Friday, March 23, 2018

Beneath the Blackberry Moon: The Red Feather by April W. Gardner

Check out this new book from my author friend April Gardner!

Beneath the Blackberry Moon: the Red Feather by April W Gardner
Book 1 of the Creek Country Saga

 On a moonless night in 1813, Adela McGirth encounters a set of wolves and the steely eyed warrior who slays them, searing himself on her heart. When he returns, it's with a brand of a different sort--the flaming arrow that destroys her life. 

In the copper-haired captive, Totka Lawe finds the other half of his spirit. He vows he would die ten deaths to protect her, and he would kill any who tried to steal her away. With bluecoat soldiers pursuing him, a jealous cousin pursuing her, and the woman herself pursuing home, that vow stands a serious chance of being called into action.

 Amazon Link:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Angels at the birth of Christ

           My pastor was expounding the truths of the birth of Christ Sunday; and in the middle of his sermon, he said, “We keep tripping over angels in this story.” He went on with his point. My mind went off with the angels!

Image result for angel clipart free downloadMany angels surrounded the events of the birth of Christ. First, the angel Gabriel announced to Zachariah that he would have a son (Luke 1:11-20). Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist at an unnatural age (Luke 1:23) She accepted a visit from her relative Mary (Luke 1:39-45). Mary has an incredible story to tell. The angel Gabriel had also visited her and announced that she would be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth’s child acknowledges Him from within the womb. Have you ever thought about that? These two in utero infants recognize one another! (An interesting view into when life begins if ever there was one!) If Mary wasn’t quite sure about the angel and the visitation, she must have been once Elizabeth confirmed that the child was holy by another supernatural child.

Meanwhile, Joseph was struggling with the fact that his fiancĂ©e was pregnant, and he knew he could not be the father. Another angel came to him in a dream to reassure him that Mary’s pregnancy was truly a special event like none other (Matthew 1:11-18). Maybe he remembered the scripture Isaiah 7:14: a virgin would be with child, called Immanuel. A fantastical claim in the Old Testament had come to fruition in the New Testament.

Then the birth takes place in Bethlehem at the height of tax season and no room at the inns. Motel 6 would have had the light on for them, y’know. Mary and Joseph must have wondered why it seemed God had abandoned them when the time for his son to be born arrived. However, more angels appear out in the fields to tired, restless shepherds, the unclean, underclass ones (Luke 2:8-15).  Not just one, a multitude of the heavenly host filling the night sky! Can you even imagine this? They find Mary, Joseph, and Jesus and tell their story. Luke says Mary treasured all these things in her heart. God hadn’t abandoned them; after all, the child was His Son (Luke 2:15-20).

Skip ahead maybe two years. Magi from the East arrive (read strange looking men arrive at the door), telling the story about a new star in the sky that appeared on Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:1-18). They give them treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, costly, valuable gifts fit for a king. Unfortunately, they had the same explanation for Herod. Warned in a dream (probably another angel), the magi did not to go back to Herod (Matthew 2:12). Another angel warned Joseph to flee to escape Herod’s wrath (Matthew 2:1-13-17). Did the valuable gifts provide for Joseph’s family while they were in Egypt awaiting Herod’s death (Isaiah 60:6-7)? How did Joseph find out about Herod’s death?  Another angel came to help Joseph know when it was time to return home (Matthew 2:19-23). God took care of everything, except for maybe that hotel room in Bethlehem.

Angels. Created beings. Heavenly servants. Warriors for God (I think of the Elven army in The Lord of the Rings!). Messengers for Almighty Yahweh. These events are not the only ones where angels show up to tell, protect, encourage God’s people. Each time they confront people as messengers, they have the same words: do not be afraid! I don’t know because it’s never happened to me, but the sight of a heavenly being in my bedroom would certainly feel like a good time to be afraid.

Not too many people report a glorious, winged creature appearing to them these days. BUT people do report incidents when they were saved from disaster by someone who just disappears when the police, EMT, or firetruck arrives. Or they merge into traffic and barely miss being run over by a semi. People then talk about guardian angels. I’m skeptical that God has assigned an angel to take care of each of us. It’s a Wonderful Life probably perpetuated that notion.

What I do know is that the Holy Spirit resides inside me. He helps me make decisions and sometimes gives me a glimpse of how He connects us all. After all, He’s not the Spirit cut into pieces, doled out in chunks at our salvation! The Holy Spirit is spirit. He recognizes Himself when I meet other Christians. He prompts me to pray when I don’t even know why, but find out that He had awakened me to pray at a critical moment in another Christian’s life. He guides me to change my plans to help someone else.

Christians are charged to be messengers and on-the-spot ministers to the world. We should take the baby Jesus to the world and share with others the gift He gave to us on the cross.

Perhaps that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mission Mesquite is available!

My latest novel!
While Kate Lawrence 's parents served in Cote d'Ivoire as career missionaries. Kate's education came in a French boarding school and American University in Paris and Georgetown.  Now a Foreign Service Officer for the US State Department, she wants nothing to do with the missionary lifestyle. When she finally agrees to visit their new mission post Mission Mesquite, the rodeo church at the Mesquite Arena in Dallas, Kate meets Tyler Hawkins, attractive All American Cowboy who has since been crippled by a bull trampling. They have an instant connection, but Kate doesn't know that Tyler has just completed seminary and mission training and is poised to take over Mission Mesquite once her parents retire. How can Kate resolve the conflict between her and God and her heart? Will Tyler's past as a free-wheeling cowboy cut short his ministry? Mission Mesquite is a contemporary Christian romance.

Get your copy of my new novel from me, Amazon, or CreateSpace! And because you read to the end of the blog, here's a $5 discount code when purchasing your copy on createspace: 7R3THBJT

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back Surgery 'Metaphors in the Christian Life" Part 3

After coming home from the hospital after surgery, I felt good. I did things I never thought I’d be able to do after major surgery. When the stitches were removed, I felt great! However, the next morning I woke in a bloody pool of ooze from the wound, which had not healed. This emanation put me back in the hospital and diagnosed with a MRSA infection. A PICC line was inserted to get IV antibiotics while the wound continued to weep for six more weeks. Plus I had excruciating pain in my right leg!

Complications. My picture should be in the dictionary next to this word. Everyone who has any surgical procedure has signed the page that lists all the possible complications that may arise as a result of surgery, including death. Dwelling on all the complications is ridiculous at this point because you still need the surgery, otherwise you wouldn’t be there! Weeping wound and PICC line followed by over-sewing the wound were the highlights of this trip to the hospital.

I was sent home with IV antibiotics to be administered at home – the strongest available on the planet. Another MRI was required to see if the wound needed to be re-opened to cauterize something in the surgical area.

My third hospitalization took place over the 4th of July weekend. Diagnosis: Acute kidney failure. This trip included an EEG to see if I’d had a brain emergency. I went home barely able to stand, get out of bed, walk, take care of basic functions. Not what I signed up for.

Then there was the day we called 911 twice: once because I was in and out of consciousness, later because my blood pressure was 220/110. The ambulance ride to the ER was a new experience!

So it’s two plus months from surgery. The problems I had prior to surgery appear to have been resolved. The wound has finally healed. I can be left alone during the day, so Ken can go to work. Tyler, our Jack Russell terrier, works hard at guarding me and inspecting the home health care workers and my friends who come to help. We even survived the appliance repairman’s visit and the plumber’s arrival last week.

So what biblical truth can apply to all this mayhem? Ken feels like Job, but we have good friends who have brought food, took me to doctor’s appointments, sat with me, and encouraged us. All have prayed for us, including online friends as well.

God knows where this journey will lead. First, I canceled my registration for ACFW conference. No way I could do the walking required in August. Second, I released my three classes I was to teach this fall for the community college of which I am an adjunct professor. Both these are of high importance, but practically I was not going to be physically able to do them, and that grieves me. However, my fall calendar has opened up. I wonder what God might have in store.

So I’ll claim Jeremiah:29:11,  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [NIV]

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Back Surgery Metaphors for the Christian Life, Part 2

My neurosurgeon, Dr Seyed. Emadian, is one of the best in the nation, but he practices medicine in my small rural town. He also prays with his patients. My Holy Physician is also dependable and reliable and can guide my surgeon’s hands and mind.

This surgery, 2 PLIFs to fuse the L3/4 and the L4/5, is pretty gruesome, but after seeing the MRI results (Yea!), it was obvious something needed to happen. It looked like the L-4 had been bombed. leaving an inky blot behind. The vertebrae were shifting on top of the extruding disc into the spinal cord area, creating the look of a bone spur,

Wait is a 4-letter word. Wait, wait, wait! I had 2 surgery dates: May 25 or May 31. Once again I was waiting for insurance approval. That approval came in time to do surgery on May 25. Praise the Lord.

However, time slowed as the pain marked the minutes. Yet as the time grew near to surgery, part of my brain began to scream NO! Three months in a back brace?  Rescheduling all the summer appointments? No trip to Maryland to care for two grandsons? Summer disappeared into a black hole. Everything done to diagnose the problem … led to three months reconnecting the fibers, nerves, muscles, and bones. Only God could heal my back.

On the morning of surgery, fear invaded. What if something went wrong? I trusted God and Dr. Emadian implicitly. What if the pain after surgery was worse than before? My spine could not stay the way it was. So I walked to the registration desk (all that pre-surgery testing done yesterday) and said, “I’m here to volunteer for back surgery.” The nurse looked at me as though I’d lost my mind and said, “Good. We don’t get enough volunteers for that.”

Did I mention I live in Tennessee? I truly volunteered because it was time to surrender all my fears and pain to the miraculous work only He could do.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Back Surgery Metaphors of the Christian Life

My journey toward reconstructive back surgery began years before 2016. Cortisone shots in my lower back reduced the pain and inflammation, but they were temporary measures, never fixing the big picture. After air travel alone in January and again in February, after slinging computer bags into the overhead bins and pulling bags from the baggage carousel, it was clear that something was wrong.
As a fibromyalgia sufferer, it’s sometimes hard to know if pain is more than just a spike in ‘regular’ pain.  For a while I dismissed the pain in my hips, lower back, buttocks. My right quad would go numb when standing for too long. Tingles would cascade down my legs. When I woke on March 9 with a massive muscle spasm from my lower back to behind my knee, my husband said, “Now will you go to the doctor?”

So I did, finally. After yet another cortisone shot in my left lower back and an x-ray showing a ‘bone spur’ on the L4 vertebra in the lumbar region, the physician’s assistant requested an MRI from the insurance company. If you follow me on Blasting News, you’ve read that story.

How is all of this a metaphor for the Christian Life?

First, you can’t go about changing a problem until you realize you have a problem. As non-Christians, we all must come to the conclusion that something is wrong in our lives. All the Tylenol Extra Strength doses would never fix the cause of my pain. Once I knew that the pain had a specific cause, I knew I had to fix it. Sin in our lives, yes even Christians sin, can never be repaired without the Holy Physician’s help. Only He can remove our sin as far as the east is from the west. Until He excises my sin problem, my constant missteps without Him, I continue to stumble and fail to live a life focused on Him instead of dwelling on myself.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Guest Author Ken Tatum!

Who Is My Enemy?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.    Matthew 5:43-45a (NIV).

In what we usually call the Sermon on the Mount Jesus frequently upended traditional thoughts on moral actions, thoughts and perspectives.  In the passage just quoted He went to an extreme of which I doubt anyone in His audience would have even dreamed.  Many, if not most, in His Jewish audience would have known of the Old Testament command found in Leviticus (19:18) to “love your neighbor”.  And I suspect many would have just assumed that the “hate your enemy” part of this “traditional” statement was also Biblical.  We now know, of course, that it is not a quote from Scripture, but rather simply the natural human extrapolation to what we might want the Old Testament command to be.  So we modern Christians breathe a sigh of relief and say “Of course we are to love our neighbors and of course we should love our enemies.”  But do we ever go the next step in our thought processes and ask the hard question: who does Jesus really mean by these categories of neighbor and enemy?

One expert in the Mosaic Law did ask the first half of this question.  In Luke 10 we read about an encounter with Jesus where he asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  In addition to the command to love the Lord your God with all your being Jesus also quoted the Leviticus passage of loving your neighbor.  The man then asked Jesus the obvious question, “Who is my neighbor?”  In response Jesus shared the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, presumably to show the man who his neighbor was.

As He finished His story Jesus asked the law expert a reverse question.  Obviously Jesus wanted to find out if the man had truly understood and ‘gotten’ the point!  So He asked the man if he now knew who his neighbor was.  Correct?  No, Jesus’ question was not worded in the expected form.  Instead He asked who “acted as” a neighbor, and not “who is” your neighbor.  Why would Jesus not answer the man in a simple and straightforward manner?

I believe He was trying to change the man’s thought process from defining everyone else as a specific type of person to determining what type of person he himself was.  Which matters more?  Who some individual is to me, or who I am to that individual?  What category I place a person in, or how I treat the person?  I cannot change that other individual, but I can change my attitudes and actions toward that person.  So, for me, the important point is how I live and act.  Am I a neighbor?

But that is only half of the pertinent question.  Just as Jesus said to love your neighbor, He also said to love your enemy.  So is it not also important to ask who is my enemy?  How might Jesus answer that question?  I won’t presume to guess what parable He might tell to illustrate His meaning, but I can guess how He might word His question back to us at the end of the story.  Would He ask “Who then was the enemy of the main character?”  Or would He ask “Who acted as an enemy to others?”
The first question would fit within our natural human impulses to put people into nice, neat categories.  But if Jesus discouraged us from placing people into a neighbor category, would He not do the same regarding enemies?  I believe, more likely, that He would want us to ask ourselves “Toward whom are we acting as an enemy?”  “Who are we an enemy to?”

As with the neighbor question the important detail is not the status of someone else, but rather the status of our own thoughts and actions.  How am I treating another individual?  Am I loving them, being compassionate for their hurts, and caring for their deep concerns?  Or am I actively hating them?  Disparaging them?  Saying all manner of evil against them?  Pushing them into ghettos and slums of their native lands?

These days we hear a lot of talk from people who claim the name of Christ about the United States having many enemies.  They name specific nations, people groups, or individuals.  I will not speculate on whether any of these really are enemies.  But Jesus said that if we really are children of God the Father, we are to love them anyway.   And if love is actually a verb rather than a noun, then our love needs to be active.  Calling them derogatory names and telling them to stay away is the opposite of love.  In fact, Jesus directly addressed such things earlier in the Sermon, relating the command to not murder to anger and name-calling (Matt. 5:21-22).

In short, the question to ask ourselves is “Do we truly want to be children of the Father?”  If so, we must love.  Actively.  Everyone.  Is there a risk to doing this?  Absolutely!  But I believe Jesus himself took the ultimate risk when He died for us.  Dare we, His children, not imitate our Lord?