good.

Even we humans can’t be faulted for what we haven’t heard or seen or been taught in some fashion. Right? Ignorance can be bliss in so much as God is entirely fair about not calling you out on what you had no way of knowing.

Who’s a dummy?

That said, I’ve reassessed my view about our flocking friends. Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary states that, ‘Despite the popular belief that sheep are stupid, they are actually incredibly intelligent. They have very impressive cognitive ability and just like humans, they form deep and lasting bonds with each other, they stick up for one another in fights, and they grieve when they lose a friend. They experience all of the same emotions that we do including fear, joy, boredom, anger and happiness to name a few.”

Wow. I guess being compared to a sheep isn’t all that awful, although knowing this now has me rethinking being a carnivore. I should probably refrain from getting too deep into the subject since meat is doctor recommended for yours truly. As in, ‘Never, ever become a vegetarian and absolutely not a vegan, Ann.’ If you tend toward anemia of the pernicious variety, I’d say use that excuse to keep the lamb chops coming. (They are tasty, too!)

But we humans are sheep, living in a world of daily expectation. We experience daily failures for which we are accountable thanks to free will. A doubled edged gift. Humans commit bad acts with full knowledge sometimes. Sin happens.

And yet established habit has a way of diminishing culpability. Who hasn’t wanted to stop a deeply ingrained something but found themselves doing whatever it is without even thinking. That would be me. Conscious thought is part of sin, after all. As in actively choosing what you know to be evil.

Here’s a shocker. The Harvard Business Journal indicates that ‘fully 95 percent of our behaviors are habitual, or occur in response to a strong external stimulus. Only 5 percent of our choices are consciously self-selected.’

So, what’s a body to do to keep from digging deeper into bad habits??? First is to realize that God isn’t rubbing His hands together in the anticipation of frying us. Quite the opposite. We are God’s children. Beloved children. He knows we’ll fall, so we should expect it and prepare while still trying our best. We should always ask for God’s help and guidance to be filled with his will and the grace to do it. But, like children, we should be expected to do what we can if only to grow in resolve.

Check here for practical HELP TO OVERCOME UNWANTED HABITS!

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The Legacy of the Pen by James R. Coggins

My seven-year-old grandson was given a pen as a reward for some achievement at school. He put it into his shirt pocket because he thought it made him “look like Grandpa.”

I was flattered.

But it brought back memories. Many years ago, I was elected to the high school student council, and a picture of the council was published in the local newspaper. One of my aunts saw it and said, “That’s typical Jimmy. He has a pen in his pocket.” I hated being called Jimmy. But the pen was important. I still carry a pen in my pocket. In fact, I refuse to buy shirts that don’t have a pocket. Because I can never tell when an idea will pop into my mind and I will need to write it down before it floats away. If I don’t write it down immediately and try to recreate it later, the words don’t flow properly. A nugget of truth becomes a lump of coal.

Singer Paul Simon, who often called himself a poet, once wrote about this danger: “She faded in the night like a poem I meant to write.” Of course, if Paul Simon had waited to write down that line, it might have come out as “I lost a girlfriend once, which reminded me of the time I lost the thread of a poem I never finished writing.” It’s not the same.

And carrying a pen is easier than carrying a laptop computer (and charging cord) in my shirt pocket.

The great Canadian writer Stephen Leacock wrote, “There’s nothing to being a writer. You just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is easy. It’s the occurring that’s difficult.” Occurring is as rare and valuable as a precious stone and therefore worth seizing whenever it appears. And so I carry a pen. I am a writer.

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Advice for Younger Self

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and talk to your younger self? Someone asked me this recently, and it got me to thinking.

Back when I was a child, I didn’t really think much about the future or really what I wanted to be when I grew up. I lived for the moment. Having fun. Playing with neighbor kids. Life was much smaller back then.

But then I grew up and life became real. I tried out several jobs before I pursued my dream of writing and later became an author.

Through all the ups and downs, I confess I didn’t always ask God for direction as I should have. And when I look back, I can see that when I followed my own wishes, things didn’t go so well, but when I trusted God to guide me through whatever decision, I faced it might not have turned out the way I had planned, but it turned out for the best.

King Solomon was a wise man. The Book of Ecclesiastes was written toward the end of this wise king’s reign. I wonder if he wished he could go back in time and speak to his younger self?

Ecclesiastes talks about the futility of seeking happiness outside of God.

In the end, the Preacher as Solomon, refers to himself as, comes to accept that faith in God is the only way to find true happiness.

In Ecclesiastes 12: 10-14, Solomon writes:

The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

At the end of his life, Solomon advised his readers to focus on an eternal God instead of temporary pleasure.

He was a wise man. And although I’m not wise like Solomon, looking back at my life, I totally agree. Trusting God is the only way to find true happiness.

Many blessings,

Mary Alford

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Who’s in Charge by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by Marquise Kamanke on Unsplash

Have you ever been the victim of an unfair law? On a local level? State level? National level? Have you known people who have been hurt by these laws or who stand to lose their livelihood or freedom or life? 

It doesn’t seem to matter which faction is in power, someone is at odds with the authorities. There are marches in protest. Rallies against the injustice. Different sides can’t seem to find a solution that works for everyone and the whole country, sometimes the world, ends up in unrest.

This is unsettling for all. Disturbing to our way of life. No one wants to have this constant turmoil in our country but no one has a solution.

In the book of Daniel, we read that Daniel is one of the top three government officials. He has the king’s ear. But there are others just as powerful and many who are trusted advisors that the king also listens to. And some of those officials are jealous of Daniel’s place in government and would like to get rid of him, especially when Daniel became distinguished above all the others. 

You’d think this would give Daniel protection and power. However, the advisors have those silver tongues and know how to word their request so it flatters the king and he doesn’t take time to consider the consequences. (A danger to those in power is listening to advice and not taking the time to hear all sides.)

“Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.” Daniel 6:6-8 (ESV)

How many of us would have been furious about this? Might have joined a protest or organized a rally? Done a march through the city to get support? 

Remember, the king loved Daniel. I’m sure Daniel tried to talk to him but there were so many others who were convincing and complementary so the king listened to them. He signed the decree into law.

What did Daniel do? He followed his normal pattern. 

“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel 6:10 (ESV)

It’s interesting that Daniel didn’t rail against the injustice. He didn’t tell God what He should do. I don’t believe he asked God to strike down the king and the advisors. Why? Because, he prayed and gave thanks like he normally did. Nothing new here. Just praising God for Who He is and what He’s done. 

Of course, we all know the story. Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den. The king stayed up all night concerned for his friend and trusted official. Daniel was saved. The lion’s mouths were closed by God. Daniel was released in the morning.

We can learn two important lessons from this story. First, we need to have a daily pattern of meeting with God—praising Him and acknowledging who He is. Second, we have to trust Him to take care of us. Even when the situation looks dire. When the worst that could happen is happening. Still we must trust Him. 

The next time we want to rail at injustice or complain about new laws that we don’t agree with, we should go to our place of prayer and lift up some praise. Show God that we put Him over anything that comes against us. Show Him our utter devotion and trust. Just like Daniel.

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The Bible Translations by Julie Arduini

Each year I choose a new Bible translation as my go-to for reading on my phone. I like learning, for the most part, the different versions and how they stack up.

In my hardcover, I use NLT and Holcomb the most, but I enjoy my year challenge to see how I learn with the other translation I’ve taken on for that year.

This year I’ve taken on AMP, Amplified. Not only that, I accepted a request on my Bible app to read through with others. What I didn’t know was it was a year-long plan. And I’m reading Amplified.

It has been a challenge, I’m not going to lie!

This week I was reminded how blessed we are, using wisdom and discernment of course, to have so many translations available.

I receive a weekly email encouragement that ends with a verse in the Message translation. This week the verse is Psalm 42:7.

The encouragement talked about God’s love and how deep it is.. Intimate. Personal. And then to read the verse, WOW. Take a look.

Psalm 42:7
The Passion Translation
  My deep need calls out to the deep kindness of your love. Your waterfall of weeping sent waves of sorrow over my soul, carrying me away, cascading over me like a thundering cataract.

My romantic heart reading—“cascading over me like a thundering cataract.”

That’s some imagery, am I right?

I have had a long, frustrating week and to read of His deep love for me was just the pick-me-up I needed. Is the Message the only translation I want to read? No. I understand there are some liberties there. But wow, did God use it to help me. I still can’t get over the wording. A thundering cataract!

Yes, I still have my Bible plan where I’m slogging through Deuteronomy via the Amplified, but I love that there are many translations to learn from. Yet, of course, One true God.

How about you? Do you have a favorite translation?

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