“Pleasant” by James R. Coggins

Third in a Series

The Old Testament character Naomi undoubtedly had a hard life. She experienced famine and exile and lost her husband and her only two sons. As a result, she lived in poverty in her later years. No wonder in Ruth 1:20 she changed her name from Naomi (“Pleasant”) to Mara (“Bitter”).

Naomi also experienced good. She had a husband for some time and produced two sons. She had an unusually loyal daughter-in-law. She remained faithful to the true God. She found a kinsman redeemer in Boaz, was restored to prosperity, and was given a new son.

At the end of her life, looking back, would Naomi have said it was worth it all? I think so. At the end, she was essentially back where she started—at least on the surface.

Beyond the immediate, however, Naomi was far better off. From her daughter-in-law’s son came Israel’s greatest king and the world’s Savior. Was Naomi’s suffering worthwhile if it contributed to saving the world? Yes, of course. But it was even worthwhile for Naomi, since she would also partake in Christ’s salvation. In heaven, her family and everything else she had lost would be restored to her. In another and even greater sense, she would be back where she started. She would be restored to the Edenic perfection of God’s first creation—and even more. Naomi’s story is a picture of the ultimate redemption of the human race.

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Fall Vacation 2022 by Tara Randel

Last week my family and I went away to spend a week in the north Georgia mountains. It was so lovely to see that the leaves had changed color. We took lots of pictures, went hiking, and relaxed in our favorite place to visit. Here are some highlights.

Local Color

Helen, GA

I love this shot!

Hike #1 Dukes Creek Falls

We started at a leisurely stroll, which became a little tricky by the time we reached the falls. The trail went downhill for a mile, then back up for a 2-mile trip. It took about an hour, but we enjoyed the sunny day.

Hike #2 Anna Ruby Falls.

My all-time favorite. No matter what else is going on, we make sure to travel to these falls. It’s about a mile round trip. It gets steep toward the top, but the path is paved the entire way and the view is well worth it!

Hike #3 Hemlock Falls.

This was a new adventure for us. The trail was about three miles in and out and was not for beginners. It took about an hour and forty-five minutes up and back, but the scenery was lovely, and you could hear the rushing creek as we walked. The final destination was absolutely gorgeous, even if the terrain kept us alert. Good thing I had my walking stick.

Yes, this was the path.

Still part of the trail.

The destination was so worth the challenging hike.

Needless to say, the week flew by, but as always, I have wonderful memories of our time away. And as always, when we are in these beautiful places, I’m in awe of God’s majesty.

Now, it’s back to work. Those books won’t write themselves!

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 Hometown 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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It’s Release Day for The Champion!

Happy Saturday everyone!

Today, The Champion, the first book in a brand-new series entitled The Philanthropists series, is now available

The Philanthropists is a series of suspense or romantic suspense stories that are short reads and can be read in an afternoon.

There are 6 books included and all involve a philanthropist of some sort, but none are your typical philanthropist story. Each are standalone stories and can be read in any order you choose.  

We will be releasing one book per week staring November 5 – December 10.  These are exclusively at Amazon, written for Kindle, and in Kindle Unlimited.

Meet The Champion by Mary Alford

Taking place on the Apache Reservation in New Mexico where a serial killer is on the hunt. When the latest victim of the killer escapes, Chief Rachel Altaha and Doctor Aaron Carson embark on a twisted chase into the seedy world of human trafficking to catch a killer before he can disappear again.

And be sure to check out the rest of The Philanthropists Series

Have a blessed Saturday my friends!

Mary Alford

http://www.MaryAlford.net

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Clear, Insightful Thinking by James R. Coggins

Back when I was editor of a denominational magazine (the Mennonite Brethren Herald), I used to delight in receiving submissions from many ordinary people with something to say. Some were well-written and some not, but I was glad to publish them if they had something important to say. An editor can fix poor grammar. An editor cannot fix a well-written article that does not say anything useful or important.

And then I began receiving submissions from an ordinary philosophy professor with something to say. Elmer Thiessen’s articles were clear, well-written, well-researched, thoughtful, theologically sound, and relevant. They were a delight to receive and publish.

I remember one article in particular. It was a thoughtful and well-reasoned critique of a denominational program, with the critique based on the denominational statement of faith. The denominational program was useful but had some limitations, which Elmer’s article clearly pointed out.

Some denominational leaders were very upset that I had dared to publish an article critical of their program, but I never regretted my decision. I was far more interested in truth, knowledge, clear thinking, and the welfare of the denomination as a whole. I was convinced that a free and thoughtful discussion would make the program more useful and the denomination stronger.

That program has largely dropped out of use, but my appreciation for Elmer Thiessen has remained.

Therefore, when Elmer asked if my Mill Lake Books imprint would publish his autobiography, I was glad to agree.

Stumbling Heavenward: One Philosopher’s Journey was published last year. The biography covers the usual topics—Elmer’s early life, his education, his family life, his work as a college professor, his writings, and his church involvement. Therefore, this book is of special interest to the people who knew him and worked with him—his family, his friends, his colleagues, fellow scholars, and members of his church and his denomination. But because Elmer is such a good writer and because he makes such wise, thoughtful, and insightful observations on his experiences, this book can be read far beyond those in his immediate circle. It can be read with benefit by all who are interested in the family, the church, the university, and important issues.

Elmer Thiessen’s book—and his life—demonstrate that it is very possible to be a thoughtful, intelligent Christian.

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Forgiveness

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Forgiveness, such a simple word for something that is anything but. Forgiving someone who has hurt isn’t easy. It’s something I’ve struggled with a lot.

Colossians 3:13 says,

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Forgiveness isn’t easy no matter the circumstances. When you’ve been hurt deeply, forgiving the person who caused the hurt is the last thing you want to do.

But Jesus while on the cross forgave the ones who had put him there. Think about that for a second.

In Luke 23:34, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

I recently read an article about how Corrie Ten Boon forgave one of the Nazi guards from Ravensbrück Concentration Camp where she and her sister were sent and her sister Betsie died. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.

In her book, The Hiding Place, she wrote;

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

When we forgive, we free ourselves of the chains of bitterness and anger. We are set free when we forgive.

All the best…

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

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Loving a Neighbor by Nancy J. Farrier

Have you ever had a neighbor or a person in your life that is tough to love? You know God doesn’t want you at odds with that person, but you can’t seem to find solid footing where you can interact without one of you being upset or offended. No matter how hard you try, loving that person becomes the hardest thing you have to do as Christian.

I have one of those people in my life. I’ve struggled so much with this issue. I’ve tried reasoning over our differences. Doesn’t help. I’ve tried being friendly to little success. I pray about this person, and our issues, and don’t see any relief in the near future.

“For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13: 9-10 (ESV)

I recently spent a week studying these two verses and pondering their meaning—with an emphasis on what God was saying to me about the person in my life that is so difficult to get along with. I realized that I don’t need to stand back and let a neighbor harm me, but I also must not seek to hurt anyone for any reason.

I also thought long and hard about who is my neighbor. Does this mean the people sitting beside me at church or those whose property borders mine? Jesus prayed the following:

“… I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9 (ESV)

This leads me to believe my neighbor is the person or people God brings within my sphere of influence or connection My family, the people at church, neighbors—even the grumpy, mean-spirited ones—even those I come in contact with for a few minutes. All of those within my reach are my neighbors and worthy of God’s love and thus, my love. God brings them to me for a purpose and not always for those warm fuzzy feelings. Sometimes, He wants me to stretch and grow in the ways I show love.

I know God never seeks to wrong someone or get revenge for His own benefit. Likewise, when that person within my sphere hurts me, I am still called to love. I must forgive and live out the love of God, to show even in those difficult times that God is love. He Who first loved me, calls me to be like Him.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

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Focused on Jesus by Bridget A. Thomas

In the Gospels, there are many stories where Jesus healed people. In some cases, the healing was spiritual. There were numerous instances where Jesus cast out demons. In other cases, the healing was physical, such as one man whose hand was crippled (see Luke 6). Of those who were healed physically, there are several cases of a person being blind and Jesus gave them sight. I was recently reading in the book of Mark about one such scenario.


Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.”

Mark 10:46-52


Several things jumped out at me when I read this story.

I love how despite the way the people told this man to be quiet, Jesus heard Bartimaeus and saw Bartimaeus. Jesus stopped to give this man a moment of His time. In life we will have many people who dismiss us or overlook us. They will think our words are not worthy to be heard. But Jesus is always there. He will see us. He will hear us. Remember that no matter how others might make you feel, Jesus loves you beyond measure.

I also appreciate how this man kept yelling, even though others told him to be quiet. Bartimaeus kept calling out to Jesus. He didn’t allow other people to pull him away from the Lord. We too will have people, circumstances, and even the enemy attempt to pull our attention off of Jesus. We have to stand strong and keep our focus on Him, despite the difficulties that get in our way.

When Jesus called to him, Bartimaeus came running. May we too have a heart that runs after Jesus. When He calls to us, or when we are given a directive, may we immediately jump up and follow the Lord’s lead.

Something else that amazed me was the fact that Jesus was the first thing this man saw when he was healed. It is not believed that this man was blind from birth. In ESV, verse 51, Bartimaeus says, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And in the NASB, he says, “I want to regain my sight.” Nonetheless, we can imagine being blind was a tragic experience for him, no matter how long he suffered. But it is so beautiful to me that once his eyesight was restored, Jesus was right there in front of him. And then the man followed Jesus down the road. This prompted me to consider, how much do I keep my eyes on Jesus. In this world, we have many things that can keep us from focusing on Jesus.

May we learn to set aside anything that distracts us from Him. The rewards will be well worth it when we stay focused on our Savior. Let’s run after Jesus with joy!


Thank you for reading!

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Traction by Julie Arduini

When I travel back to my hometown in Upstate NY, I try to carve out a pitstop in Erie, PA. The gem of the area is Presque Isle. My favorite is Beach 6 where I love to sit and watch the waves.

There’s always one challenge. Where I park versus where I sit contains a bit of a sandy hill. A few trips I didn’t consider this and I wasn’t prepared. My shoes didn’t have great traction and I struggled. Once the sand had an upper hand a couple times, I started packing better shoes for these visits. It’s amazing what good traction can do to help me move forward.

And that’s symbolic of my life right now.

Last month my husband and I traveled to the Adirondack Mountains (I packed great boots, BTW) and part of our stay involved talking about life and getting input. I shared my writing frustrations. I know it’s the call of my life. I believe I have grown from my first novel to where I am now. I’m so proud of Anchored Hearts. I feel this new series, Surrendering Hearts, is special.

But real talk?

I have no traction.

I had a team read it ahead of time, leave very encouraging reviews, and talked it up.

I’ve joined online parties.

I share daily posts across social media.

And that needle isn’t moving.

It’s akin to me wearing sandals trying to navigate the sandy hill.

Tom, an IT guy who manages a team across the globe, felt it was worth my setting aside writing for a season and taking advantage of marketing workshops. I returned home and felt that was God’s leading as I found a 5 Day Amazon ad event. As soon as I signed up for that, I found an Amazon workshop for selling during the Christmas season. Joined that. I discovered a bonus I’d saved from Kindlepreneur regarding key words and categories. I learned valuable information and applied it.

I’m just starting in this and Bryan Cohen, Founder of Author Ad School, encouraged authors to consider it a marathon, not a sprint. It’s hard. Anchored Hearts was approximately 80k words. Those words take time to create, edit, revise, polish, and if you’re an Indie like me, publish. If readers truly knew the time, it would be shocking. Because even if I’m not at the laptop, I’m thinking about characters, plot lines, marketing strategies and more. This happens when I’m cleaning the bathroom, driving, and yes, even lounging at Presque Isle.

A few years ago I felt in prayer the word for me to believe in and stand on was “launch.” I feel part of that word aligns with my writing life. Writing is a ministry for me. I long to see readers move forward in their journey with Jesus because they were encouraged by my work. I believe Christian romance can accomplish that. And that’s my genre. I also believe in the future I will visit places and share, and once finished there will be a remnant of women who will stay behind. As they share and I pray, that’s the why behind everything I do. Prayer.

As a praying person who stands in the gap for others as God leads, I strongly believe we are on the cusp of an amazing shift world wide. Talk about launch. The Body of Christ will change. Government leadership will change. Marketplace will be different. Families. Cities. We are sooooo close. And as I pray on this, I see and have interacted with others who feel the same, that many who have a call on their life and have obeyed it are spinning their tires. Getting no traction. Yet they hear that same sound from heaven. Launch.

So, while I’m frustrated, I keep plugging away. I trust the time I’m taking to learn new marketing efforts has purpose. I pray my writing will improve as I navigate the balance between marketing and writing.

Most of all, I pray for traction.

How about you? Is there anything going on in your life that feels like an uphill challenge? That you have the wrong “footwear?” Feel free to share in the comments. It’s my honor to pray for you.

While we’re here, you’re invited to check out my list of work.

Surrendering Hearts Christian/Sweet/Small Town Romance series with Family Drama:

Series Premise: What if a family with a unique birth story stays in the spotlight because of tragedy?

Each Hart sextuplet receives their own book containing a surrender issue and a chocolate mention.

Book 1, Anchored Hearts, now available on Amazon. Also free for Kindle Unlimited.

Book 2, Repairing Hearts, Coming 2023

Book 3, Building Hearts, plus three more titles, coming soon.

Surrendering Time Inspy/Rom Com/Small Town Romance series

Entrusted

Entangled

Engaged

This series is not only available on Amazon, but at most online sellers. It’s also available as a library digital read through Hoopla.

Stand-alone Inspy/Small Town/Work Romance:

Restoring Christmas

This is not only available on Amazon, but at most online sellers. It will soon be available as a library digital read through Hoopla.

Stand-alone Christian/Small Town Romance

Match Made in Heaven

This is not only available on Amazon, but at most online sellers. It will soon be available as a library digital read through Hoopla.

Surrendering Stinkin’ Thinkin’ YA/Women’s Suburban Fiction series with Hannah Arduini

You’re Beautiful

You’re Amazing

You’re Brilliant

These are available on Amazon, and will be available with other online sellers and as a library digital read through Hoopla in 2023.

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Naomi and Ruth by James R. Coggins

Second in a Series

A common interpretation of Ruth 1:16 has often bothered me. In this verse, the Moabite woman Ruth said to her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” This verse has sometimes been presented as an exemplary model of a faith commitment to God. It has even been turned into worship songs.

But it is not an exemplary model of faith. Ruth was expressing her commitment to Naomi, not to God. Ruth was saying she would worship whomever Naomi worshiped. Did this mean Ruth would worship Yahweh or Baal or Molech or Rimmon or Chemosh if Naomi chose to go in that direction? It is far from a commitment to the true God. Ruth seemed to be abdicating her own spiritual responsibility in favor of letting Naomi decide for her.

What the verse does suggest, however, is an interesting model of witnessing to the reality of the true God.

In one sense, Ruth was saying that she would move to the land of Israel and accept its religious customs; this meant that she would worship the Israelite God Yahweh instead of the chief Moabite god Chemosh. The Moabites apparently believed there were several gods, each with power primarily in a certain geographic location, so the change would not have been that revolutionary in Ruth’s eyes—she would simply have been switching to the god who was in control of the area she was moving to.

However, the fact that Ruth mentioned any god at all shows an awareness of religion. Hers was not a secular mindset. And she might have been mentioning God because she was aware that God was important to Naomi, rather than that God was important to her. In fact, she mentioned Yahweh by name (Ruth 1:17), which indicates that she knew Naomi had a distinct belief in Yahweh.

What is more revealing is Naomi’s understanding of God. Consider these verses:

• 1:6: “When Naomi heard in Moab that the LORD [Yahweh] had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there.”

• 1:8-9: “May the LORD [Yahweh] show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the LORD [Yahweh] grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

• 1:13: “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s [Yahweh’s] hand has turned against me!”

These verses reveal Naomi’s belief that God is real and active and powerful, that He is willing to bless people and reward them for their virtues, but also that He will sometimes punish people. Her understanding was that God was all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, and morally just. We might take such a view for granted, but it was unique in Ruth’s world. Most of the gods worshiped by the people around Israel were understood to have limited power, to have limited knowledge, and to be vicious, capricious, and cruel.

It is likely that, over the years that they had known each other, Naomi had repeatedly revealed her understanding of the true God to her daughters-in-law Ruth and Orpah. This is inferred from the number of times she mentioned God in the brief glimpses we have into her life.

While Ruth might not have been a committed follower of Yahweh at this point, she had grasped some of the concepts, as revealed in her statement in 1:17: “May the LORD [Yahweh] deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

Was Naomi deliberately trying to “witness” to Ruth, to convince her to become a follower of Yahweh? Perhaps. But Naomi also seems to have been somewhat distracted by her own problems. She attempted to send her daughters-in-law away and save them from sharing the suffering that Yahweh seemed to be inflicting on Naomi. Naomi still believed everything she had been taught about Yahweh, but she seemed discouraged and bewildered by the suffering she had been enduring for over a decade—famine, having to flee to a foreign country, the death of her husband and her two sons, and the prospect of poverty and suffering in her old age. Naomi still believed in God, but she was struggling with the fact that she did not have all the answers and she could not understand what God was doing. She still revealed her belief in God, to Ruth and others she encountered, even though He seemed to be punishing her and she didn’t know why.

When I was in university, I went through a severe depression that lasted most of a year. I desperately prayed to God for help, not knowing why God was allowing me to go through this experience. Toward the end of that year, my pagan roommate, impressed with my fervent prayer life, asked if he could come to church with me. Within a few months, he had become a Christian, and he later became a very effective evangelist. Somehow, he had seen the reality of God in the midst of my broken life.

Something similar happened with Naomi and Ruth. In the midst of her confusion and struggles, God used Naomi to reveal Himself to Ruth. Paul wrote, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Ruth 1:16 was not the end of God’s revelation to Ruth. When she reached the land of God’s people, she kept hearing talk about the living God from Naomi, Boaz, and others (Ruth 1:20-21, 2:4, 2:12, 2:20, 3:10, 3:13, 4:11, 4:12, 4:13, 4:14-15); their words revealed belief in a God who was continually active in human affairs. Ruth also discovered gleaning (a provision in God’s law for caring for the poor while encouraging them to find dignity in work). She discovered Boaz, a godly man who obeyed God’s law by leaving extra grain for the poor to glean and who, like God, thought it good to reward virtue. A poor refugee, she was blessed with marriage to a good and wealthy man. She saw God’s faithfulness in restoring blessing to Naomi. Most importantly, she was introduced to the concept of the kinsman redeemer, a picture of God’s ultimate Kinsman Redeemer, God’s Son Jesus, who redeemed humanity by joining the human family. She in fact became an ancestor of that Kinsman Redeemer and, as a foreigner, demonstrated that God’s love extends to all people.

Did Ruth become a devoted follower of the true God? We have little direct evidence. But God, through Naomi, Boaz, and the people of God, gave her every reason to do so.

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Frankenstein and Other Monsters by James R. Coggins

In 1818, Mary Shelley published a novel titled Frankenstein. The plot concerns a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who constructed a creature out of material from dead humans and animals and animated it by applying electricity. This creature, called a “monster,” was rejected by human society because of its ugly appearance and, as a result, went on a killing spree, murdering several people. The story is perhaps best known today through its retelling in numerous movies.

Among many other layers of interpretation, the story is perhaps a cautionary tale on the limits of modern science and medicine. Just because something can be done, it does not necessarily mean it should be done.

My daughter, who has an interest in such things, recently commented that she thought it was the scientist, Dr. Frankenstein, not the creature he made, who was the real monster. The monster had no control over its own creation and design, but the scientist was fully rational and fully in control of what he did. If it were not for the actions of Dr. Frankenstein, there would have been no monster.

I think my daughter is on to something.

Take, for example, the novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde published by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886. The story concerns a doctor named Henry Jekyll who found a way to transform himself into Edward Hyde, who could indulge in various unnamed vices without Jekyll being blamed for them. Hyde was evil and self-indulgent and, besides other vices, was guilty of assault and murder. By my daughter’s theory, it is Dr. Jekyll who was the real villain and monster. Hyde had no control, but Jekyll deliberately transformed himself into Hyde so that he could engage in vices. He chose to be evil.

I think this idea has applications beyond literature.

The alcoholic who becomes violent and who drives while intoxicated inflicts severe damage on his family and other victims. But he might be less evil than the respected businessman who became wealthy from selling him the alcohol.

The drug addict ruins his own life and often the lives of those who love him. But he is less evil than the drug dealer who cynically imported and sold the drugs, knowing the effect they would have.

The compulsive gambler squanders the money his family needs for food, clothing, and shelter. But he might be less evil than the people who run the casinos and government lotteries, the people who made the calculated decision to set up a system to transfer his family’s income to their own coffers.

The pornography addict might be less evil than those who produce and distribute the pornography.

When we wrap ourselves in cloaks of righteousness, claiming to run “legitimate” operations, justice demands that we also consider the impact we have on other people. The Old Testament prophets repeatedly condemned the leaders of Israel who filled Jerusalem with blood while confidently basking in their own righteousness: “See how each of the princes of Israel who are in you uses his power to shed blood. In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the foreigner and mistreated the fatherless and the widow.…In you are people who accept bribes to shed blood; you take interest and make a profit from the poor. You extort unjust gain from your neighbors. And you have forgotten me” (Ezekiel 22:6-12 NIV). God declared in Jeremiah 4:26-29: “Among my people are the wicked who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch people. Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor. Should I not punish them for this?” Jesus said to Pilate as he was about to crucify Him, “The one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:11).

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Rest for the Weary

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Have you ever been so weary that it doesn’t matter how much rest you get, because the exhaustion won’t go away. It seems to drill down deep into your very soul.

I think at some point or the other, we have all gotten that exhausted. In the busy world we live in, it’s so easy to overload our schedules with meetings, committees, children’s activities, and the day-to-day chores of the home. Before you know it, you’re exhausted.

Of course, there are practical ways to combat exhaustion. Get plenty of sleep. Learn how to say no and mean it. Exercise and eat right.

But sometimes our exhaustion comes from spending too much time focused on earthly, fleeting things and not enough time talking to God and waiting for His answer.  

In John 16:33 Jesus says, I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

What a beautiful promise. Jesus overcame the world and ALL it’s problems when He rose from the dead to give us eternal life. We can have God’s peace no matter how hectic our earthly world becomes. When you feel yourself growing weary, pray. Get connected to the Power Source that never needs recharging. Rest in His promises and don’t be anxious.

Philippians 4:6 says, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.    

When our backs are against the wall, it’s easy to turn to God for help, but He wants us to bring everything to Him, no matter how small it seems, and give thanks for the answers He will give us.

And then wait for them. . .

That’s the hardest part for me. I want to charge into a situation and figure it out for myself, but God wants us to stay connected to Him and rest in His arms.   

Isaiah 40:31 says, but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;   they shall run and not be weary;    they shall walk and not faint.  

What an amazing promise. If we wait for the Lord to answer, He will renew our strength and give us the energy we need to keep moving forward.   

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

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The Radiance of God’s Glory by Tara Randel

Recently I have been doing a Bible study in the book of Hebrews. As many times as I’ve read the words, I never did an in-depth study. There is something to be said about opening a book and doing some digging. Not only do we learn Biblical history, we get spiritual insights that help us in our everyday walk. The Bible teaches valuable lessons, gives us hope and shares the love of our Lord.

I’ll be the first to say that I’ll never be too old to keep from discovering more from the Word. I’ll be a student all my life and enjoy every minute of it. I’m still amazed that I can read a passage of scripture multiple times and one day the light bulb over my head flashes on and I understand what I’ve read with a new understanding. That’s the power of the God’s word.

From the outset of the Hebrews study, this verse caught my attention. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:3a

The word radiance stopped me while reading. It means, light or heat as emitted or reflected by something; great happiness, apparent in someone’s expression or bearing.

Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. When I think of radiance, I see in my mind’s eye the sun streaming from the sky, so bright that it fills my being because for me, it represents the glory of God.

Jesus, who became man, was the exact representation of God. He reminded us of this time and again in the scriptures. God sent Him and He carried out the will of the Father. It brought this question to my mind; do I represent the Father? Is my daily walk in step with the Father? I don’t know about you, but after I’ve read an exceptionally beautiful passage, I sit and think, and these are where my thoughts go.  

God not only sent Jesus in His image, but we also carry His image. How much more, then, should we be conscious of sharing God with others? Of being His reflection?

Secondly, I love the part of the definition that states; of great happiness apparent in someone’s expression.

The special people in my life came to mind and I had to smile. I’m sure you can think of those you love and not hold back a grin. Now imagine Jesus expression as He spent time with God. The beautiful smile that would have radiated from Him. And we can have that! The joy, peace and love that comes from our Father and Jesus, who is with Him.

After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:3b

What a picture! Jesus did the work and took his rightful place next to the Majesty in heaven.

As you go through your day, I hope you spend some time thinking about the radiance of the Son reflected from the Father. I know I will.

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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 HOMETOWN MATCH, available February 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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Sugar by Bridget A. Thomas

I realize this might not be a popular topic. And it’s not good timing either, with the holidays coming up. But it’s something that has surfaced in my own life, and I bet I am not the only one who has dealt with this.

Sugar is a dangerous addiction. There, I said it. (Or wrote it!) In fact, sugar can be even more addicting than cocaine. [1] We all know that sugar can affect our health. [2] Yet many of us are reluctant to let it go.

I am not a health professional. You can certainly do a web search and find information on sugar and how addictive it is. I also have some links in the post that you can check out.

Today I just want to share some things that I have learned about sugar and its addictive pull.

Have you ever had a cookie or donut or some sort of pastry, which in the beginning you didn’t even like it all that much, but somehow you found you “had” to have it? That has happened to me, at different times, with different sweets. Initially I didn’t put it together, but I am learning that is how addictive sugar can be. There have been times when I didn’t want to eat a particular treat, yet I felt compelled to eat it at the same time. And then after I did eat it, I felt guilty.

I also found out how quickly one can spiral into this addiction. One week you are doing well with your eating habits, the next not so much. It is scary, to be honest.

Personally, I have found that my mind is not as clear when I have had too much sugar. I don’t like having a fuzzy head, so that alone makes me want to stay away from it.

I also discovered that one addiction can lead to another. When I was trapped in a sugar hold, I generally felt unsatisfied. This, in turn, led me to reach for other things, such as shopping on Amazon. Sugar created a hole in my soul, and I attempted to fill it with anything else that I could get my hands on.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. Often times we are trying to fill a void that only Jesus can fill. Poor eating habits can be a spiritual issue. The enemy will use anything he can to pull us away from God. Sometimes that means we will seek a treat to eat when we are feeling down or stressed. Instead, we should be going to the Lord in prayer.

So, what can we do to get out of this sugar pit?

A sugar fast is a great place to start. Your body might feel junky the first few days, and you might be cranky as well. But once you get over the hump, you will feel better, you will have mental clarity, and you will have more energy. Eventually you won’t even miss sugar. Some people do a sugar fast for a certain length of time. But many people across the globe have decided to lay down sugar for good. That is a personal decision between you and God.

For me, at this point in my life, I want to be able to enjoy a treat every now and then. But I don’t want to get sucked into a downward spiral again. This means finding a balance while proceeding with caution. As they say, knowledge is power. The fact that we are aware of sugar’s pull will help us to stand strong.

If you still want to enjoy treats that are sugar free, there are options out there. You can find sugar-free cookies in the grocery store. Or you can even obtain some sugar-free cookbooks. And while you are at it, there are also lots of great books out there that talk about the destruction sugar can cause. However, one note about switching to sugar-free options: if you want to draw closer to the Lord, make sure you are not turning to your new sugar-free treats instead of Him.

When I read the 40-Day Sugar Fast by Wendy Speake, I appreciated a few of the tips she shared. Wendy said, “A few years ago I made the choice to only eat special treats in the company of family and friends.” And Wendy also went to suggest that we, “Package up any leftover cookies and cake and send them home as a gift to your loved ones.”

If you think sugar has a hold on you, I invite you to prayerfully consider your next steps. Do you feel the Lord is prompting you to lay down sugar, either temporarily or permanently? Or perhaps you might consider cutting back on sugary treats?

If you don’t have a problem with sugar at all, I am truly glad. But perhaps you still might seek the Lord to see if there is anything in your life that He is asking you to set aside?

When we remove any roadblocks we have in our spiritual lives, the rewards are well worth it. We will find a closer walk with Jesus, and much more peace and contentment in our lives. May we seek the Lord in prayer and ask Him to reveal anything that might be holding us back in our relationship with Him. May we remember that Jesus is enough. He is all we need. The Lord is our portion.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:35


Thank you for reading!

[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/experts-is-sugar-addictive-drug#What-is-an-addiction?
[2] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-sugar#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3

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Lazarus and the Tooth by Julie Arduini

Our daughter has had the same set of braces for four years and counting. The orthodontist has tried to make light of our long term relationship by joking he will most likely be in Hannah’s future wedding because they have known each other so long. As you can imagine, we aren’t ready to laugh just yet.

I knew the process would take longer than most because of what I’ve read about hypothyroidism and albright hereditary osteodystrophy (pseudohypoparathyroidism). Especially in Hannah, every system runs slow in her. Every. Right down to teeth.

Three years ago she needed oral surgery to bring a tooth down and it was a horrific experience. The place worked like a factory, ushering recovering patients out before they even knew where they were. Hannah wasn’t ready to leave, and they gave her opioids to recover. It took me hours before I realized all her vomiting was because the meds were too severe for her.

Fast forward and that tooth still hasn’t moved down as much as it should have. The ortho noted if that tooth doesn’t move soon, she will need another surgery for an implant.

With all she’s been through, surgery is the LAST thing she wants. We’ve been praying and praying for this tooth to move. We believe God’s Word contains promises, not cute little stories. We’ve been reciting Psalm 37:4 as His promise for her.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

Hannah knows Jesus isn’t her genie. She’s pressing in faith believing He alone can move that tooth, and she would be sure to tell the world He’s the One who moved it.

Today she had a follow-up, one the orthodontist defined as “D-Day.” Either the tooth would move or it was time to call the oral surgeon. Again. Last night I shared with her the appointment was upcoming and there were options to consider.

  1. The tooth moved supernaturally.
  2. He forgot it was “D-Day” and doesn’t say anything.
  3. He schedules the surgery.

I shared that hours before I was doing my Bible reading and I landed in John 11. Reading about Lazarus and his resurrection reminded me of Hannah and her tooth. It would be so easy for Jesus to move that tooth sooner. But perhaps His plan is to move it later, maybe even as late as a surgery day.

Well, the appointment is over and Hannah marched in there asking me to wait in the car. We prayed it through and she felt comfortable going in without me. She returned 30 minutes later done with the appointment.

The results? A mix of 2 and 3. He didn’t make the tooth the focus of the appointment, but there was some discussion. He said her teeth still need band work for alignment so nothing needs to be done right now aside from that. However, when the teeth are aligned, he announced it would be time to call the dentist/surgeon.

Hannah was pleased. She felt this meant she had more time to pray and decree. Her plan is to stand on Psalm 37:4, declare in faith the tooth has moved and give Him thanks, and to cover her in acceleration and peace as she waits. If He answers differently, she recalled Lazarus. Jesus might show up “four days late” and offer a plan that moves His Kingdom forward in a way moving that tooth now would not.

Faith is believing in what we can’t see. We don’t know how this tooth process is going to go, but we know God is faithful. Whatever happens, it will be His best plan for her. And we trust Him.

Having a child with chronic health issues much of her life is hard, especially when she’s prayed and prayed for much to change and it hasn’t. At least not yet. But I love how she knows He cares and wants what’s best for her.

I hope if you’re in a waiting season you know this too.

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The Best Laid Plans by James R. Coggins

First in a Series

The Old Testament book of Ruth begins with this statement: “In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.  And the name of the man was Elimelech.” Elimelech’s actions are not unique in history. Since the beginning of time, human beings have been migrating to new places to find a better life. Elimelech moved his family to another country in order to save them from starvation. He thought it would be a good move. But things did not turn out as he expected. He and his two sons died and, and his wife was left impoverished.

In the New Testament, James reminded his readers of the uncertainty of life and our inability to control or even predict events: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).

The uncertainty of life is also one of the main themes of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. And the book of Proverbs says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21) and “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). The solution, Proverbs suggests, is to consult with God first since He knows and controls the future: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3).

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