Faith On Every Corner - January 2023

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January 2023 Issue
And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” Gensis 1:22 Visit Our Website at www.FaithOnEveryCorner.com for previous issues of our magazine.
Cover Photo by Nancy Langis DeJesus

COVER PHOTO

Nancy DeJesus is an author and a photographer who lives in Virginia with her husband. They have seven children and five grandchildren. She taught art in the public school system and is a Visual Arts Subject Matter Specialist for an international homeschool provider. She sells her books, watercolor prints, and photographs on www.NancyDeJesusPhotography.com.

Available at www.NancyDeJesusPhotography.com or www.amazon.com/author/nancydejesus.

INSIDE COVER
Nancy DeJesus Photography

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

Happy New Year! May you all have a blessed year filled with good health and happiness.

December is such a fun month with everyone posting family photos and fun events with family. It is a time when we get a good glimpse of how wonderful God is to give us family.

Our family dynamic changed in December with the addition of our grandson coming to stay with us for a while. It is a blessing and certainly keeps us on our toes. Please keep the three of us in your prayers as we follow God’s will for now.

2023 is here and we are excited to hear from you to see what you are going to do in 2023. So, let us hear from you. We love getting emails!

As we start this year, we pray for all of our writers and readers, their families, and for God to continue to grow our readership. Most important is that God places it in the hands of those who need to read the content. May He bless them the way He has blessed all of us.

Happy New Year from Karen, Craig, and Damien.

Much love - may God bless you all. Karen Ruhl

Team@FaithOnEveryCorner.com

Karen and Craig Ruhl
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Find someone who makes you smile!

Table of Contents

COVER AND INSIDE COVER BY PHOTOGRAPHER: Karen Ruhl

January Prayer by Craig and Karen Ruhl ... page 21

Quiet Time Rhymes ... by John Alexander ... page 6-7

A Bright Light ... by Melissa Henderson ... page 8-9

Blessed Assurance ... by Andrea Marino ... page 10-11

Shrinking God ... by Ama Afriyie-Jenkins ... page 12-13

Morning Coffee ... by Michael E. Wells ... page 14-15

Welcome Home ... by Nicole Byrum ... page 16-17

Seasons of Trees ... by Yvonne M. Morgan ... page 18-19

Scars ... by Karen Ruhl ... page 20

January Prayer ... by Craig and Karen Ruhl ... page 21

What’s Next? ... by Dave Evans ... page 22-23

Trust In The Lord ... by T.S. Thompson ... page 24-25

Driftwood Cross ... by Craig Ruhl ... page 26-27

Icy Heart ... Laurie Glass ... page 28

River Of Life ... Irene Surya ... page 29

A New Start ... by Sharon K. Connell ... page 30-31

Breaking The Chains of Stinking Thinking ... Chere Williams ... page 32-33

Road Trippin’ ... by Karen Ruhl ... page 34-37

Poems: Happy New Year ... by Rolanda Pyle ... page 38

Early Morning Peace ... by Steve Carter ... page 39

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Difficult Decisions ... by Steve Carter ... page 40-41

Bookshelf - Book Reviews ... page 42-45

A Future And A Hope ... by Shara Bueler-Repka ... page 46-48

The Church Family ... by Karen Ruhl ... page 49

Crafting The ‘New’ - Birthing A New Beginning ... by Craig D. Lounsbrough ... page 50-51

A New Year, A New Adventure ... by Brenda McDaniel ... page 52-53

Cleansing The Temple ... by Kathleen Oden ... page 54-55

Rearview ... by Brianna Barrett ... page 56-57

Essentials For The New Year ... by Craig D. Lounsbrough ... page 58-59

The Unexpected Christmas Gift ... by Pamela McCormick ... page 60

Index Cards ... by Cindy Evans ... page 61

Squirrel!!! ... by Steve Wilson ... page 62-63

A Do Over ... by F. D. Adkins ... page 64-65

Wide Angel Lens ... by Peter Caligiuri ... page 66

All Creatures Mostly Small ... by Peter Caligiuri ...page 67

The Unseen Guardian ...by Esther Bandy ... page 68-69

Laws, Laws, and More Laws... by Roman Bej ... page 70

Redeeming Your Childhood In 2023 ... by Jerry Davidson ... page 72-73

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Change

Each new year reminds us that our lives are subject to changes, changes in the years, in the seasons, not only in the weather but also in the seasons of our lives. We learn to adjust and adapt, but we also need a steady rock, a strong foundation to get us through the hard times. The Lord is our rock and our foundation, the constant in our lives to keep us strong and able to withstand the changes that each new year brings. I pray you to know the Lord as you begin a new year, a new chapter in your life.

I’m sharing a few poems I’ve written over the years. I pray they are a blessing.

John Alexander — www.QuietTimeRhymes.com Blessings, John Alexander

Books by John Alexander: Mystery/Suspense: The Enclave Children’s Chapter Books: Christmas Garden, Grandfather’s Blessing, Golden Campout, The Secret Room Children’s Picture Books: Words That Soar, The Christmas Gift, The Young Artist: An Unpicture Book, The Velveteen Rabbit Lyrical Rendition Poetry Books: Timeless Tales, Quiet Time Rhymes: Peace in the Pandemic, Quiet Time Rhymes Volume II: Into the Light, Daily Reflections: 365 Lyrical Poems, In Times of Grief, Celebrate Christmas

Poems by John Alexander Quiet Time Rhymes

Change

Life’s never static, each day births anew, Whether challenge or trouble depends on my view. Each day, something different is blowing my way, Am I growing too rigid that I cannot sway?

Am I learning and changing or locked in a booth?

Am I steeped in tradition or grounded in truth? Whenever confronted by different or strange,

I tend to reject it, reluctant to change.

Is resistance well-founded or based on my fear? How can I judge what I won’t even hear?

I pray I stay grounded and study God’s Word, Can clearly determine what’s true, what’s absurd. Yet I pray I’m not rigid and quick to defend Old habits, unable to sway in the wind.

I pray that I’m open to listen and learn, While grounded in scripture, to clearly discern.

Click this link to see all books by John Alexander

John Alexander lives in Frisco, Texas with his beautiful wife and his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
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Life’s Uncertainty

Life is uncertain, not always the same. It’s constantly changing and hard to explain. It’s fruitless to dwell on how things might have been, To dwell on what’s happened, the past way back then. The present and future we mold, we can shape, But changes will come that we cannot escape. Surrounded by changes, some small, others vast, The present is fleeting, a blink and it’s past. An anchor to steady our boat in the storm, To keep us afloat when the waves threaten harm, Brings peace in the midst of the winds in a gale. In the calm of the morning, we’ll once again sail. God’s Son is the anchor to keep us afloat. He’s willing and able to steady our boat.

Transitions

Sometimes transitions can shock to the core. Suddenly, life’s not the same anymore. We like status quo, things to stay as they were. Sometimes we foresee that a change will occur. It’s hard to face change, not an easy embrace. Looking back, we remember a time or a place. Transitions can cause us to stumble or fall, Or perhaps, if alert, we will hear the Lord’s call. The biggest transition takes place in our heart. Just trust in the Lord is the best place to start. Sometimes a decision to leave or to stay Is more about yielding, “Lord, You lead the way. “I’m ready to listen, to hear, and to heed. I’m ready to follow wherever You lead.”

Photos by Karen Ruhl
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A Bright Light

Writer of inspirational messages. http://www.melissaghenderson.com

“Have you picked your word for the year?” “What’s your goal for the new year?” “Do you have plans for next year?” These are various questions that you may have been asked, or perhaps you have been the one asking.

Goals and word choices can be great incentives for some folks. Other people, including myself, do not choose a word for the year or a particular goal like losing weight or reading more books, etc. Yes, for some people, having those choices and goals can bring peace when thinking about the upcoming year.

My aim in life is to be alert and aware of the nudges from God. Perhaps that can be called a goal. Not just a yearly goal, but a life choice. I want to be ready at all times to show His love and glory to others. Do I always listen to Him? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Life gets busy and sometimes I rush through the moments instead of resting in the peace of God. My prayer is that in every moment of every day, I will remember the love the Father has for His children.

Five years old grandson Rowan and two years old granddaughter Eden were visiting last week. Eden loves to play with baby dolls. Rowan enjoys learning about sharks. Our bathtub and sink often become places for toy sharks to swim. Also, after the visits, I often find babydoll blankets and hats under the dining room table and in my bedroom. At the home of Mimi and Bop, any room can be turned into something magical.

These two children shine the light of Christ in their smiles, their laughter, and the way they love each other. Yes, an occasional argument happens. But, then, Rowan and Eden have a way of reconciling. The word “Huggy?” will be spoken by either Rowan or Eden when the time comes for forgiveness and love. Either child will pause, stretch out their arms and say “Huggy?” to the other person.

When those two children embrace, a bright light enters the room. The love of Christ. Although the actual illumination in the room may not change, the light of Christ shines through in the way they interact with each other. A simple hug can make things right again.

Think about the night stars. Sometimes, clouds prevent us from clearly seeing the beauty in the sky. Other times, the darkness is lit with stars that shine so brightly; we stand in awe watching the creation of God.

This makes me think of how there are situations when the love of Christ is shown through words and actions. Helping a neighbor with yard work, thanking a clerk for being at the checkout line to help, sending a ‘thinking of you’ note via snail mail or email to a friend, sharing a smile with a stranger, and yes, extending your arms and offering a ‘huggy’, are various ways to show the love of Christ.

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Click on the book covers to purchase Melissa’s books.

Now is the time to pause and thank God for His love and forgiveness. Then, show that special love and forgiveness to others so they may know Him, too.

I pray we all will be a bright light shining His love on others.

Happy New Year! Blessings, Melissa Henderson

Award-winning author Melissa Henderson writes inspirational messages laced with a bit of humor. With stories in books, magazines, devotionals and more, Melissa hopes to encourage readers. Melissa is the author of “Licky the Lizard” and “Grumpy the Gator”. Her passions are helping in community and church. Melissa is an Elder, Deacon and Stephen Minister. Follow Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and at https://www. facebook.com/melissa.henderson.9440

Read her blogs at: https://melissaghenderson.com/ It’s Always A Story With The Hendersons

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Blessed Assurance

“You (Lord) will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)

Jesus drew a line in the sand. He also said we are either for Him or against Him. (Mathew 7:26, 12:30) It doesn’t appear, nor does it sound like we can merely walk the line.

Coming to writer’s block, and spending several days of grief there, I decided to keep what I originally wrote, which is Jesus’ description of a place, “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mark 9:44,48, Luke 13:28 KJV) While disliking being the bearer of bad news, I can’t help seeing Scripture as a matter of life and death. Too many people believe the body returns to dust when the words of God make clear a spirit is inside everybody. I don’t want anyone to think it’s A-OK to live only to eat, drink, and be merry. Jesus’ words tell us differently. See Luke16:19-31.

Baffled with how to proceed with an article intended to be a blessing of assurance for eternal life, in light of hell, I found 1 Samuel 14:6b scribbled on a piece of paper in my Bible. “Nothing can keep the Lord from saving.” (HCS) While the context of this chapter deals with the Jews on their way to the Promised Land, the idea of ‘crossing over’ from the world into God’s Kingdom was impressed upon me. We all start out on the wrong side of the line. What could keep us there is unbelief.

It was a draw-dropping moment for me, when, during a recent spin class, the instructor belted out the chorus of a well-known pop star’s song that spoke of the good things to find on the road to hell. Never before had I considered anyone actually choosing eternity with the devil. I’m sure when enjoying a position of fame, fortune, and power, there is no need to cross over; there is no reason to consider anything to change. Especially when there is a god who speaks no truth and convinces you of lies. We are serving either God or man. (Luke 16:13) There is no middle ground here.

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Click on the photo of the book to purchase from Amazon.

God made simple the way to forever be on His side. It is all about Jesus. Starting out in faith, I walked ‘on’ the line Jesus drew to keep one foot in the world. I also tried ‘walking the line’ in the sense of trying to be some sort of model Christian. In both aspects, I failed miserably. Happiness in the world is attainable, but is fleeting, eventually leaving us empty-handed, the void of which can be felt to our core. God’s presence is fullness of joy. As many will refuse to believe, many will walk away from faith in Jesus when challenged by His truths. The rich young ruler did. Yet, he had enough sense to ask the Lord what he lacked. Did his sorrow cause a change of heart for a new direction? Only God knows. Salvation from a corrupt world is impossible for man, but not impossible for God. (Mathew 19:16-26)

Two men on the Emmaus Road were walking with Jesus but did not recognize Him until later, at the table. Taking bread, blessing it, and breaking it, Jesus gave it to them to eat. (Luke 24:30) 1 Samuel 14 is about faith in God being rewarded. To be on Jesus’ side of the line is a decision. There will be no excuse for remaining in the dark regarding what is written and true; for the heavens reveal the majesty of the Lord. (Psalm 1) In the same way, God will bear no blame for anyone’s personal wickedness, as everything He created, He created good. I may not do everything right; I know I am far from perfect; still, sin has no power over my life, now and for all eternity. Having come to the table of the Lord, and tasting His goodness, there is no turning back for me. Jesus is the bread of life. Whoever comes to Him shall never hunger, and he who believes in Him shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

Andrea is mom to four great kids and Grammy to four delightful grands. Passionate about Jesus, friends, and people, Andrea loves to share all He has taught her in life. When not writing, Andrea enjoys simple things, such as music, heartwarming movies, reinventing recipes to be healthier, and cycling along one wooded road or other with the Lord.

Please visit her Facebook blog: https:// www.facebook.com/In-The-Way-Everlasting-1770074853062907 Andrea is always ready to hear thoughts from her readers. Or you can email her at: rapture927@aol.com Email: rapture927@aol.com Facebook Blog: In the Way Everlasting

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Shrinking God

37:5 TPT)

Happy new year! The first day of every new year brings forth a renewed sense of hope and an eagerness for a restorative year. Does it sometimes cross our minds that our lives can take unexpected roads—what if I never have what my heart strongly desires? Will God be enough? What if my suffering lingers beyond 2023? Will God be enough? What if the new year has no breakthroughs for me? Will God be enough? The list could go on and on. Candidly, one of our main human struggles is relinquishing whatever is dear to us for God’s ultimate plan.

In this new year, will we shrink God, or will God shrink us? Most of us are accustomed to beginning a new year with a unilateral contract with God where we promise to be faithful and in return expect Him to fulfill our deepest longings. When it looks like God is delaying or simply not interested in answering our requests, we end the contract abruptly. After all, didn’t God also owe us something from the bargain? The key to a truly successful year is not in arming ourselves with so many plans and backups, just in case some don’t work out. That is a horrible state of confusion, and God is never the author (1 Corinthians 14:33). Francis Chan, an American author and preacher, couldn’t have said it better, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

There’s a fascinating story in the Bible about a man’s plans and God’s purpose, which we can all learn from. Gideon was one of Israel’s judges and a mighty warrior. Before this, the Midianites were oppressing Israel, so God chose him from the least in his entire family and from the weakest clan in the entire tribe of Manasseh to rescue Israel. In this same way, God has elected you to destroy every Midianite against your family, community, and nation in this new year. In Judges 6:16, God reassures Gideon, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” That’s God’s promise to us in 2023 too! He will be with us and we shall be victorious in Jesus’ name. Gideon was a very fearful man, so he mobilized troops of soldiers (numbering 32,000) for the battle. Many of us are like Gideon. We have so much fear about the new year that we have mapped out so many plans, only waiting to be executed.

Numbers can be deceptively powerful and God doesn’t play the more the better game, so He stepped in, “And the LORD said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, My own hand has saved me.’” (NKJV) Our many plans for 2023 will not fascinate God at all because many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21). God made it clear to Gideon and now to us too, that it is not by strength that one prevails (1 Samuel 2:9). Right there, on Mount Gilead (meaning hill of testimony), 22,000 people were asked to depart because they were afraid of the battle. Truthfully, how many plans have we made in our hearts because of fear of the unknown? The One who holds tomorrow in His hands is asking us to relinquish those plans too and wholly trust Him.

“Give God the right to direct your life, and as you trust him along the way, you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly!” (Psalms
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Still, the numbers did not satisfy God because 10,000 were still too many to accomplish His purpose. Then, He asked Gideon to bring them down to the spring, and He tested them there to determine who was ready for war. It was a strange test to shrink Gideon’s army, and they set apart only 300 valiant men. Interestingly, Gideon’s warriors were now less than 1% of their original size and left with no choice. He totally had to depend on God for victory because his troops of soldiers, which gave him subjective confidence, were stripped away. The same applies to us; God is asking us to put our plans to test— any plan which we think gives us an assured victory doesn’t qualify in God’s army. Things are always done differently on God’s battlefield. He delightfully displays an unmatched victory in low numbers and fewer plans. In 2023, have we sincerely given God the right to direct our lives, or we are determined to steer it in our own direction?

In all of our endless searching, God always becomes our last resort, but seeking Him should be our first line of action. We shouldn’t wait until all our plans go awry before we come running to God. Our mantra should be God’s purpose first over my desires. None of our plans can be as concrete as this unmistakable promise from God, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2) Yet many of us have made God too small in our eyes and believed in the lie that He cannot save us.

Our desperate quest for worldly satisfaction shrinks God so much that there’s no room left to magnify His splendor and majesty. Our utmost plans can never mirror God’s blueprint and the God factor in all our pursuits makes the difference. In 2023, many of us are standing on Mount Gilead too — the hill of our testimony. If only we will allow God to heal our hearts of every fear, anxiety, disappointment, and misguided search, then He will show Himself strong on our behalf with mind-blowing testimonies which cannot be fathomed.

Ama Afriyie-Jenkins remembers loving to write from an early age, and she is a voracious reader. She and her husband live in Accra, Ghana with their children and they shepherd a non-denominational Christian fellowship, Inspirational Hour Ministries. She is a lover of languages and has a heart for gender and development economics in Ghana.

You can connect with her via email: ammajenkins@gmail.com on Facebook and LinkedIn (@Ama Afriyie-Jenkins).

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Michael E. Wells has a passion for writing letters of Christian encouragement. With poetic style and moving messages, the reader is often comforted and consoled, inspired, and refreshed. Since his retirement from Federal Service in 2006, most mornings are spent penning letters of the heart. Tucked away in the foothills of Pennsylvania, he leads an idyllic lifestyle in a pastoral setting. This backdrop helps to set both mood and message for his many writings. You can find his book, “Morning Coffee with Words For The Day” at Amazon.com.

Morning Coffee With Michael E. Wells

-BEYOND THE VEIL

Beyond the veil of sight lies the unseen. Without time and space, it does exist. Though some have tried to describe their brief encounters, theirs pale to the true essence of the realm. Ancient stories and modern experiences relate their life after death moments. Even scientists are beginning to acknowledge that consciousness exists outside the body, if only briefly. But for we who believe, it is eternal. So, if it were true, surely we would have been told. Job said it best, “When we die, the body goes back to the ground from where it came and the spirit back to God, who gave it.”

Even the atheist secretly hopes there is something beyond death. Solomon reveals why. He writes, “God has placed eternity in our hearts.” So, it is in our DNA to have a hope of ‘heaven.’ Now we ask ourselves of all known beliefs, which is coherent, which is desirable, which is attainable... Of all the stories told, of all the books written, only one stands the test of time. Beginning 4500 years ago and fully revealed 2500 years later, it is Christianity. It is a simple faith that believes in a good God, who loves His creation and who has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself.

The Bible states that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself and with a simple message, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Saved from what? Saved from death. We need His Spirit to take us to where He is. Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3 KJV)

Too simple some say, absurd say others, but to we who have chosen to believe, find peace and joy in a simple faith of a loving God, who waits on the other side to receive us... just beyond this veil of sight.

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THE NEW IN YOU

Out with the old and in with the new. It’s the new year once again. Some who are still young have already made resolutions. Those of us who are older know better. If they are that easy to make, they are easy to break. Our biggest problem is that we have not counted the cost of our decision. Our struggle is not with intent but whether we commit. We fail too quickly and give up too easily and decide it’s too late to start again. But the Word tells us that God’s mercies are new every morning. If He has not given up on you, neither should you give up. This could finally be the time you break free from a lifetime of defeat.

When the woman fell at the feet of Jesus for mercy, He told her that her sins, though they were many, were forgiven. It was a moment in time that freed her from a life of guilt. Though the outward consequence of sin may still remain with us, the inward cleansing brings new life. I am now free to be the new me. We all have the same problem and though it has many names, it results in the same action, which is living beneath the life God gave you. If you have sought His mercy and received His Spirit, there is a new you in you. You have been freed from that which compelled you to live a certain way. There is a new direction and mindset, a new compassion and devotion.

You can say, “This time it will be different. I have found faith in a new hope and strength from a new power, to live above my emotions and beyond my limitations for a purpose greater than myself with eternal consequences.” Today does not have to be like yesterday, and tomorrow can be greater than today. Christ came to save your soul, but He gave you the power to change your life. The Word tells us to walk in the new man, to exercise our faith, and to practice what we believe. We are to speak to ourselves the word of God, to encourage ourselves in the things of God and to think upon the goodness of God and why? Because little by little, day by day and victory by victory, you will find that it has brought out THE NEW IN YOU.

WHAT IS TRUTH

No matter what else we think about in life, at one point, we all think about this. The Apostle John, at the close of his long life, wrote a letter to the church about this very thing. No other scripture makes clearer the importance of believing in the right thing. By this time, many had already tried to dilute the gospel. Jesus had been gone over sixty years and many who knew Him were also gone.

Those who did not know Him were telling their own ideas of His appearing. John sets the record straight for them and for us in no uncertain terms. 1 John is a declaration of truth for all ages and on all questions of faith. John reminds us he was there; he saw, he heard, he held, he felt, and he believed. It is a simple truth made complicated by men for their own benefit. We should beware of those who would control and distort.

What is truth? John writes in these five chapters the truth of the ages and ends with these two verses: “And we know that the Son of God has come and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God and He is eternal life. Dear children keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your heart.” (John 5:20-21 NLT)

DANCING IN THE LIGHT

He has lifted my heart and seen past my faults Encouraged me to forgive and given me a new start

When shadows fall and threaten my life He sets my footsteps with dawn’s new light

The joy of His presence my soul can’t contain As rays shower down like gently falling rain

How great the love of God to give me this new insight Now my days shall be spent Dancing in the Light

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Welcome Home

As the old year rings out and the new year rings in, you may contemplate new goals and habits for 2023. Among those, I challenge you to think about your home. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about dishes and laundry or completing home renovations! Rather, I’m talking about building a home culture of emotional safety and joy.

Last January, I began writing what would become a 10part blog series on this very topic. With the help of Karen and Craig Ruhl, the Welcome Home series then became a print reality! The reason for creating this book was singular: I believe the home–especially a Christian home–should be a place of comfort, security, and joy.

The book begins with a look at Nehemiah and the kind of commitment needed to build this kind of home environment. I then talked about the importance of choosing our firm foundation—the foundation of Christ, and the gospel. I stated, “The foundation for cultivating a biblical home culture of emotional safety and joy starts with a decision to serve the Lord.”

As the tone for any environment flows from the top down, I focused the next 4 lessons on marriage, emphasizing the need for humility and servanthood. Because the book focuses on building culture, I wrote about the values and language needed to create emotional safety in marriage. In Chapter 3 I wrote, “Whatever other careers, hobbies, and interests there may be between the husband and wife, valuing the marriage must be second only to God.” Chapter 4 then addresses practical applications that are based on the principles that language is to be edifying, and that truth should be spoken in love.

I also talked about the role of joy in marriage as being to reflect the joy between Christ and his Church. I stated, “As joy in the marriage increases, so does the joy of the entire family. But most importantly, a joyful marriage is an accurate picture of the joy of Christ towards his bride.” The rest of the chapter maps out 4 practical ways to cultivate this joy.

In chapter 6, the focus shifts to parenting with a discussion on the value of humility and respect. This theme is continued in Chapter 7. I wrote, “Just as within marriage, an attitude of humility and respect is of the utmost importance in our relationships with our kids,” and “Demonstrating an attitude of humility and respect towards our children reflects a desire to love our kids as Christ loves us.”

FAITH ON EVERY CORNER
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Nicole is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 14 years of experience in community mental health. She is the author of Remade: Living Free a book written for women in recovery from substance abuse and unhealthy relationships. Nicole also maintains a blog at nicolebyrum.com as well as a podcast, 5 Minute Word. Both focus on topics related to faith and relationships. She lives in Northwest Ohio with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, running, or cooking.

As with marriage, our language shapes the culture of the parent-child relationship. In Chapter 8, I dive into 3 components of life-giving communication with our kids: gentle words (not to be confused with weak words!), building and gracious words, and genuine and non-judgmental words. The following is one of my favorite sentences from this chapter: “A gentle spirit, and subsequently, gentle words, can only exist in conjunction with self-control!”

The parenting section concludes again with the idea of joy. I loved writing this chapter (chapter 9) because it reminds us that children are a heritage, a gift from God, to be enjoyed (Psalm 127:3-5). I wrote, “It’s so easy to get caught up in the heaviness of parenting…and yet, it is for joy that we persevere.”

The book concludes with a note of encouragement: we cannot put all of these concepts into practice on our own! It is only through abiding in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to live out God’s design for marriage and parenting. Though we will not always get it right, He gives us more grace. His mercies are new every morning, and they never come to an end!

I believe Welcome Home is a great tool for any family and I encourage you to pick up a copy today! But most importantly, I encourage you to pray for your family, asking God to reveal how best to build your homes for His glory in the coming year.

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A tree holds immense beauty in all its seasons of life. Flowers blossomed in bright hues adorn a tree in springtime. Lush green leaves on the tree reach out for the sun of summer while casting their cooling shade across the fields. And brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves glow like embers with the shortening days of autumn. We bring the winter tree inside, decorated with glimmering lights, glistening garlands, and sparkling ornaments, to welcome the Christ child during the dark days of winter.

Beauty of Trees

I come from a long line of tree-loving people. My grandfather lovingly pointed out and named each type of tree as we walked along the pathways. My mother inherited the same love for trees. One of her favorite poems was “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer.

I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.

(Editor’s note: this poem is in the public domain)

Yvonne M Morgan, Christian author and speaker

https://yvonne-morgan.com

Blog at Turningmountainsintomolehills.org Twitter: @ymmauthor Website: Yvonne-Morgan.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YMMauthor/ Turning Mountains into Molehills (2017)

Season of Trees

Trees in the Bible

So, I love the fact that throughout the Bible and Jesus’ ministry, trees play a predominant role in teaching. Depending on the version of the Bible, 296 verses mention trees. Often, the tree is a symbol of wisdom. There are trees in the first chapter of Genesis, in the first psalm, and on the last page of Revelation.

Genesis 1:11 (ESV) - “And God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.’ And it was so.”

Psalm 1:3 (NIV) - “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

Matthew 7:17-19 (NIV) - “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

The Changing Season

In my home, a new season begins as one year ends and another begins. As I remove the festive decoration from my Christmas tree, I spot a darkened shadow. Beneath the lights and the decorations, something lurks. Beyond all the forest green needles, a bleak season stares back at me. All the beauty that enveloped the Christmas tree falls away to reveal the next season. We move on from the festive lights of a Christmas tree to the dark, blood-stained wood of

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the tree on Calvary. Christmas’s happiness soon gives way to the somber season of Lent, the time when they crucified Christ on a tree for our sins.

Acts 5:30 (ESV) - “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.”

Spring Season

Thankfully, the tree stories do not end with the austere tree of Calvary. And likewise, we do not remain stuck in the somber season of Lent. We wait for the glory of Easter morning to welcome us into a season of rebirth. The trees will arise from their slumber and spread their beauty once again.

The Forever Tree

Another glorious tree awaits us in eternity.

Revelations 22:2 (NIV) - “Down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

This tree of life blooms forever along with our Risen Savior as its source of light. In Heaven, with Jesus, the tree of life will nourish us and heal us. My dream someday is to sit in the shade of a tree that existed from Genesis to Revelations.

I look forward to listening to the King of Kings tell me about His trees as we walk along the golden pathways of Heaven.

Prayer

Heavenly Father. Thank you for the gift of trees and the lessons they teach us. As the season change, please prepare our hearts for the coming time of Lent. Help us look beyond the dull days of winter to the celebration of your glorious resurrection on Easter morning. And may our hope spring eternal as we wait for your return. In Jesus’ most holy name. Amen.

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Click on this book link to find out more about Yvonne’s books!

SCARS

Each time I put on my make-up; I notice the scars on my face. Each one tells a different story. My first scar came from pushing back against the kitchen table while in my highchair and tipping the chair back into the stove. My teeth went through the skin under my lip and left a scar. Another one is on the bridge of my nose where a lid from a big ice maker fell and almost broke my nose. And recently, I had to have skin cancer removed from my nose and I now have a bump and added scar on my face. This morning, as was working to conceal the evidence, I had a thought about Jesus and His scars.

Jesus had scars on His hands, feet, near the heart, and on His shoulders and back. My scars were because of accidents. The scars Jesus has are from being tortured and crucified for us. I stood there looking at my scars that can be somewhat covered up and thought about how much Jesus loves us. He went through a painful experience to take our sins away.

Many of us, if not all, carry a different type of scar, an emotional scar. Some of our scars will keep us from repeating the same mistake twice. I can look back at my life before I was saved and see many scars. Because I have Christ Jesus in my life, I will never make those mistakes again. My sins have been forgiven and I live my life to honor my Savior.

Others carry scars from physical illnesses. Someone who had open heart surgery carries a big scar on their chest. I cannot even list the number of surgeries where people have scars. But Jesus had a plan for each one of you who came through your surgeries.

The scars we carry allow us to share the love of Christ Jesus and give a testimony of how He saved us not only through life-saving surgeries but on the cross. And you can share that He still carries the scars of what He went through for us.

“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 NKJV)

This year, each time I put on my make-up, I am going to say a prayer of thanksgiving for bearing the scars I carry from my life. I am forever thankful that I am saved by Christ Jesus. I hope that I can continue to share my testimony with many others and plant a seed that makes someone want to learn more and be saved.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, one of sharing, caring, and filled with love.

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January 2023 Prayer

Heavenly Father,

We come to you on bended knees to ask you to forgive us all. Let us study your word daily and come to you to ask for wisdom and discernment. You guide us through the Word.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

(Romans 12:2 NKJV)

Lord, thank you for sending Christ Jesus to save us from our sins. Let each of us spread the Good News and let those who don’t know you yet hear our testimonies. You love us so much that you sent your only son to save us.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

(Matthew 5:16 NKJV)

Father God, we praise your name. We love you with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We need you to help us. Let us come to you when we need you. Let others know it is not about religion but about having a relationship with you.

Lord, we pray this in the mighty name of Christ Jesus.

Amen

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Dave Evans recently retired from his career as an estimator for an electrical contractor, but still works part-time. He recently served as Body Care Pastor for a small church and previously taught at a local Bible College for several years. God led him to found and serve in several outreach ministries—a pet therapy ministry, visiting several skilled nursing facilities and retirement homes: a prayer booth on a local street corner to allow people in the community to stop by for prayer needs and an evangelism table, typically set up once a month at various malls or stores, which made Bibles, tracts, DVDs, and other Christian materials available free of charge to interested shoppers. Dave has a bachelor’s degree in business administration/management. As a writer, he has had many poems and articles published in various periodicals and books. And he’s been privileged to do volunteer work for a local police department.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Like dreary gray skies and ominous black clouds, a nagging sensation of uncertainty seems to hover in the atmosphere. Our nation is divided on moral and political issues, while inflation’s greedy fingers pilfer from already-strained household budgets, and religious liberties we’ve taken for granted are already or are on the verge of being eroded. The future is obfuscated by uncertainty, and with perplexity, we ponder, “What’s next?” What can we expect in the coming months of this year? Here is an answer suggested by the Prince of Preachers: “There are two great certainties about things that shall come to pass—one is that God knows, and the other is that we do not know.”

We don’t like uncertainty because we want to have control over things, but as Christians, we must not rely on our own understanding but trust instead in our Omniscient God and acknowledge Him as we consider the future and the plans and decisions that we will need to make. Scripture provides help for us in the stories and events of the past which were recorded in order for us to learn and to be encouraged in hope as we live out our lives today. One of those stories was about Abraham and how he trusted God during an episode of uncertainty.

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You may recall that God called Abraham out of the land of Haran to go to another land that He promised to him as an inheritance. God simply told him to go, but didn’t tell Abraham the details or the location in advance. We can benefit from the record the writer of Hebrews gave of Abraham’s response—“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8 NKJV, emphases added). Abraham didn’t know where he was going. But God did, and so “by faith Abraham obeyed.” His faith in God induced him to go as God guided him, in spite of the fact that he didn’t know where he was going.

God wants us to consult and trust Him for our plans for tomorrow. James spoke of itinerant merchants who presumptuously made their plans without regard for the will of God: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit.’” (James 4:13 NKJV) They made their plans and were certain they would be profitable. But they didn’t take into account their ignorance of the future — “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow...” (James 4:14a NKJV) Trusting in their own plans was unwise because they didn’t know what the future held. Since they didn’t, James recommended the proper course of action — “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” (James 4:15 NKJV).

As we contemplate the future and ask “What’s next?”, may we admit, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23 NKJV). Then let us defer our plans and decisions to God’s will and, by faith, like Abraham, confidently go out in obedience to God, trusting Him to show us which steps He would have us take.

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Trust In The Lord

Trust was my word for 2022 and that word in my life was tested. My finances were strained beyond imagination and yet God kept calling me to make bold choices, take risks, continue to be generous, and trust Him.

I had written a book in 2021, My God, in Whom I Trust: A Study of Psalm 91. There was so much fear in the world during the lockdowns and COVID that I was led to share this deep study on my favorite psalm to help people not fear.

Despite my circumstances in 2022, I did not fear. I had already learned to trust God through things that would have caused fear before. This was different. This was God allowing me to go through circumstances to create in me a boldness of trust in Him, even when things made little sense. I asked the Lord one day last fall, “How close to the edge do I have to get?” God answered without hesitation, “Until you trust me fully.”

Not only was I going through a season of financial struggle in 2022, but God shifted my purpose direction midyear. I had been a co-host for the show Love & Encouragement To Live By and we had just completed a life-changing women’s conference about Your Kingdom Purpose. Two weeks after the conference, my co-cost informed me she wanted to end her commitment to our partnership business. It came unexpectedly as we had planned out topics till the end of the year for our show and were planning to take the conference to other states starting in early 2023.

God is so faithful and nothing takes Him by surprise. A year prior, He had already sent a sister in Christ to be there when this happened and to help me in my course correction with the new path God had pre-planned out. God already had a new purpose ready for me. In fact, it seems like this was the plan my whole life, to prepare me for where God is about to take me now.

I’m still keeping my author’s purpose, but God has put in my spirit a desire to move into the filmmaking industry. In early fall, God gave me a story for my first short film, The Beauty of Forgiveness, and because of my writing background, I was able to write the script in a week. The movie is halfway filmed and I will continue filming through January. I hope to have it finished by March for viewing.

You can follow the movie making progress and be notified when the film comes out at:

https://thompsonproductions.film/the-beauty-of-forgiveness/

Despite all the setbacks, confusion, disappointments, and struggle, I took that bold leap of faith to trust God to follow Him in a new direction. I didn’t wait for the funding to come or even for all the acting cast. I started with what I had. Faith without works is dead and so walking in faith produces life. God met me on the path, but I had to step out and start walking. He met my needs for equipment, actors, and locations.

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I confess going into 2023 I am more on fire for my Lord than before. The Word God has given me for 2023 is ‘deliverance’. I believe and receive that word after this year of testing my trust in Him.

I encourage you that if God is calling you to trust Him through a season in your life, do it. God wants to build your faith up and most times that is a painful process, but it produces something within you more valuable than gold. We learn to trust God in the valleys much more than from the mountaintops. God may call you out of your comfort zone or allow a season of hardship. Trust God with it. The Word tells us we are blessed who trust in the Lord. Study this verse on being blessed by trusting the Lord.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 KJV)

Award-winning author T. S. Thompson is the mother of two sons currently living in Pennsylvania. She has a deep desire to move readers with her books and share the light of God through them. Thompson has been blessed with the gift of storytelling and believes the world is in need of good family-friendly books everyone can enjoy.

Thompson enjoys writing both Christian fiction and nonfiction. Her nonfiction books focus on how to live a Christian life through the Word of God. She also has a few journal books out to help with dayto-day living. The Land of Good Dreams is her young adult seven-book series. Thompson has several new books in the works and plans to write as many books as she can in her lifetime.

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Driftwood Cross

Driftwood Beach is on Jekyll Island in the Golden Isles area of Georgia. Karen and I visited the area the year before last, thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and plan to return at the earliest opportunity. At the time of our visit, my health prevented me from wandering very far without the aid of a rollator (a walker on wheels with a bench seat). Karen ventured out onto the beach with her camera while I remained in the van. With the aid of the photos Karen took and my often-unruly imagination, I concocted the following fictional story. I may have made it up, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened. You are the judge. ***

Skipper slipped off his sneakers and tip-toed onto the sandy stretch of beach just off the paved parking lot. His dad followed behind, towing a cooler on wheels, a blanket, and folding chairs. Being just 11 years old excused Skipper from lugging anything heavy, which was good because it was hard enough just to walk upright in the now loose and shifting sand. Once they rounded a point in the bay, a vast coastline opened before them. What lay ahead looked like a petrified forest sculpture that was planted in the sand all up the beach. What a strange sight, all these tree-like shapes and not a leaf on any of them. Turning to his dad, Skipper asked, “Why don’t these trees have leaves? It’s summer and they should have green leaves.”

“Son, those aren’t trees anymore.” Skipper’s dad replied. “They were once, but they died and somehow ended up in the water. Then, during a storm, they probably washed up on the beach.”

Skipper thought about that for a few minutes as they continued walking out toward the water’s edge. He had never seen dead trees, except in the woods where he and his dad had camped the year before. He questioned his dad. “Didn’t the trees sink to the bottom of the water? How could they get to the beach? I just don’t know about this.”

“Well, dead trees float on the water, just like you learned to do in swimming class.” Skipper’s dad continued, “The adult word for a tree in the water would be flotsam, but we usually call it driftwood because it just drifts on top of the water and goes where the wind and waves take it. That’s the name of this beach—Driftwood Beach. They named it that because there are so many dead trees that washed up on the sand.”

Finding a magnificent spot, they spread out their blanket and set up the chairs facing the water. The sun was just passing overhead and that meant it was just about lunchtime. On the way to the beach, Skipper and his dad stopped at the little market near the beach and picked up picnic supplies for the day. Now they worked together to fix lunch–ham and cheese sandwiches, little bags of chips, and cans of root beer.

After lunch, Skipper asked his dad if he could wander over to some of the nearby driftwood forms and check them out. His dad agreed, with the warning, “Stay in sight of me and do not wander farther than that. The water is off-limits until I go in with you.”

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Promising to obey, Skipper set off on a jagged course across the sand. Reaching the first outcropping of driftwood, he quickly rejected it as boring. Looking around, he spied what looked like something he had seen in his grandpa’s garden, except the one at his grandpa’s had clothes hanging on it and a hat. He couldn’t remember what it was called, only that it was supposed to keep birds from eating all the seeds in the garden. The driftwood tree he was looking at on the beach was bare and pretty crooked looking. Curious, Skipper walked closer, turning to make sure he could still see his dad. When he looked back, he noticed that an old man was lying on a towel at the base of the tree. He wasn’t sleeping because he was reading from a book and seemed to talk to himself. Not being very brave, Skipper hesitated to get any closer and sat down to think about what he would do next.

“Are you okay, son?” His father asked as he touched his shoulder from behind. “I saw you walk off and then you sat down, and I was worried you had hurt yourself.”

“No, I am feeling good,” Skipper answered. “I wanted to look at that tree over there, but the man there was talking to himself, so I waited.”

Skipper’s dad shaded his eyes with a hand and, looking in the direction Skipper was pointing, said, “Let’s walk over there together and introduce ourselves.” “Can we?” Skipper asked excitedly. “I really want to see what that tree looks like close up. It’s different from the other ones on the beach.”

As they approached the driftwood, the man lying there got up and smiled. “Welcome, friends! It is a beautiful day. God is in His heaven, and all is right with the world. My name is William.”

“Hello, yourself.” Skipper’s dad replied. “I am Sam, and this is my son, Skipper. It is indeed a wonderful day, and the Lord has blessed us with great favor.” William motioned to where Sam and Skipper had set up for lunch and said, “I noticed you over there a bit earlier. Would you like to sit with me for a bit? I was just finishing my Bible reading and time with the Lord.”

““We wouldn’t wish to interrupt you.” Skipper’s dad explained, “My son was curious about the driftwood here. Now that we are close, I can see it is a cross— of sorts.”

“Yes, I believe it is a cross. It looks like the tree originally had many more branches, but now just has two. The way it is stuck upright in the sand may be natural, or perhaps long ago someone planted it this way.”

“Do you come here often, William?” Skipper’s dad asked. “This is the first time since the boy’s mother passed away last year that we have been to the beach, and we’ve never been to this part.”

“Oh, I’ve been on this beach most of my life. I have a small cottage just off the sand near the parking lot.” William added, “I am the informal pastor of a small flock of beachgoers who come to this spot to worship. Nothing fancy, just meeting God in the nature He created to give thanks and praise for His grace and mercy.”

Skipper turned to his dad and said, “Dad, I can see it now. This piece of driftwood is like the big cross behind where the pastor talks at church on Sunday.” “Yes, son, I can see that now, too.”

William placed his hands together like he was praying and said, “I hope that you both will join us here for worship when you get a chance. I am here most days and always on Sundays from sunrise until late afternoon. We are a God-fearing, Bible-believing, and people-loving group.”

Skipper and his dad looked at each other for a second and then both nodded their agreement.

“We’ll be back!”

As they started to leave, William reached down into a satchel he had on his blanket with his Bible. He took out two small hand-carved crosses and handed them to Sam and Skipper.

“I whittle these from small pieces of driftwood that come onto the beach, but only the area that I own as part of the homestead. I want you to have them so that no matter where you go, you may go with the Lord and remember that He loves you and I do, too.” Softly rubbing the rough cross in his hand, Skipper turned to his dad and asked, “Is this where we all say, Amen?”

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Laurie Glass has a heart for encouraging others through her writing. She has had many poems and articles published in both print and online publications. Laurie is a contributing writer for Chronic Joy, a ministry for those affected by chronic illness and other health issues. In addition, she won the Open Medicine Foundation poetry contest in 2019.

Look for Laurie’s books on Amazon, click the covers below.

Icy Heart

When we’re deeply hurt, it’s easy for us to get angry and let that anger fester. Once that bitterness sets in, though, we tend to hurt others. Whether we’re going through it ourselves, or we see it in others around us, we can choose to pray. The Lord is the true Healer of our hearts.

Her countenance is bitter cold, as chilly as a winter’s day. Expresses anger openly and pushes ev’ryone away.

Like ice, her look is set in place, expression shows a glacial stare. How obvious her attitude, such frigid soul is not aware.

Although she’s broken deep inside, the pieces do not break apart. They’re held in place by bitterness and constitute her icy heart.

Perplexed what happened in her life, she’s still their sister in the Lord, They understand her pain is real and long to see her heart restored.

Concerned and speak on her behalf. Although they don’t know what to say, the Holy Spirit intercedes as loving saints take time to pray.

He longs to soothe and mend her soul, to break through frosty, wintry glaze until each hurt evaporates. Ignites His fiery, healing blaze.

His warmth begins to soften her. Though just a drop, it’s still a start. Imparts His glowing, loving touch to melt her frozen, icy heart.

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Dr. Irene Surya is an award-winning author of her book, In Solitude with God. Her poems have been published in various magazines and anthologies. She has a passion for writing for the Lord and glorifying His name through her writings. She loves and serves the Lord with her husband.

River Of Life

Little rivulets of hope Trickling down the cliff Spreading joy in the valley beneath Adding newness to the seas yonder.

Refreshing streams of living water Flowing from above Springing up eternal life in me By believing on the Lord Jesus.

Roaring Fountain of life

The source of abundant loving kindness Whose faithfulness reaches to the clouds Who rules with righteousness and justice.

Reviving River of life

Giving blessings in due seasons Abundantly to those whose roots reach to you And whose hearts are on the way to Zion.

Click on book to purchase on Amazon.

Rejuvenating Spring of grace Revitalizing my soul daily Preventing my soul from rusting To be useful for His kingdom.

Unending Ocean of love

The reason for my living hope Enabling me to run fervently On the road to the eternal kingdom.

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A NEW START

January brings a new year, and for many, new resolutions to make changes in their life. Some vow they will lose weight, some to not smoke, others to not drink. All good ideas for your health. But… will a resolution at the beginning of the year bring the changes people hope for in their lives?

According to Forbes magazine, studies have shown approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Not encouraging, is it? Personally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t recall a time when I ever have. My thinking has always been, if you want to do something to change yourself for the better, just do it. Don’t wait until the beginning of a new year. Do it when you realize change is needed.

What are the most popular New Year’s resolutions?

One set of statistics shows the top U.S. New Year’s resolutions for 2022 were:

To exercise more - 48%

To eat healthier - 44%

To lose weight - 41%

To spend more time with family/friends - 34%

To live more economically - 24%

To spend less time on social media - 21%

To reduce stress on the job - 21%

To quit smoking - 20%

Why did these people wait so long to decide to change these things? It baffles me. When did they decide they’d do this for the New Year? A day prior? A week prior? A month prior? Then they waited until January 1st to put this new plan into effect. Really? It’s no wonder people fail in their resolution to a new life.

When I think of a ‘new life’, I don’t think about the necessary changes in my present life that would improve it. I think of the brand-new life I received from Jesus Christ. My old life died in 1958 when I accepted the Blood of Jesus Christ to wash away all my sins. I received his gift of salvation, knowing there was nothing I could do to save myself from an eternity in hell. It’s where I was headed if I hadn’t accepted the gift He offered me. Easy choice.

As a pre-teen, invited on retreat by a church’s teen club to Camp Wonderland in Wisconsin, I asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior. That was a change in my life. I went from a lost, twelve-year-old girl to a new creature in Christ. Born again to a new life.

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

I didn’t have to wait until the New Year to put it into effect. It was instant.

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Click on photo to order Sharon’s books.

Website www.authorsharonkconnell.com

Please subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Novel Thoughts, written for writers and readers. A Variety of articles for everyone. Subscription form is found on my website on the Novel Thoughts page.

To say I’ve never had any regrets over actions I’ve taken in my new life as a Christian would be a lie. No one can claim that. When you become a Christian, you have two people living within you. A new and an old man/ woman/girl/boy.

It’s a difficult concept to understand at first. Colossians 2:11 says, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:”

When you ask Jesus to come into your heart, the Holy Spirit enters and cuts away your sinful flesh from your soul. However, we don’t lose our sinful flesh until we are resurrected, whether after death or in the Rapture when “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52) That’s when our sinful flesh is shed, and we gain a heavenly body.

In the meantime, we are stuck with this sinful flesh and have to deal with it every day. We have a choice now, as Christians, whether we want to continue to do sinful things or live our lives for the one who saved us from hell.

A long time ago, I heard a preacher say, “It’s like having two dogs; a bad one and a good one. The one you feed the most is the one who will be strong and overcome the other.” Think of your two natures in this way. Who are you going to feed the most?

How do you feed this new ‘man’? By reading God’s Word daily, communing with the Lord, and asking for His guidance daily. I didn’t always do this. The old ‘man’ inside me wanted to do what he wanted to do, and sometimes I let him. Thank God for forgiveness and His mercy.

Through the years, I’ve learned to feed the new ‘man’ a steady diet of God’s Word, good Bible preaching (not the ‘let me make you feel good about yourself’ kind), and having a close relationship with my Lord. This takes discipline and practice. Too many things in this world are pulling for your attention.

One of the best things about feeding the new ‘man’ and ignoring the old is the joy and peace which comes into your heart. Now that’s change.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6 & 7)

If you’re looking for a new start in 2023, forget the resolutions. If you’ve never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and the only way to heaven, do it today. If you’re already saved, but you’ve been feeding the old flesh, turn to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness and guidance. Seek His Words in the Bible. Have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Talk to Him all the time. Find a real new start in the New Year.

All Scripture is King James Authorized Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

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Breaking the Chains of Stinking Thinking

Around twenty years ago, I befriended an older gentleman named Frank Senior through a mutual friend. Oh, he was quite a character! He had a story to tell if you had a moment to spare. During one particularly drama-ridden season in my young adult life, I decided to do what any girl would do… throw a party! Except, it wasn’t a typical party with a cute black cocktail dress; this was a full-blown pity party, and Frank Senior was on the guest list. After listening to my sad tales for as long as he could stomach, he held up his hand and, in his raspy voice, said, “Chere, no wonder your life is in the pits with all that stinking thinking.” Frank listened long enough to infer that my situation resulted from my attitude, which was the outcome of my mindset… my stinking thinking. He told me how I chose to think would elevate my life or keep me in the pits. The choice was mine. He hit me with the truth—it hurt but resonated.

The chains of stinking thinking keep us in bondage and rob us of God’s abundance. Stinking thinking does not come from God; it is straight from the enemy. The Apostle Paul was well-aware of the snares of stinking thinking. He didn’t refer to it in Frank Senior’s terms, but Paul knew that our thoughts have a powerful influence over our attitude and actions and can determine whether we carry out God’s will for our lives.

In Philippians 4:8 (ESV), Paul gives us a prescription to cure stinking thinking, he tells us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things..” Paul understood that for us to do God’s work effectively, our thoughts had to be focused on those attributes of God. Stinking thinking is a cycle. It starts with the enemy sowing seeds of negativity based on lies in our minds. In turn, we begin to believe those lies, which leads to stinking thinking, which develops into a stronghold in our life, leading to stagnation that deprives us of the opportunities to use our gifts to serve God’s Kingdom. God has a plan for our life, but so does the enemy. The enemy doesn’t want us to recognize who we are in Christ and the divine power that comes with being a child of God! If he can launch an attack on our mind, he accomplishes his goals of keeping us distracted from God’s will, deceived into thinking we are ill-equipped for our ministry, discouraged from pursuing action, deprived of the fullness of God’s plan, and ultimately, he wants to destroy us. John 10:10 (NIV) gives us a clear picture of the enemy’s game plan and God’s counterplan: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

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So many of us anticipate the excitement of a new year. We promise to do better, be better, and passionately pursue our purpose. Then, a few weeks into the new year, we stop. Sound familiar? My stinking thinking usually manifests through procrastination. Previously, I missed submitting a book proposal to a major publisher and passed up the chance to write a chapter in a book being published, which turned out to be quite successful. I doubted who I was in Christ, which led to my inaction and missing out on the good things God may have had in store for me.

How many dreams slip through our fingers because we stop focusing on God and instead believe the lies the enemy tells us? Hebrews 13:20-21 affirms that God equips us in every good thing to do his will; we lack nothing. The enemy wants us to envision our life through a limited human perspective, not a limitless spiritual vision. When our thinking is Christ-focused, it is then that we stop mistaking our identity and doubting our spiritual gifts. Philippians 2:13 (NIV) reminds us, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

The Apostle Paul’s impactful ministry could not have happened if his mind was not set on the things of Christ. Paul went from persecuting Christians to being a faithful servant of the Lord because his mind had been constantly renewed and transformed.

When we redirect our focus to what Paul tells us to think about in Philippians 4:8, we pull out the weeds of stinking thinking and start sowing spiritual seeds. Paul’s prescription redirects our focus from who the enemy wants us to believe we are to who we actually are in Christ. Paul is specific in what he tells us to think about, which directly contradicts what stinking thinking offers. This list is our spiritual weapon against the enemy.

There is work to do for the Kingdom of God, and as Christians, more than ever, we need to be serving and believing in God’s plan for our life. We cannot be that light on the hill if our mind wanders in the dark. We have a choice to either walk on the path the Lord has set forth or stumble into the pit the enemy has prepared. The first step towards either is our thinking. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When stinking thinking rears its ugly head, we must ask, is this thought Christ-worthy? If not, it has no business taking up space in our heads. We can follow Paul’s prescription if we apply Psalm 119:15 (KJV), “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways,” to our daily spiritual disciplines.

Breaking the chains of stinking thinking is not a new year’s goal but an act of obedience to God that produces fruit and can spiritually transform your life and ministry to the glory of God.

Chere Williams lives in Takoma Park, MD with her amazing 16-year-old daughter. She loves Jesus and is passionate about encouraging women to live on purpose and open their hearts to the big, beautiful life God has in store for them. She takes great joy in writing her blog and hosting her podcast, Faith, Coffee, & a Kid. Chere has a heart for single moms and is the creator of the Single Moms of Faith, Burning Bright, Not Burning Out Conference. She loves to travel, spend time with friends and family, and volunteer.

Blog: Faith, Coffee, & a Kid

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Road Trippin’ - Favorites

As we end 2022, we do so with a new addition to our Faith On Every Corner Staff. Our 1-year-old grandson is living with us for a while. We have given him a title of Time Manager, because when he wants something, the time is now! Our plans are to travel with him in January so stay tuned! You never know what direction we may be headng. Enjoy some of our favorite road trip photos.

Always great photo ops at the beach in So. Cal. Oceanside beach was one of our favorites to visit since we lived so close. Great people watching and vintage cars driving up and down the alley.

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Our trip to Utah was filled with beauty. The rock formations and mountains are stunning and change with the light all day long. Zion National Park is a great park to drive through and there is plenty of hiking for everyone.

The tunnels we drove through that were cut right into the mountain were amazing. They cut windows to the outside so you had views as you drove through them.

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Ahh Yosemite National Park, or should I say Awe! It is so easy to think about God while walking around in this beautiful area. Just image what Heaven will look like!

I hope you enjoyed these photos this month. We will be working with our Time Manager to hit the road and bring more photos your way.

From our family to yours, hit the road andhave fun, and may God bless you all in 2023!

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Roland T. Pyle is a licensed social worker and works in the field of aging with seniors, caregivers, and grandparents raising grandchildren. Rolanda is the author of Grandma’s Hands, a children’s storybook, Finally, a collection of inspirational poems; and the compiler of and contributor to Beneath His Everlasting Wings, a collection of devotionals. Her work has been published in religious and community newspapers, anthologies, collections, and journals. In April 2004, New York’s Daily News named her one of the “100 Women Who Shape Our City.” Her website is www.rorosrainbowcommunications.com

Poems

Happy New Year

There’s an old saying, “The New Year lies before you like a spotless tract of snow Be careful how you tread on it or every mark will show.” Year 2023 is a time to get rid of the old and bring on the new. It’s a time to reflect, rethink and review.

It’s a time to move on from the hurts, mistakes, and pains of the past. Time to be up front and come from behind our masks Time to make the changes that we want to see Time to work on ourselves to be who we want to be.

It’s also a time to set new goals and have a plan To begin the work, we need to do to be the best we can We are the people who can and will do it Because through prayer and faith, the Lord will bring us to it.

So we stand ready and welcome year 2023 Gladly focused on becoming all we want to be Working towards those goals we want to see. Making our hopes and dreams a reality.

It’s a New Year, it’s a new month, it’s a new day!!! May God bless us all in the new year in every way!

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Steve Carter lives in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is a Bible college graduate, military and hospice chaplain, and musician.

Steve may be contacted by email at: Msroadkill@bellsouth.net

Early Morning Peace

Pedaling into the early dawn Last night’s sleep, come and gone Off to work, another day Me, my Savior, riding away Moving, I hear the tires sing Or the brush of angel wings Peace endures, while with Him Cometh joy, from deep within

Wind blows gently on my face Reminded of His boundless grace First, accepts from where you’ve been Then becomes forever friend Why He beckons such as me Eternity, a mystery, be Coming from the Perfect Lamb God, Father, Great I am

Trials melt before the dawn Through the night, pedal on Guard dog barks and gives chase Send a whistle, show God’s grace Thank my Jesus another day Tears, sadness will not hold sway Be gone deceiver, we will not hear Your lies fall on salvation’s ear

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may be contacted by email at: Msroadkill@bellsouth.net

Difficult Decisions

My eldest son, Matthew, and I cinched our shoulder straps up tighter while repositioning our packs. Before starting our hike in the cold fog, I prayed for God’s protection over my son. We were hiking the section of The Appalachian Trail that runs from Clingmans Dome, Tennessee, for 30 staggering miles to Fontana Dam, North Carolina. As we leaned into the wind, my mind churned with dangers inherent to bringing a hearty 13-year-old into this unforeseen weather.

On the mountain peaks, the wind gusted strongly enough to knock me to the ground once and prompted us to take a tighter grip on our walking sticks. Matthew, never being one to complain, stayed close and bent into the mist, hoping for a glimpse of something besides fog.

After three miles of steady descent, the Double Springs Gap shelter materialized, and we gladly dropped our packs to rest. Hiking the A.T. is a thirsty business, so we climbed (and slid) down to the nearest water source, which turned out to be the headwaters for the Atlanta, Ga. water supply. The fluid, seeping from a mountainside, needed time-consuming filtering, and the morning began to slip away. Always conscious of the time spent, we scrambled back to the trail before heading toward our scheduled camping place at Silers Bald shelter.

Shortly after leaving the relative comfort of the shelter, a light rain set in and the temperature started a steady decline. Rain hoods came out. We zipped jackets up and I started eyeing the sky for any sign of good weather. Nothing but dark rain clouds looked back at me, and I realized this trip might come apart at the seams.

After hiking two miles to Silers Bald, I noted the shelter and saw it to be typical. Three wooden sides were covered with a slanted roof. A chain-link fence stretched across the front to keep bears from bunking with or dining on hikers and inside shelves had been built for sleeping.

The shelter was already filled to overflowing, and in short order, God told me to reverse my course.

I told Matthew, because of the worsening weather and fading day, we were turning back. The next shelter, being far beyond our reach, left me with no option. With no concept of what we faced; Matthew was visibly disappointed at my decision. With the added weight of letting him down, we started slogging back up the mountain.

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Steve Carter lives in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is a Bible college graduate, military and hospice chaplain, and musician. Steve
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During the trek back to Double Springs Gap shelter, as always, my mind focused on Matthew’s safety and how to get him dry, fed, and warm. Hiking back to Clingmans Dome would have us in the worsening weather until after dark, with nothing but a public restroom for shelter. Finding a ride to a town in the trailhead parking lot was unlikely, so I put my hopes and prayers on Double Gap. We were blessed to find ample room in the shelter, so I quickly claimed adequate sleeping space. Before heating the hot chocolate, I told Matthew to get in his sleeping bag and stay there to keep warm. Meanwhile, three young men arrived, and an easy camaraderie developed as we worked for the common good gathering firewood. These guys were also Christian, and I asked if they would give us a ride to the closest town in the morning. They volunteered to run us back to my vehicle just off the mountain instead, and I told them breakfast and gasoline were on me!

Daylight quickly faded into evening and night became a happy time for all. The enterprising teenagers were jovial and good company, with one of them managing to make small pizzas for everyone. This treat gave Matthew all the comforts of home, and soon everyone drifted off to sleep with a lullaby of sleet bouncing off the shelter roof.

During the night, the storm intensified, and the shelter shook with the closeness of lightning and thunder rolling between windswept mountains. The thought of my son enduring the storm on wet ground in a tent made me thankful for listening to God’s prompting.

We awoke to a clear morning, and eagerly hiked to their car and motored back to mine. I thanked the young men as they dropped us off, and they were on their way, having saved my son and me from untold misery.

In retrospect, I chose wisely by retreating on the trail that day. God, in His infinite wisdom, knew what we faced and prompted me to backtrack.

Short-term disappointment from taking the ‘road less traveled’, is often difficult, no doubt about it. But that letdown pales in the face of the long-term misery we reap by choosing unwisely.

It took over twenty years before Matthew and I returned to conquer that stretch of the Appalachian Trail, but that’s another story for another time.

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Faith On Every Corner Bookshelf

Click on book covers to learn more and purchase.

Grandma’s Hands

This book hit home this month as we have custody of our grandson. This is such a touching story about a little girl who lost her mother and goes to live with her grandmother. Her teacher helps her by sharing an experience with her which makes Shonda feel much better.

Rolanda is a licensed social worker and has been featured on various radio and television programs On her book cover, she mentions that millions of children are living with their grandparents and other relatives without their parents.

This book is a great way to help a child make a transition to be with grandma. Rolanda has first hand experience with this and always wanted to write about it. This is wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated by Brandon Coleman.

Craig and I are pleased and blessed to have this on the Faith On Every Corner Bookshelf.

Call For Writers

For Faith On Every Corner Magazine

We are looking for testimonials, acts of service, devotions, and articles of how you have witnessed God working in your life or the life of family and friends. Email for submission guidelines.

Team@FaithOnEveryCorner.com

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Faith On Every Corner Bookshelf

Beneath His Everlasting Wings Compiled

I love devotional books, and Rolanda’s book is inspiring. It is a collaboration of poetry, testimonies, and essays of encouragement and accomplishments through faith in God.

Rolanda shares her stories of how malicious words could have harmed her yet only helped her conquer her fears and accomplish her dreams.

Read as other authors share their experiences; these journeys include one woman’s trip to Africa where she comes to realize her “life’s purpose;” and another woman’s walk of faith after being diagnosed with cancer. Discover many more triumphs of faith.

This is not only a book we have placed on our bookshelf but one we will keep in mind when someone we know needs the inspiration to keep pursuing their dreams. I highly recommend Beneath His Everlasting Wings.

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Faith On Every Corner Bookshelf

Click on book covers to learn more and purchase.

Freedom from Brokenness

The title of this book intrigued me, and I wanted to learn more about the subject of inner healing prayer. Most of us have experienced hurt and damage, physical and mental, in our lifetimes. This book helps the reader understand the source of our pain and brokenness and offers real-time, hands-on help in the healing process. Gena Barnhill has written an excellent study on the subject, sharing her faith, insights, experiences, and the tools she has found to be most effective.

I like the way the author teaches the fundamentals of inner healing prayer. The discussion about spiritual warfare is excellent and the use of real-life stories brings the subject close to home for the reader. The section on Lies and especially about generational curses particularly interested me. This book is very helpful and is an important addition to our personal library.

We highly recommend Freedom from Brokenness to our readers and have placed a copy on the Faith On Every Corner Bookshelf.

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Faith On Every Corner Bookshelf

Break The Cycle Healing From An Abusive Relationship

Tracy is a domestic violence victims’ advocate, this book is a guide to helping end an abusive or destructive relationship and shows you how to rebuild your life.

I pulled up a statistic that shows what is happening in the U.S.: Over 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

This book talks about how you lose your own identity, feel disconnected and isolated, and tells you how to make a stand and change your mindset. You will also learn how to Experience God’s Deliverance.

I highly recommend this book for those who are in an abusive relationship and those who know someone who is in one. We have placed this on the Faith On Every Corner’s Bookshelf.

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A Future and a Hope

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

(Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

I felt like I’d been sucker-punched. And then I felt like throwing up. My husband, Bruce, and I left my horse, Nocona, at our veterinarian’s clinic to be x-rayed.

The call we received from him that evening was not the news we expected.

The no-big-deal scenario with my horse’s hoof seemed to be more serious. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” our vet said. “Can you come to the clinic tomorrow morning to look at the x-rays?”

Our horses are not only part of the family, but they’re also a vital part of our ministry. The thought of having to replace either of them would be devastating.

As I sat, numb, the words of Jeremiah 29:11 drifted through my brain fog of ‘what ifs’. The Lord had led me to this verse just that morning. It’s my favorite verse.

We met with our vet the next morning. The images were indeed alarming.

“I’m just a country vet,” our veterinarian said. “This situation is more complicated than I can handle. I sent the images to a friend and colleague of mine who is a more specialized equine vet. His clinic is very busy, but he’s agreed to see your horse today.”

And then he added, “I won’t repeat my colleague’s opinion, but I will tell you this. He commented your horse will probably become a pasture pet or….” Our vet glanced at the x-rays. He didn’t have to say it. I could fill in the blank: Or you may have to put him down.

I had to remind myself of that promise of ‘a future and a hope’. But was it my wishful thinking? God had never let us down before, in anything.

I decided to hang onto His encouragement with a white-knuckled grip. Surely there was some kind of light at the end of this tunnel.

We pulled up to the vet’s office, and I walked inside to check-in. However, after the long drive, I took a pit stop at the bathroom.

Plaques, pictures, and flowers decorated the room. I stepped in and stopped in my tracks. Two hanging plaques declared: Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5) and: All things work together for good: TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD (Romans 8:28).

Funny how God’s strength reaches out and puts His arm around you when your knees are wobbling.

But God wasn’t done with His version of ‘Here’s your sign’. As I turned to flush the toilet, my eyes zeroed in on the cross above the commode. Its inscription read: HOPE and, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, … plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I teared up.

But God still wasn’t finished with His ‘signs’. I checked in my horse at the front desk and headed out to the trailer to unload him. As I started to back him out, Bruce said, “Look at that!”

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Shara Bueler-Repka is enjoying life as a singer/songwriter/recording artist, freelance writer, and award-winning author. She and her husband, Bruce, live in their living quarters horse trailer and call “home” wherever their rig is parked. Their mail-base, however, is Hallettsville, Texas. She loves sharing God’s Word through music with her husband, riding their horses (aka The Boys) in the backcountry, and writing about God’s grace in their various adventures on the trail less traveled.

“Where?” I asked as I looked everywhere but where his finger pointed.

“There!” he replied. I followed his finger, and my mouth dropped open. There, across the parking lot, a black-skinned horse trailer sported huge red letters and numbers: JEREMIAH 29:11.

Stunned at this obvious sign from Heaven, we forgot to take a picture. But it’s branded in my memory.

Any anxiety trying to invade our situation was fairly booted out the door.

As I studied the x-rays with the examining vet, it was indeed terrible news. But I didn’t freak. I didn’t cry. Whatever the future held for Nocona and me, God would make sure this challenge would turn out for the good. Evil could not prevail.

However, we had to work through a process. But the Lord stood right there with us, giving His wisdom and encouragement through the frustrations of shoeing and care issues, etc.

One morning, I sat on our couch, staring out the window. A deer shot out of nowhere close to our rig. Startled, I sensed the Holy Spirit hailing me. I grabbed my Bible and researched the word ‘deer’ from the concordance. Reading Isaiah 35, verse 6 jumped off the page: “Then the lame shall leap like a deer…”.

Before this Word, I was having dreams of riding my horse on the trail which, in reality, was impossible. Now, with this Word, my “ears were up”, as we say.

But as with any ray of hope, Satan tries to steal it with his clouds of discouragement. Nocona seemed to walk better one minute and then regress the next. It was frustrating and painful for me to watch him. One day, I clenched my fists and cried out to the Lord in the middle of the pasture, “You promised!” (I think the whole county heard me.)

Soon after, as I brushed him, praying for his healing and fighting against dismal thoughts, I glanced up. At that exact moment, a white-tailed deer leaped over the adjoining pasture fence. I smiled and repented at the same time. God was still on the move, but I let the circumstances mess with my faith.

After a year or so, Nocona’s gait became smoother. A call to minister at a cowboy camp sent us to the New Mexico wilderness. While there, we hit the trail and traversed rugged terrain, riding up and over a mountain. My Boy sailed through this test with flying colors!

Through God’s healing and His continued wisdom in Nocona’s care, I’m riding a miracle.

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See photos on next page
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Photos from A Future and A Hope by Shara Bueler-Repka

The Church Family

I have had this thought on my mind for some time now and I wanted to share how important a church family is for all of us. First, we share the love of Christ Jesus—it binds us together as we acknowledge each other as brothers or sisters in Christ.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3: 1-2 NKJV)

Second, we all believe that the Bible was given to us to give us instructions on how to live a God-honoring life.

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:31 NKJV)

As a member of the church family, you learn to help those in need, to listen and pray for their needs, and to love them through their difficulties. As a member of the church family, you realize how many brothers and sisters are there to pray for you as you pray for them.

A local church family is important because you get to know them on a closer basis. You worship with them; you break bread with them; you receive communion with them, and you share your love with them.

Craig and I pray you find a church family, get involved in your church, and learn more about the love God has for you. He gave His only son for us. Let us recognize the blessings He gives us each day. We pray for our family, our church family, the church, and all who believe. We also pray that those who do not know Him will soon find Him.

God loves you, and so do we.

John 3:16—For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

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She was born into an emerging America in 1890. Through the ninety-five years of life that stood in front of her, she would watch an Industrial Revolution unfold, Henry Ford roll out the Model T, and Edison light the world. She would read the headlines of doughboys marching off to fight a Kaiser in what was originally called the Great War. Some twenty-four years later, she would watch history repeat itself as millions of GIs marched off in a similar fashion to fight a dictator in something called World War II. In between it all, she would face the economic depravity and emotional ravages of a devastating depression within which her husband would abandon the family and summarily vanish. She was left to support three children on a meager income of scant dollars earned in the hot kitchen of a small diner.

Crafting the ‘New’— Birthing a New Beginning

She never drove a car. She lived out most of her life on pocket change, making what seemed impossible possible. The furniture in her meager home was old, lending it the enchanting aroma of another era long vanished. It all was tenderly cared for in a manner that lent her home an indescribable but wonderfully simple charm. The few appointments in her small home were tidy, clean, and, above all, cherished. She saw herself as marvelously blessed amid manifold need, for Granny understood that ‘need’ was more an issue of attitude than a matter of circumstance. And it privileged me to be touched by this solitary life until her passing in 1985.

For over ten years, every month Granny would tease ten dollars out of her meager collection of dimes and dollars. And she would send it off to a young Hispanic girl whose father had abandoned her, and whose mother had placed her in an orphanage and summarily walked away. All Granny had was a single photo of a tattered little girl standing in front of a weathered hut. It sat in a slight frame on her tiny buffet. At the feet of the photo there laid a handful of yellowed letters that Granny had received from this little girl over that most precious decade.

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Some years after Granny had passed, another letter came. In it were several photos bearing the striking image of a young Hispanic woman in professional attire standing in a small but simple office setting. On the back of one photo in a stuttering script, it said, “Thank you for my new life.” My grandmother didn’t live long enough to see the results of her sacrifices. However, while real sacrifice is committed to the result, it relishes the effort. Granny relished the effort and birthed something ‘new’ into the life of a young woman.

We Are the ‘New

Each of us possesses ample resources to be the ‘new’ in the life of another. It is not the execution of some strategy as we might think or the happenstance of life that births something ‘new’. It is not about some level of tenacious persistence or the right choices made at the right time. These things and many more can bring something ‘new’ to our lives and the lives of those around us.

But it is the raw power of that single human being stepping up and stepping into the life of another that can bring something ‘new’ in ways that nothing else ever can or ever will. It is the energy of our humanity shared. It is the hope that is released in the touch of another. It is the voice of another that calls out when all other voices have long fallen silent.

It is an investment that may cost us much, yet it is an expenditure that will cost us much more if we refuse it. It is pressing against the giant of greed and intentionally raising the eyes of our hearts past our own circumstances to focus on the circumstances of another. It is a passion that unleashes everything away from us so that it can be drawn into everyone around us. And it is this that sets the grand stage upon which to birth something ‘new’ in another that would never have been ‘new’ were it not for such a sacrifice.

Be the ‘New’

Might I suggest each day we come to understand that the ‘new’ in our lives is created by making the choice to become the ‘new’ in the life of another?

In whatever manner we choose to do that, we all can change a life and, in doing so, change a world. Therefore, let us contemplate how we can make each day a ‘new’ day regardless of how ‘old’ we might be. Let us formulate ‘New Life’ commitments. And let us do that by becoming the ‘new’ in the life of another.

Craig’s background includes over thirty years of experience as a counselor in a variety of treatment settings, including psychiatric hospitals, schools for the blind, organizations for the physically handicapped, churches, and outpatient settings. He also possesses ten years of experience in pastoral ministry. Craig spent two years broadcasting on Christian radio and has published both nationally and internationally.

To date, he has published six books and has had many other works published in a wide variety of magazines. Craig founded an outpatient practice that provides counseling, coaching, and consulting services to individuals, marriages, families, various businesses, and church and ministry organizations. Craig may be reached at: craiglpc4@gmail.com

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A New Year, A New Adventure

These last two years of the pandemic have been very difficult and heartbreaking. During this time, we have lost loved ones, friends, and neighbors. Our democracy has been under attack as well. We are one Nation under God! Our people came together in many ways. Our law enforcement, military, nurses, doctors, grocery clerks, truck drivers, teachers, factory workers, and many more risked their lives to keep our nation going. And so many passed away. But our country overcame the Covid crisis and although the virus remains, the pandemic is over. The pandemic, in many ways, brought our people closer together. It made people think about their lives and eternity. Some people are kinder and more caring, and value life more than ever!

As we complete another year, we think about the past and future. Looking back on our lives, we want to know if we left a footprint for future generations. What is our legacy? Have we made a difference in this hurting, sinful world? Have we reached out to others in need, whether it was a mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual need? What and how do we judge our life’s work? Is our work of value to others or ourselves?

We can only do what we think is right and hope that our lives make somewhat of a difference to someone, a small or big difference. And the truly only way we, as Christians, can judge our lives is to do what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ asks us to do. To show his love, kindness, caring, and forgiveness to others. None of us will ever be perfect like our Savior. But we can do our best as human beings. And the most important things in our lives should be obeying, loving, and trusting the Lord. Only then can our life be A Life Worth Living! And we’ll leave it up to the Lord to judge our lives and others.

My life is more fulfilled. My dreams of childhood have come true. I’ve written poems and short stories since childhood. Now in my later years, I’ve become a writer. I’ve one book published, a memoir about my parents and family. And am working on several other books, including a children’s book series. I also write for Faith on Every Corner. And am starting a freelance writing business. But one of the best and most beautiful things to happen is my engagement. I am to marry a sweet, loving Christian man. And will become a mother to his beautiful daughter. So I’ve had so many dreams come true. And one of the greatest gifts the Lord can give us along with his Love. Is also being loved and cherished by another Loving Soul!

We can hope and pray that the new year will be a new and exciting adventure. A year of new beginnings, hopes, and dreams. But we can’t do anything without each other. We as a people, nation, and world need to work together always! To ensure freedom, life, peace, and prosperity for future generations. And the best assurance is to humble ourselves, to the one who made us! The one who died and rose again from the grave! The one who gave us forgiveness for our sins and eternal life! Our best new adventure in the future will be to live eternally with our Loving Savior, Jesus Christ! And while in this world, do His will always. And forever live for Him. Live as a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Live a Life Truly Worth Living!

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A New Adventure

It’s a brand New Year! We have nothing to fear! Fear makes us weak! So we must seek!

In the many coming weeks!

To be at peace! And have a brand new lease! On life, with no more strife! And live a new Life! Start a new Faith Adventure!

And you’ll be very sure! To be blessed and loved! Cause from Heaven above, the Dove Of Peace, will send YOU his LOVE!!

Brenda McDaniel is the author of My Angel My Hero with two more books soon to be published. She is from Roanoke, VA. She holds a B.S in Psychology and M.A. in Counseling. She has enjoyed writing poetry and short stories, even as a small child. Brenda says she is now living her dream come true!

To purchase, click on the book cover.

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Dr. Kathleen B. Oden is an author, missionary, and Bible teacher. She has been the Administrator of God’s House of Refuge Church & School of Evangelism, for 25 years. Dr. Oden attained a Doctorate degree in Christian Theology in 2000. After a bad fall in 2014, she realized that she had to start eating healthy, in order to fully recover. She became a Certified Health Minister and a Certified Essential Oil Coach. She loves ministering to people and God gave her a health ministry called, Create AnewU Health Ministry. Her health ministry has opened the door for her to share what the WORD OF GOD has to say about eating healthy. Dr. Oden has published over 20 books through Amazon.com and several of them are about health and wellness. https://createanewuhealthministry.com

Cleansing The Temple

As my mind thought about what this article for January would be about, a question popped into my mind… Why is January so popular for weight loss? After typing that as the first sentence for this article, the Holy Spirit then immediately gave me the title—Cleansing The Temple. Well, that sounded biblical to me, so as usual, my next step was to pull up an online Bible and search for ‘cleansing the temple’. Only one scripture popped up and that was 2 Chronicles 29:16, “And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron.”

WOW!!! This really shows us how serious God is about us defiling our body the (real temple of God) BUT WAIT… what does this have to do with January? The very next verse, 2 Chronicles 29:17, quickly answered that question. “Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month came they to the porch of the LORD: so they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight days; and in the sixteenth day of the first month they made an end.” WOW!

So, what are you doing to keep the temple of God healthy? Some people start the year by doing a new diet. For example, a Daniel Fast, or Esther Fast, or some sort of detox to cleanse the body. We can see from these scriptures that they did this way back during the time of King Hezekiah. But like a lot of other things that the Lord has implemented, MAN has taken credit for it.

In 2 Chronicles 29:4-5, King Hezekiah received instructions from the Lord about how to prepare the people to cleanse the temple. So King Hezekiah got to work, “And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street, And said unto them, ‘Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place.’” (KJV)

Some of us have forgotten that the Lord said in Leviticus 11:44, “For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy…” Why are people in the U.S. getting sicker and sicker? Because we love the SAD. And the SAD, Standard American Diet, is slowly killing people. And it is not just about our diet. It is about healthy living.

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Health Maintenance Regime

This is the start of a new year and there is no better time than now, the beginning of January, to cleanse our temple. Due to all the viruses that are in the world today, we need to step up our level of health maintenance, and detoxing to cleanse our temple is a great way to start the new year!

This is no time to be slack about our health. This is no time to put our health on a back burner or a shelf. If ever there is a time to be serious or get serious about detoxing, it is now! Because having good health can make all the difference in our future quality of life.

It doesn’t matter if you are not healthy right now or think you absolutely feel great. It is imperative that you learn how to detox your body. Your car will not continue to run well without regular maintenance. Your body will not continue to run well if you don’t detox it.

Did you know that detoxing is a normal part of our life? God made our body automatically detox. Anything that goes into the body that does not belong in there will automatically be kicked out. When something gets in our eyes, tears come to wash it out. We pee and we poop to get rid of waste. We sneeze if something gets in our nose and we cough if something is in our lungs or throat.

When we don’t live healthily, our immune system stops kicking out the bad stuff in our body and that stuff slowly destroys our health. Then comes arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diseases that ruin our quality of life all because we have not been cleansing the temple of God.

If you have never detoxed your body, then you probably don’t know how often you need to do it.

1. Check with your doctor before doing a detox.

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small with a short detox.

3. We should detox our bodies at the most once a month, if you HAVE NOT,been eating healthy.

4. However, if you have been eating healthy. for at least 1 year, then you only need to detox 3-4 times a year, to keep your body up to par and cleansed!

Learn more about detoxing in my book 3 Day Energizing & Cleansing Detox https://drkbooksbio.now.site/

You can reach Dr. Kathleen B. Oden at createanewu@consultant.com

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Rearview

“... but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

(Philippians 3:13b-14 NLT)

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

With the new year approaching, I find myself reflecting on the past year. I started thinking about a time I was driving my son’s car. I reached to adjust the rear-view mirror, and it fell right off the windshield into my hand. Driving now meant that I had to focus on what was ahead. I had to depend on my side mirrors, but I couldn’t constantly look at what was behind me.

Have you ever felt like you are constantly checking the memories/experiences/comments from the past, playing them repeatedly in your mind? Instead of leaving the memories and shame where they belong, you keep replaying the past, continuously looking behind you.

It’s a struggle some days to not be ashamed of my past. My former sins creep up on me and just play in my mind on repeat. That argument we had, the things she did to me, the words I said to him. The shame, the pain, the rejection.

I’ve found that I need to follow Paul’s instructions in Philippians 3, “but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13b-14 NLT) To forget the past, we have to move forward. I have found these three steps help me move forward.

1. Look ahead. Look to the future, don’t live in the past. In Isaiah 43:18-19, the Lord instructs us to forget the past and know that the past isn’t anything compared to what He is going to do in the future,

“‘But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland’” (NLT).

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2. Focus on the good. Stop focusing on the negativity and the criticisms. Start with a simple, ‘I’m grateful for’ exercise by naming three things that you are grateful for. If you struggle to come up with something, try going through your senses. I am thankful for something I hear (the bird outside chirping), I am thankful for something I see (the green grass in my yard), and I am thankful for something I can feel/touch/move (the ability to stand on my own two feet). In Philippians 4:8, Paul instructs us to,

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)

Once you start to focus on gratitude, you’ll notice that it becomes easier to name the things you are thankful for.

3. Be joyful. Romans 5:3-4, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” (NLT)

I’ve found that rejoicing in my circumstances and praising God for where I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going helps me to focus on the future and the blessings that are yet to come.

The next time I drove his car out of the garage as I intentionally turned around to back out, I felt a God wink. I continuously looked forward to the future, focusing on the good and rejoicing along the way.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for where I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going. I know that I can trust you to be beside me as I move forward. Lord change my heart and mind as I heal from the past and move forward. Thank you, Father. In Jesus’ beautiful name, Amen.

.

Brianna is a Carolina girl that loves Jesus and her family. She enjoys watching the sunrise, photography, reading, and paddleboarding. According to her teenage son, she’s a master chef in the kitchen making gluten-free cuisine from around the world. Join her at www.briannagrams.com and connect with her on Instagram @sunriseoceanwave.

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Essentials For The New Year

Index Cards

At nighttime as a child,

Familiarity and Comfort

I am quite good at replication. Indeed, I am very adept at taking that which is, whatever that is, and repeating it over and over. In fact, I can repeat any number of things to repetitive perfection, which sometimes turns into repetitive redundancy. And because I’ve done this thing so many times before, I know it very, very well. And because I know it very well, it is both ‘familiar’ and ‘comfortable.’ And once something becomes both ‘familiar’ and ‘comfortable,’ there is a strong likelihood that I’m going to repeat it all the more.

This personally arresting dilemma rests on the fact that I genuinely love familiarity and comfort. I love them because they give me permission to live squarely within my box when I so often feel the pull to step outside of my box. I love them because they don’t demand great things from me other than to sacrifice everything that lies outside of the box, and I figure that the tradeoff of trying new things as set against abandoning familiarity and comfort just doesn’t make enough sense.

The Scourge of Familiarity and Comfort

But then I am left with the terribly unsettling and perpetually troubling dilemma that the vast majority of this thing that we call life lies somewhere outside of my box; sometimes way outside of my box. Whatever the scant few things that lay within the terribly limited confines of my box might be, they are but the slightest microcosm of this far-reaching existence of ours. Therefore, living in my box can deprive me of experiences to the point that I am left blindly ignorant, perpetually naïve, experientially anemic, and completely dead right in the very act of living.

Courage and Boxes

It is reasonable to say that life within a box is existence feigning life. Life within my box is my artificial rendering of what I assume life to be, or how my history was built in boxes, or how my lackluster vision would prefer it all to be in order to keep me perpetually safe and rarely disappointed. It is nothing of a robust adventure or the tantalizing call of things great and wild.

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Boxes and the New Year

By nature, we are a people of boxes. Therefore, it is not that we abandon them. Rather, it is that we utilize our boxes as a potent resource to help us move beyond our boxes. We must see them as a place of support as we venture outside of the box, not as limits that keep us within the box. Our box is a platform from which we launch, not a prison within which we exist.

Conclusion

Our boxes will enslave us or enable us. The role they play will be dictated by our choices, as our boxes are indeed a compilation of our choices. Our boxes are the very vehicle that will propel us into a New Year that is not some perpetually chafing sequel of all the other New Years. To ignite our New Year in this manner, we must realize that our box is our blessing, not our abode.

Familiarity and comfort. They will build boxes or they will challenge us to build bridges from our boxes. And this New Year, we will make that choice yet again.

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Pam McCormick is a writer and retired from teaching in the public school and community college setting. Pam had a story, “The End,” published in Isothermal’s magazine, The Mentor, in December, 2014. Pam was also published in December 2016 in collaboration with eight other authors to write a devotional book, Ancient Stones Timeless Encouragement. Pam is a member of the Encouragers’ Christian Writers’ Group that meets monthly. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and tent camping with her husband, watching old time westerns, doing crossword puzzles and spending time with her daughter in Maryland and her son, his wife and granddaughters, in Fuquay-Varina.

Pam has a new book coming out in early 2023.

THE UNEXPECTED CHRISTMAS GIFT

It was December 2006. My mom died in September. Two weeks before Christmas, George asked me, “Are we not putting up our tree this year?”

I was depressed. I had lost my mom just three months prior, and I didn’t feel like being merry or being around other people either. George asked me again, “Aren’t we going to put the tree up?” I answered, “George, it will take a bunch of angels to get me to put up the tree this year. I can’t.”

Later that day, George was fighting squirrels in our attic that had come in to get warm but were tearing up our insulation. He stumbled across a big box that had my name, PAM, written on it in big, bold black letters. The box was taped up tight. He brought it downstairs to me and said, “What’s this?”

I had never seen this box before. George pulled out his handy dandy doohickey to slice through the tape and opened all the flaps. The box was full of my mother’s angels; there must have been thirty of them.

I cried and told George, “I’m ready to put up the tree now.”

“For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11 NKJV}

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Cindy J. Evans is a published poet living in the greater Atlanta area. When she’s not writing, you may find her spending time with her husband, Mark, prayer-walking or serving at the local faith-based hospice.

Index Cards

At nighttime as a child, when Mom would tuck me in, she’d have me say my Scripture she’d written out in pen. Found on an index card, for me to memorize, she would give this gift so I would grow up wise. I remember being in blankets, head resting on my pillow, saying sleepily the verses that I had come to know. Then there was a goodnight kiss, soft, sweet on my forehead, and the sound of her slippers tiptoeing off to bed.

Now, many years later, with the Word still in my heart, I’m thankful for those index cards before my sleep would start. Written in love on a 3 x 5 with a prayer and a pen, blessing me in my pajamas as each day came to an end.

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Squirrel

Several years ago, my wife and I were slowly maneuvering the disintegrating red brick streets of Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University. Up ahead, I noticed a chubby gray squirrel scampering about, running from one side of the street to the other as if touching imaginary bases on either side of the street. As we approached his invisible playground and slowed a little, the furry rodent got a little skittish and darted toward the closest sidewalk, making a few circles on the concrete squares. Having simply disappeared from our view, I cautiously proceeded down the street. All of a sudden, I heard and felt a little B-bump… B-bump. I looked in my rearview mirror in time to see the lifeless, chubby-no-more suicidal squirrel; my heart sank as I didn’t even see so much as an involuntary flip of the tail.

In life, we are often like that squirrel. For whatever reason, we are so unfocused or preoccupied with the unimportant that when a situation or problem presents itself, we just don’t want to deal with it or we are indecisive; we would rather procrastinate and either put off the inevitable or not make a decision at all (“which side of the street do I want to be on…”). In fact, not making a decision is actually making a not-so-smart one. And like the demise of that little gray rodent, sometimes, if we don’t make a decision, the choice is made for us and the outcome is less than desirable.

For example, what would happen if, for whatever reason, you decided not to file your taxes? Not a lot would happen for a while until you received the notice in the mail along with the mention of penalties. Left a little longer, you would be face to face with the word and phrase that work perfectly together in this situation; ‘convicted’ and ‘tax evasion’.

There is so much in this life that distracts us from what we should do in our lives. But we have to fight these distractions and focus on what is important. When life throws a curve ball at you, stop and listen to what God would have you do in that particular situation. Prayerfully weigh the options available and trust that God is faithful to help you through the circumstances. Many times, hidden blessings are wrapped tightly in the folds of what seems to be an impossible situation. And sometimes our hesitancy in resolving a problem results in lost opportunities or blessings.

And remember to learn from whatever problem, mistake, missed opportunity, or just plain bad luck comes your way. For instance, you probably wouldn’t keep running over the same pothole time after time when your car went out of alignment the first time you hit it. And I bet you would think twice about being late on that credit card bill after being charged a fifty-dollar late fee… at least for a while. And you surely wouldn’t deliberately neglect your spouse or family to the point of emotional pain and separation, right?

Steve and Jenny Wilson
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Sometimes the hard situations in life are the ones worth fighting for the most. And sometimes, the greater the pain and effort, the greater the reward. But just make sure these efforts are in line with God’s will for your life. For Proverbs 16:25 (NASB) reads, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”. Follow God’s leading and His word daily and perhaps you will find life’s “tire tracks” on your back less often.

A healthcare Business Analyst by trade, Steve Wilson is a retired husband, father, and grandfather who loves to see and write about finding God in the everyday. Originally from Ohio, he and his wife Jenny now live in Granite Falls, North Carolina. In his spare time, Steve enjoys reflective writing, dabbling in stained glass, and, of course, spending time with their daughter and her family.

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Photography by Karen Ruhl

F. D. Adkins is a Christian fiction author and freelance writer. She hopes to pass along the comfort that comes from having a personal relationship with Jesus while offering her readers a brief escape from life’s struggles through an action-packed story full of suspense, twists, turns, love, and a few laughs. She has written two Christian Suspense Thriller novels, Truth In The Name and Truth In The Word. The third in her Truth series is underway. She has published articles in Focus on the Family magazine.

She lives in South Carolina with her husband of 24 years, Steve, their two teenage children,Landon and Layna, and their dog, Lucy. You may sign up for her newsletter and read her blog at fdadkins.com. For links to her Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and book trailers, visit her Linktree site at https://linktr.ee/fdadkins.

Truth In The Name is available on Amazon, click the book cover for more information

A Do-Over

Standing at the edge of the yard, she stares out into the surrounding darkness and then casts her eyes back toward the home enveloped in a yellow aura so bright that it is almost blinding. A feeling of security radiates from the combination of the glow through the windows, the porch light, and the spotlights in the landscaping that illuminate the house. But outside the well-lit perimeter of the yard is nothing but woods, a dark abyss shrouded in a grove of trees.

Laughter penetrates her ears, and she turns her attention to the thick trees. The sound seems to come from just inside. One step won’t hurt, she says to herself. I just want to see who’s there. She takes a step to the edge of the trees, squinting her eyes, trying to catch sight of someone in the darkness. She strains and stretches her neck, scouring the area, but she doesn’t even get a glimpse of a moving leaf. Yet, the sound of laughter still floats in the air like a soft breeze flowing off the water. Just another step… or two. The darkness gets thicker as the dense trees block the light from the house. A bit of fear creeps in, but the laughing is getting louder.

The young woman’s curiosity trumps her fear, and she presses on a bit farther. What is that? Now music blends with the laughter. “Hello… hello… is anyone there?” she shouts.

No one replies, but the volume of the music and laughter seems closer. The building intrigue pushes her a few steps deeper, and she calls out again, “HELLO! Who is there?”

She takes two more steps, and now the laughter has become shrill screams. She tries to yell above the blaring music, but her voice falls on deaf ears. Reality slices through her heart, and she wraps her arms tightly around her torso. I’m all alone… all alone in the dark. How did I get here? I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave the yard. Why didn’t I just go back into the house? Tears pool in the corners of her eyes and trickle in streams down her cheeks. Father is going to be so disappointed in me.

She twists her head, searching frantically for a glimmer of light from the house. Her heart pounds in her ears as she turns in circles, trying to remember which way she came. “Father!” she bellows at the top of her lungs. Then, far off in the distance, she notices a tiny sparkle. She takes off running as fast as she can. The closer she gets, the glittering speck grows bigger and brighter, and she yells, “Father, Father, help!”

As she darts from the shroud of the trees, her father leaps from the porch with his arms wide open. She falls into his embrace, and through her sobs, she whimpers, “I’m sorry, Daddy. I should never have left the light.”

Her father squeezes her in a hug. “Come inside, my child. Let’s sit down and eat.”

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She takes two more steps, and now the laughter has become shrill screams. She tries to yell above the blaring music, but her voice falls on deaf ears. Reality slices through her heart, and she wraps her arms tightly around her torso. I’m all alone… all alone in the dark. How did I get here? I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave the yard. Why didn’t I just go back into the house? Tears pool in the corners of her eyes and trickle in streams down her cheeks. Father is going to be so disappointed in me.

She twists her head, searching frantically for a glimmer of light from the house. Her heart pounds in her ears as she turns in circles, trying to remember which way she came. “Father!” she bellows at the top of her lungs. Then, far off in the distance, she notices a tiny sparkle. She takes off running as fast as she can. The closer she gets, the glittering speck grows bigger and brighter, and she yells, “Father, Father, help!” As she darts from the shroud of the trees, her father leaps from the porch with his arms wide open. She falls into his embrace, and through her sobs, she whimpers, “I’m sorry, Daddy. I should never have left the light.”

Her father squeezes her in a hug. “Come inside, my child. Let’s sit down and eat.”

***

This short fictional story is a reminder of how easy it is to drift away from God, and I suppose the first Biblical reference that comes to mind is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. However, the Bible is filled with stories of people whose lives were transformed by God, people who veered off course and needed a second chance, and people who made mistakes. And how blessed we are to have a Father that forgives and welcomes us with open arms, longing not just for any relationship with us, but a personal one.

As we begin a new year, it seems that we aspire to set new goals or resolutions. Exercise equipment is piled in the center aisleways of retail stores, and during the month of January, we are all set and determined to hold to those resolutions. Then February comes, the excitement dwindles, and soon we are so far behind on meeting our goal that we decide it will just have to become next year’s resolution.

I AM SO THANKFUL THAT GOD’S MERCIES ARE NEW EVERY DAY!

When my children were younger, sometimes we started the day on a bad note. If you have smaller children, I’m sure you can relate to those days when everyone seems grouchy and the children are already arguing or bickering at the breakfast table. Well, on those days, I would declare a do-over, meaning that we were going to start over and pretend the day had just begun. We would come back to the table with a new attitude, ready to start the day with a loving smile. We did not need to wait until tomorrow to salvage the day. We needed to make a cognitive choice to change it right then.

This is how it is with God’s forgiveness. We don’t have to wait. We can go to our Father anytime and anywhere. If we sincerely ask Him to forgive us, He will welcome us with His love. He will give us a do-over. I realize we live in a society where the enemy wants us to think we can never escape even the smallest bad choice. Some decisions our young people make get plastered on social media, and those mistakes can follow them their entire lives. But we serve a merciful God, and Jesus already knew the mistakes we would make when He was nailed to the cross. There is no sin too big for the love of God.

I love the words of 1 John 1:9 (KJV). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” All we have to do is go to our Father and ask with a sincere heart, and He is faithful to forgive us. It doesn’t matter if we have taken one step away or a million. He is waiting with open arms, longing for a personal relationship with us. We don’t have to wait another year or for a specific time. And since we don’t know when Jesus will return, time is of the essence.

And as for New Year’s resolutions…

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV)

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Life has a funny way of giving us some unexpected detours, and my wife, Nancy, and I have had more than a few. Nancy and I are getting ready to celebrate 50 wonderful and crazy years together. We have two sons, six lively grandsons, and one very special granddaughter! I love to write about nursing home ministry, as well as practical devotionals, poetry and even a few songs.

God’s Wide Angel Lens

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:4-6 ESV)

One thing I love about living near the Gulf of Mexico is being able to take photographs from the water’s edge, capturing the beauty of the horizon at sunset. There is something both overwhelming and yet calmly reassuring, being one tiny part of such an enormous expanse. But I have found that to communicate the magnitude of the scene with my camera, I must first switch my settings over to its wide-angle lens. Praying as Paul does in today’s passage is like switching our spiritual cameras from a close-up of our feet on the sand to the far horizon of the people around us, through God’s wide-angle lens. One amazing thing about Paul’s prayer was that he was trusting God, not just for himself to get out of jail, but also that God had great things planned for His friends back in Macedonia. This is not to say that our own battles are insignificant, but that many breakthroughs which God has in store include more than just us. We are one small part of God’s big plan. His amazing love includes so much more than we can imagine and so many more people than we could ever dream of!

Prayer

Father, as we begin this year, we ask you to help us see each day with your eyes. You began your work with us because you could see a life of hope for us we could not. Today we pray you to give us your wide-angle lens so we can see all the hope that lies ahead. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

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All Creatures Mostly Small

All Creatures who are very small Teach us to see our God in all

Each tiny voice Calling to rejoice! Praising their Christ With all their life With all their life

When it is time for them to sleep Through shadows slowly home do creep Trust His mighty arms Keeping safe from harm Till every little one Is carried gently home Gently carried home Gently carried home

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The Unseen Guardian

“Mom, can we have a picnic?” Billy’s hazel eyes begged me to say yes.

I smiled at my five-year-old son. “That’s a great idea.”

I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Billy’s favorite, then I prepared carrot sticks and apples. Soon we were on our second-story deck overlooking azaleas, dogwood, and honeysuckle. Billy munched on his sandwich and talked about kindergarten while I breathed in the fragrance of honeysuckle. Could this day be any better? Billy’s German Shepherd, Gretchen, watched eagerly from the yard below us, waiting for someone to throw her some food. Billy giggled and tossed part of his sandwich. Then Gretchen caught it like an outfielder catching a fly ball.

I loved picnics with Billy, and I thanked God for blessing us with him. Billy was a gift from God. When Jim and I got married, we didn’t think we’d be able to have a child. Now that we had Billy, we were determined to do everything we could to take good care of him.

My mother had taken medication when she was pregnant with me, and it gave me a high risk of miscarriages and ruptured tubal pregnancies. It even decreased the possibility that I would ever get pregnant and have a baby. I’d almost died from a ruptured tubal pregnancy a few years before Billy was born. During my pregnancy with him, I’d been on bed rest for almost the entire nine months because of complications. Thankfully, God was merciful and allowed Jim and me to have our precious son.

As I watched Billy laugh, a question troubled me. Could my husband and I take our only son to the mission field? We had a burden for the lost, and we’d both felt God’s call to be missionaries. But taking our son to a foreign country could be dangerous. We did not know what would happen to him there. Still, the Lord spoke to us through personal Bible study, sermons at church, and songs and messages on Christian radio. We wanted to obey God, but if we did, how could we keep Billy safe?

God reminded us He had given His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. How could we not trust God and do whatever He called us to do?

We’d finally applied for Bible school, and we even spoke with a realtor about selling our home, but I was still struggling. I loved our son, and I didn’t want to do anything that might harm him. I worried about taking him to a different country. I worried about leaving our home, our church, our friends, and our family, and going somewhere we didn’t know and didn’t belong. Would God keep Billy safe if we went?

The phone rang, and I was tempted to ignore it. This was a precious moment with my son, and I didn’t want it to end. The phone kept ringing, and my curiosity pulled me to the kitchen to answer it. It was good to hear from my friend, and we chatted while Billy waited on the deck. Then there was a knock at the front door.

“I’ll get it, Mom.” Billy raced down the stairs and opened the door. “Hello. Hello!”

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I said goodbye and hung up the phone, then I joined Billy. He stood at the open door, peering outside. I peeked out too, but I didn’t see anyone. “Who was it, Billy?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I heard someone knock. I really did, but I don’t see anyone.”

“I heard it too.” I looked outside again. “Hello, is anyone there?” No answer. I shrugged. “Why don’t we finish our picnic?”

Billy nodded and closed the door. Then we went up the stairs and headed to the deck.

BOOM! A loud crashing sound came from the back of the house. We approached the sliding glass door cautiously. The deck was gone! We opened the door carefully and looked down at the wreckage of broken boards far below us. Our deck had collapsed. We stood, stunned. If we had been on the deck when it fell, we would have been seriously injured or maybe even killed. I wrapped my arms around my son and held him close.

“Thank you, God,” I whispered.

“Why did our deck fall, Mama?”

“I don’t know, honey. I’m just glad we weren’t on it.”

“Me too.”

We stared at the remains of our deck. Then my son turned to me. “Mom, did my guardian angel knock, so I’d leave the deck? ”

I remembered a Bible verse about angels. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14 KJV)

I smiled. “You may be right, Billy. You asked Jesus to be your Savior, so you have a guardian angel.”

Billy and I prayed and thanked God for protecting us, then we called my husband and told him what happened.

After the deck fell, I had more peace about taking Billy to the mission field. Our home sold quickly, then we went to Bible school. During our training and our years on the mission field, we often thought of the day an unseen guardian knocked on our door before the deck collapsed. God is faithful.

When Esther Bandy was five, a neighbor taught a Good News Club. She head the gospel there, and she received the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. That was the most important day in her life. She later worked as a nurse, a missionary, a director with Child Evangelism Fellowship, and a Spanish teacher at a Christian school. Now, she’s an author. She has been published in two anthologies; Treasures of a Woman’s Heart and Triumph from Tragedy. Her debut middle grade novel, Under the Tangerine Tree, was published in 2022.

“Don’t Ask Why, Ask What” was previously published in “Triumph from Tragedy”. esthermbandy.com https://www.facebook.com/EstherMBandy @EstherMBandy

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Roman Bej is a lifelong Christian who was raised in the Catholic Church but is now a non-denominational Christian and attends several churches. He was a contributor to the Victory Herald (a monthly e-zine) and has had articles published in the Christian Journal, Believers Bay, Eternal Ink, Gem, Halo, and Success/Victory News. He has a strong passion for stimulating others to think about God and to reflect on biblical concepts. An independent thinker, Mr. Bej challenges readers to question what they may have heard in churches or read in other books.

Laws, Laws, and More Laws

It seems that everywhere you go, everywhere you turn these days, there are laws. They’re not always called laws. They can be referred to as rules, regulations, ordinances, statutes, commands, or commandments; however, they basically all do the same thing: they tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing. They provide direction in our lives, keep us safe, keep order in our society, and keep us from crashing our cars into one another. Laws exist when you’re at work, on your way to work, at church, at the shopping malls… Most likely there are laws at your home.

As we walk down the sidewalk, laws may hit us straight in the face; they may wait for us around the corner; they may hide in the bushes, or we may step on them by mistake on the sidewalk. For instance, as we continue our walk, we may come across a street crossing with a flashing stop signal. This is obviously for our safety, so that a car doesn’t hit us. As we wait for the signal to change, we cross the street and make a right turn and we come across a sign that says wet cement. Unless we want to get stuck in cement, we avoid that work area on the sidewalk.

Walking along, we come across a large home with finely trimmed bushes and a fenced-in area. In between the bushes is a sign, ‘Beware of Dog’. As a dog runs up to the fence, it would probably be a good idea not to try to pet the dog or even get too close to the fence.

After walking along for twenty minutes or so, we get hungry and enter a restaurant to get a bite to eat. After lunch, we notice a slice of carrot cake in a glass enclosure and reach out to retrieve a slice. Immediately the counter person informs us that only employees are allowed to open the glass enclosure and get the desserts. Oops, we just broke another law!

Similarly, as we walk down the sidewalks and roads in our lives, we come across many such laws—some are minor, but some are important.

Many of us try to live a godly life by obeying all the laws we come across. However, no one can live a truly godly life apart from God. Spiritual maturity comes when we learn to put our trust in the Holy Spirit. Living a Godly life will then come naturally, as something we want to do and not have to do.

Laws serve a purpose in our lives if we use the law properly. The improper use of the law would be to try to keep the law through our own effort or feel that we must obey the law, or _______ (you fill in the blank). Of course, many would say that this would be like giving the lunatics the key to the asylum. Many regard all the laws that we come across as boundaries or as some sort of insurance policy to ensure that we’re acting in faith. With no rules (some say) nothing not much will get done and we’d have a license to sin.

As Christians, we’re called to be obedient to the commands in the Bible. At the same time, we’re called to live by the Spirit. This is indeed a dilemma. After all, if we’re called to obey laws, aren’t we relying on ourselves and not on the Holy Spirit? Little do many realize that grace doesn’t give us a license to sin, it frees us from sin.

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Jerry Davidson is an author, songwriter, and fitness consultant. He married his wife, Amy, in August 2020 and lives in Bryant, Arkansas. His topics of writing include theology, philosophy, politics, and fiction.

Redeeming Your Childhood in 2023

New Year’s ResolutionsGet Married & Have LOTS of Kids

We have a problem that you can solve this year! People are getting married late in life, and they are having very few kids. Worse than that, our culture seems to have a problem of being perpetually amused (“a” = not; “muse” = to think) by comic book films, adult cartoons, pornography, and hours of scrolling through 10-second social media videos. I hope this sounds like a sad life to you because if not, you’re in deep trouble, my friend.

Each of us has the desire to relive our childhood. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it is possible and encouraged to continue to live in a perpetual state of childish thinking and behavior. The good news is that God gave us a way to both relive and REDEEM our childhood. He gave us the ability to have our own kids!

God gave us marriage as an exclusive union between a man and a woman to allow each to mature. A man will be emasculated by and not get along with a childish woman, and a woman will be hurt by and unattracted to a childish man. Therefore, both must mature in marriage to grow beyond their childish ways. Furthermore, when the man and woman come together to have children, both get the opportunity to relive their childhoods through their children.

Obviously, there is a lot more to getting married and having kids than this, but this is something that is not given in the modern sales pitch for having a family.

Some rhetorical questions for you: Doesn’t it seem weird and sad if a 28-year-old woman sits in her apartment alone watching Shrek or some childhood Disney flick? Isn’t it kind of pathetic if a 30-year-old man regularly watches cartoons alone? Now, take those same two people, have them get married, and have them watch those same things with their 3 or 5-year-old little boy or girl, and suddenly it’s not so weird! Why?

When we live in a spirit of growth and maturity, we actually get to enjoy those same things we did as children in new ways with our own children! God did not design us as adults to be amused or entertained the same way children are. God designed us to live purposeful, responsible lives. The great thing is that when we purposefully live as responsible adults, go against our desires to enjoy childish things, get married, and have kids, it’s a lot more joyful, peaceful, and fulfilling than any amusement could ever be.

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Some suggestions for you to start living a responsible, thoughtful, unamused life:

• Get a dumb phone. I’ve switched from a smart phone to a dumb phone for over 2 months now, and everything in my life is much more peaceful and purposeful since. My relationships with friends are better too because when they text me, I often have to call them to complete the conversation. I also don’t watch nearly as much material, and my memory and attention are better.

• Listen to music that makes you think. If the lyrics of songs you listen to strongly go against Scripture and you don’t even notice it, you’re being amused and indoctrinated whether you believe it or not.

• Spend time outside, with no electronics, enjoying the silence and sounds of God’s creation.

• Get a hobby.

• If you’re a man, find a godly woman and pursue her for marriage. If you’re a woman, be open to a godly man’s pursuit of you and let him lead the relationship.

• Get married and have kids.

Statistically, healthy families with 4 or more children are the happiest and their children are more successful. Our culture is hell-bent on amusing you until it’s too late for you to fully enjoy God’s design for marriage and family. Be a rebel, get married, and have a bunch of little kids while you’re young.

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Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc. ™

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version ® (ESV ®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) taken from the New King James Version ® (NKJV ®). Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (CSB) taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) taken from The King James Bible, public domain.

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