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Archive for the ‘Christian’ Category

When my son toddled around the house, he’d bring me an A-B-C- book of animals to read to him. It had phrases such as “Birds tweet. Tweet, Bird, tweet. Cows moo, Moo, Cow, moo.” You get the idea. But when it got to the letter “L” the author didn’t choose a lion to roar or a lamb to bleat. The author chose a lizard.

Now, lizards are not known for their sound, right? They are fairly quiet, timid, and skitter away when approached. But they also need to rest. This book said, “Bask, Lizard, bask.” Maybe because the word is not usually found in a pre-k book, or maybe because of the picture of the lizard sprawled on a branch … but we laughed each time. Lizards bask in the sun to get warm, then in the shade to cool off because their bodies cannot internally adjust to temperatures. Trouble is, the shade is illusive. It moves as the sun does. So their rest is interrupted. Over and over again. Constantly on the move seeking comfort, they really never truly bask.

The memory popped up in my grey cells when a friend of mine posted this photo of her dog on Facebook. Dogs love to bask in sunbeams. Let the warmth and the light penetrate their fur, skin, and bones. So peaceful… Now, agreed. the sunbeam will move. My guess is so will the dog, because he wants to continue to rest in the warmth. But unlike the lizard, the dog is secure in its surroundings and won’t likely skitter away. He will seek to stay in the light long as he needs it and his body will retain the warmth.

But notice the statue of the kitten crouching in the dark corner. Which are you? the dog or the cat? Do you bask in the Light of the Son in peace and absorb His Spirit in your life? As the rays of His love move, do you follow, seeking His peace? Or do you cower in the darkness of your situation like a cold, stone statue, afraid to move? Perhaps, like the lizard, you keep moving to find a place to bask on your own. Try new herbs, breathing exercises, and meditations to find a bit of peace.

Lately, I have done all three when a setback and not-so-good news from a doctor gut-punched me. My immediate reaction was “Why, God?” I became depressed, couldn’t sleep (mostly due to the debilitating pain that would not ease up after the last “diagnostic procedure”), and pondered…no wallowed…in my worry. Froze in my fate. Cowered in my circumstance as my mind swirled of ways to cope with my possible new lifestyle. I mimicked Jesus in the garden…alone, weeping – take this cup. Well, I didn’t sweat blood and tears, but almost.

Then the “I can adjust” mode kicked in. Make do with what I have. This is my lot in life. So be it. Make whatever effort I can to adjust. But I still felt restless and didn’t find true peace.

Little by little, possibly because Easter loomed – Hallelujah – I edged into His light and let it soothe me. Let His peace penetrate me and soak into my soul.


But he said to me,My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What a difference.

I don’t have to fix things or solve things on my own. I can’t physically pull myself up by my bootstraps anyway. Right now, I can bask, Julie. Bask. Relax, pray, and wait for His guidance to unfold. Feel the warmth of His hands cradling me, knowing He is there and He cares. Let His light guide me and keep choosing to rest in it.

We all have a choice. Be the cat, the lizard, or the dog. Cower in a frozen position, continually try to make things better on our own, or learn to bask in His warmth.

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I have been watching The Chosen … again. Love these episodes, and right now, leading up to Easter, they are being broadcasted live every night at 7:30pm CDT.

If you haven’t seen these episodes that portray the lives of the disciples before Jesus chose them to follow Him as well as their spiritual development as they follow Jesus around Galilee and Samaria, I highly recommend them. They are free on YouTube, or on their downloadable free app. So far there are two seasons (16 episodes.) Five more seasons are planned.

Anyway… I decided I wanted a “Bing Jesus” bumper sticker from the gift store, also on the app. All proceeds go to help fund the actors’ salaries. The show itself is totally crowd-funded. Well, I got my sticker and went to pay. A message popped up – Leave or Cancel.

What? I don’t want to leave. I want to buy my item. And I don’t want to cancel my purchase. Not wanting to choose either, I was stuck. Which do I choose? Is there a third option?

I finally chose to leave, and it took me to my secure check out with my Google pay. Oh, okay. Got it.

Did you get it? When Jesus asked his disciples to follow Him, they had a choice. Leave or cancel. Because in order to follow, one has to leave, right? Leave what is normal. Leave what is comfortably status quo in your zone. Maybe leave preconceived ideas.

Or cancel out on the opportunity and return to what was. Don’t step out.

I had really never thought of how choosing to follow meant having to leave. But it does.

Thank goodness twelve brave men and several women in the first century Judea chose to leave. They walked into the unknown. Not perfectly. Not without hang-ups or preconceived notions. Even so, they took the first steps just as they were because Jesus saw their potential. True, one ended up canceling out and betraying Jesus later. Ten others ran into the night when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus.

But those ten didn’t click cancel. They had followed too long and learned too much to do that. They’d left the old behind.

Soon, after huddling in terror for three days waiting for themselves to be arrested as well and possibly suffer the same fate as their Master, the resurrected Jesus entered their midst again with the same message – leave. Get up and go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:20).

And they did. They left that upper room. They went into all nations.

Billions, perhaps trillions over the past two centuries have been affected by their choice to leave that day. As a result, the accounts of their lives are still read in a multitude of languages. And portrayed in films and streaming videos like The Chosen is doing now. Their choice is shared around dining room tables, on playgrounds, or by campfires. The impact of their choice to leave is still impacting us.

Each of us now has the same choice. Follow or stay put. Leave, or cancel.

Which will you choose? I leave it to you to decide.

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Most of you who have been reading my blogs know I love words. They fascinate me–their origins, the ways the letters in words can be switched around to a new meaning. In fact, my latest fictional series, The Wordplay Mysteries, is about words leading to clues in crimes. So, while playing a game of Words with Friends, I noticed the letters in my hand- p-o-e-n.

My brain kicked into gear and God started me thinking…

If you spell OPEN it emits a certain positivity. In fact, the letter “O” is a circle and evokes a sense of unity, inclusiveness, and wholeness. Positive people are open to new ideas. We are glad when we see a store is open. When our eyes are wide open we see things clearer.

Photo by Tim Douglas on Pexels.com

God’s hands are always open to hold us and His ears open to hear our prayers.

Start the word with N and you suddenly have a totally different attitude. Nope.

Door closed. Ideas shut away. God has turned His back. Or we’ve turned our back on Him, and others.

So what is “N” and why is it so important where we place it?

Maybe it stands for needs. When we put our needs first, we limit the possibilities to being “all about us.” But when we put our needs last, we open ourselves (notice how I did that) to a servitude attitude. God and others become more important.

Now, don’t think I am advocating that you neglect yourself. Even flight attendants tell parents to put on their oxygen masks first then their childrens’. But Christ said the first commandment was to Love God, then love your neighbor as yourself, not love yourself then your neighbor and God.

When you love God first, then you see yourself as His beloved and that alters your attitude. You not only count your blessings instead of your wants but also begin to see others as His creation whom He loves as well.

In our society, we tend to be over self-centered. It’s all about “me”. That can lead to either narcissistic behavior that wants to control everything and everyone to benefit themselves or poor self-worth that believes they have nothing to offer. Such an attitude focuses on either our abilities or inabilities, not God’s. It limits our understanding because it makes us the center of our universe.

Many therapists will tell you the best way to get out of your funk is to go do something for someone else. God created us to be in community, to assist each other. To open our hearts and minds to include others. To be His light shining openly into a dark world of nopes.

Photo by Jou00ebl Super on Pexels.com

True, there may be times God wants us to switch the “n” from open to nope if we are tempted to stray down a path that is unhealthy or unholy. If that happens, it would behoove us to obey. But from my experience, it is usually when we are being a bit too self-orientated the moment we glance toward those paths. That’s when the evil one twists words and limits our vision. It is what he tried to do to Christ in the wilderness. His modus operandi has not changed.

The next time “nope” enters your brain–unless it is a warning from the Holy Spirit to halt before you have dipped into temptation–pray for God to switch the “n” and open your heart and mind to something new, to see God and your world in a new light. It may just make your day better, and someone else’s. too.

Are you open to doing that?

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But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

2 Corinthians 2:14

Manufacturers spend millions on finding just the right scent for their lotions, soaps, and perfumes. One laundry detergent company’s fragrance is so recognizable other products claim to have that aroma in them as well.

The scent of soap or shampoo not only fills our noses with a pleasant smell but lets others know we have just been cleaned as well. That fresh-out-of-the-shower is attractive. Ask any romance writer…

Flowering bushes let off pleasant smells in the breeze drawing people to stop and take a whiff. Air fresheners make our houses smell inviting and clean. They welcome people in. A pleasing aroma can turn a frown upside down.

When we have been cleansed of our sins, we emit a spiritual aroma that is attractive to others as well. People take notice that we are different. There is a glow about our faces. A peacefulness emits from our soul. Love and forgiveness shine in our eyes because we have just received them from our Lord.

Just like the fabric spray or a scented candle, the scent lingers. But on this side of eternity it never lasts, does it? Just as we need to shower often, we need to be cleansed of our sins often. Otherwise, the stench of the world will cling to us. Others won’t be as drawn to us. Our witness becomes stale.

We all need a good scrubbing now and then. Ask any mom of a teenage boy…

Take time daily to let the Lord wash away your sins from your soul, just as you take time to remove the grime and sweat from your body. That way, when you head out into the world, others will notice–IN A GOOD WAY.


Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51:2

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Palindromes

Palindromes are words or phrases that read the same way forward or backward. Examples are pop, mom, radar, and murdrum ( which is a devious, secretive murder).

Speaking of devious, secretive murders…in my newest mystery, which releases this Friday, palindromes are clues to a new crime wave in my fictitious small town of Scrub Oak, Tx. Here is a snippet…

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Do you know what’s the world’s longest palindrome?” Her friend’s eyes twinkled with mischief.

“No. Tell me.” Wanda’s interest perked. She loved words and word puzzles. Perhaps she should have been a teacher as well. Or a detective. After all, in the past year, she had helped solve several murders and burglaries in Scrub Oak, Texas, their small town forty-five minutes south of Fort Worth. 

“It’s saippuakivikauppias.” Betty Sue peered over her reading glasses with a smug professor expression.

“What?” Wanda scrunched her nose. “Spell it.”

Betty Sue took her pen and wrote the word out on her score pad. It was so long she had to wrap it around the corner and down the side.

“Is that real word?” Wanda tried to mouth it out.

“Yes. It is for a person who deals in lye.”

“As in falsehoods?”

“No, Wanda. L-y-e. Like tanning hides. It is Finnish, as in from Finland, not as in completing something.”

Wanda swatted at her hand. “Betty Sue Simpson, I’ll tan your hide. It’s not even English.”

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

Enough of the blatant commercial… but having lived with palindromes over the past year while writing and reviewing my publisher’s edits on this book, I have realized how many times I can misread things. Or see things backward.

When I see my predicament from my perspective, limited by the “now”, I can become introspective and depressed. But viewing it from God’s perspective, which encompasses both the now and tomorrow, would be totally different. Romans 8:28 tells us And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (ESV).

Hindsight views of my life prove this out. Hindsight doesn’t require faith, though. Foresight does. So I have a choice in how I view whatever is happening. I can choose to see it for what I think it is, colored by my emotions, or I can draw on my faith and envision it according to God’s promise in His Word as proven out through past actions. Jesus gave us two choices in Matthew 6:25-33 – be anxious or seek Him. Worry due to our limited understanding or trust based on the evidence of God’s caring love for His own.

My main character in the Wordplay Mysteries, Wanda, relies on retrospective clues to solve crimes. I rely on retrospective proof that God is there and He cares to live my life. He has acted in the past and will act again. Even if I cannot see it spelled out right now, I can trust it to be so. Such is the mystery of His Word.

Contemporary Christian artists CAIN agree with me as stated in their song, “YES HE CAN.” The fact that my local station began playing this a lot while I’ve been going through a rough patch has not escaped my attention. Another small way God gives me a hug of encouragement.

Hearing it brings me boosts my faith. I pray it does for you as well.

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Caged

I feed him twice a day and make sure he has water. I give him fresh bedding and keep his environment between 65F-75F so he stays healthy. I talk with him and hold him. Slowly, this little furry friend has grown to trust and rely on me, a big giant human that towers over him like a mountain and could squish him with my stomp. I don’t speak guinea pig, yet he understands my tone and my gentle, caring touch. He responds to the sound of my voice and perks up when he realizes I am in his presence. And when he becomes startled by a loud noise, I pick him up and cuddle him until his heartbeat settles again.

While I am home, I raise the door on his cage and he never tries to escape. Though I do sense he enjoys me being nearby as I work at my computer because he makes chortles and wheeks to get my attention.

Cavies, as guinea pigs are often called, are timid creatures. Their tendency is to hide from predators, especially ones that swoop down from above. They prefer strong boundaries, such as caves or tunnels. So it amazes me that one of them would actually bond to this big ol’ human on two feet that soars above him and can pick him up in one hand. But, it happened fairly quickly.

Still, I wonder what goes on in his tiny, fur-covered brain. Would I be satisfied if our roles were reversed? Could I live in a cage, totally dependent on someone to take care of me and see that I received what I need each day to survive? Would I be content or crave freedom? Would I be compliant or rebel?

Then I sucked in a breath as I realized I am like my guinea pig. My cage is the boundaries set by the Word of God. As long as I stay within them, I am secure and safe. God provides my every need (Matthew 6:25-33) if I seek Him as my Savior. He holds me and carries me, protects me, and comforts me as my great Shepherd. And do I dare say He smiles when I realize He is present in my life? Scripture tells me He does.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Our human brains fool us into believing we can survive on our own, be independent, and not need anyone else for our survival. Our hearts and souls tell us differently. Freedom is not doing what we what when we want. It is the ability to roam safely and securely within our given, natural limits. Contentment comes once we realize it.

Lord, help me be more like a guinea pig, trusting in your protective, caring love and staying within the safe boundaries of your Word and the guidance of your Holy Spirit. Let me crave the sound of your voice in my soul, and respond to you in prayer and supplication, praise, and thanksgiving. May I always feel your presence in my life, more caring than any human touch. Instill in me total trust that you will provide for me and never leave me. Thank you for all you have and will provide. Amen.

courtesy Liane Metzler unspash.com

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I have often heard, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” But, once I learned I’ve got to battle some pretty tough times ahead, I grabbed onto my social media friend, Jo Ann Ruth Prevatt’s idea:

She wrote that God’s grace keeps pace with what we face. I like that. God gives us what we need to handle life. In other words, He provides just what we need when we need it.

I recall the monkey bars on my elementary school playground. I had to dangle several feet off the ground and grab the handle in front of me. Once I became sure I had a good grasp, I’d let go of the one behind and swing to grasp the next one. The goal was to make it all the way across to the ladder on the other side.

co wayfair

In life, I don’t always see the ladder at the other end, but I can see the next handle. God doesn’t ask me to “let go” before I grasp the next one. There is security each step of the way, and my faith tells me there will be an end to whatever I am to handle. And if I slip, my LORD is there to grab me, then hoist me up to the next handle. And can almost hear his encouraging whisper, “It’s okay. You’re doing great. Keep going.”

His grace keeps pace…

What do you need to grasp onto today to keep from giving up and falling hard? Whatever you need to handle, know that there is Someone who doesn’t want to leave you dangling in midair. He will give you the strength you need to move forward, and handle one “handle” at a time. Keep going. There is an end. You will be victorious.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory (Psalm 73:24).

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Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

I remember it all too well. Dad, grumbling, down on his hands and knees, moving along the wires of Christmas tree lights strewn across the floor. He had to test each one to see which one had burned out, causing the rest to not shine. Rarely did the culprit appear in the first ten or so bulbs. And once he found the burnt-out one, replacing it presented its own challenge. No two red ones next to each other. Heaven forbid! Mom had a strict pattern — red, blue, yellow, green, white. We used to hide the replacements in a small box behind the garland on the mantle just in case …

However, in a way, I think it describes the individualistic attitude that has become so prevalent in our society. We claim to not need each other. We want to do our own thing and if we don’t follow the norm, it’s okay. It is the way we are wired.

Today, the tree lights are individually wired so if one, or two, or ten go out, it doesn’t affect the rest of the strand. Modern technology at work. I am sure many folks appreciate the invention. I have to admit it is a time saver!

There is an old saying that states, “Christ unites, Satan divides.” From the Garden of Eden on down to today, it has been proven to be true. There is a reason believers are called the Body of Christ. We are not supposed to exist independently but are united in His love. It binds us together and flows through us so we can shine brightly into a dark and cold world.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ ... Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (I Corinthians 12:12 & 27, ESV).

When life happens to one of us that makes our light dim, we need the energy of the others to help us shine again. We need that connection of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. Not everyone can be strong and positive all the time. We are not wired that way. We humans need each other, rely upon each other and naturally band together in groups. John Donne had it correct when he wrote over 400 years ago that no one is an island.

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world … (Philippians 2:14-15, ESV)

As long as we live on this broken planet, darkness will linger on the edges, slowly seeping in. This season, be the light of love that points to Jesus the same way the star over the manager pointed people to Him 2000 years ago. May this darkest time of the year (Winter solstice) be the brightest one in your heart and gleam into those around you, be it the widow next door, the frenzied store clerk, the moody teen, or the grouchiest person in the office.

Uphold those who believe, and encourage those who do not. Shine the love of Christ into others’ lives and you might find yourself shining a tad brighter as well.

Now everyone, join hands and sing, “This little light of mine…”

Have a bright, shiny, beautiful Christmas season.

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What’s in a Name?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)

Names are important. They are how we are identified. Our name makes us distinct in a crowd. The next time you are served by a person at the cash register, bank, or in a restaurant, call them by name and watch their face light up.

If you are a parent you probably didn’t name your child randomly. The name you chose had a reason. Some of us have names with special meanings. Maybe the name itself means something like faithful, or loyal or trustworthy. Perhaps it is the name of a beloved ancestor or relative. Or even an event.

Some names are special, like Daddy, Nana, Grandpa, Mom. They describe our relationship with that person.

Many people may share your name, but that doesn’t make it less yours. When your family or friends speak your name, they are thinking of only you–who you are and what you mean to them.

When we call upon the name of the Lord, and we trust in His name, what does that mean? It means we realize He is who He says He is. More than that, we believe it with all our hearts. We rely on it.

In the New Testament, His name is Jesus (God saves), Messiah, Redeemer, The Truth, The Way, the Bread of Life, the Son of Man, the Perfect Lamb who takes away sin. One day His name will be on all lips as they bow and proclaim Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).

God has many names in the Old Testament, too—most of them describing His attributes. Here is a list:

Which one means the most to you right now? Do you need to know He will provide, bring peace, heal, or shepherd you? Do you need to be reminded that He is Almighty, or that He is there and He cares?

Tuck this list away in your Bible. The next time you pray, call upon the name of the Lord that relates to your situation so you can be reminded who He is and will always be.

And never forget He knows you by your name as well. Why? You matter to Him (Isaiah 43:1). You are His precious creation.

May that bring you strength and comfort.

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Daily Challenge

Almost everyday, I play a solitaire game of Tripeaks on my phone. It helps me unwind. I choose the Daily Challenge because it is guaranteed to be winable. However, that doesn’t mean that I always win. But when I do, I get a crown and my phone plays a “tah-dah” tune.

Whether I win or lose that day is a matter of choice. A two can play on an ace or a three. A king can play on a queen or an ace. The order I play the cards determines the outcome of the game.

lsn’t this true of our daily lives? Each day we are faced with a myriad of choices, some large but most are small. The option we choose can determine the outcome of our day. And how we choose to react can color our mood. A friend of mine posted on Facebook, “Why is it that my clothes snag on the doorknob only when I am having a bad day?”

Knowing the game can be won in my solitaire app, I have the option to start over. This time, I can change my choices. Play on the queen instead of the ace. If that doesn’t work, I go back and keep trying until I figure out how to win.

However, in life, you can’t always reset the game and try again, can you? No do-overs. No back space key. No rewinds…

Unless you are a Christian.

I am not saying that events can suddenly “unhappen” when we accept Jesus as Lord. How we react to them makes the difference, though. When life gets tough do we blame God or do we seek the option to trust He can make something good come out of it? Do we choose to rely on Him to help make the daily challenges winable or back away and try to handle it the best we can? Which card do we play–The King or another one?

Proverbs 3:5-6 states:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

We cannot always stop to pray in a situation. Some need a split-second decision. But if we already have our mind focused on doing God’s will during the day, and if we tune our souls into the Holy Spirit for guidance, chances are we will choose the correct option.

And if we don’t, then we can fall to our knees, confess it, and seek forgiveness—from Him first and then from others—because we believe Christ came into the world to save sinners.

Either way, it can make life a winable journey and the prize at the end is a crown. Tah-dah!

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

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