There are those times in life when confusion reigns - along with all the other emotions pictured above. And sometimes it seems as though those times are there to stay. During those times it's very difficult to be upbeat, have faith, or understand why all of it is necessary. When these times linger, some of us lean toward defeat, feel as though we can't survive the next wave of whatever life offers. Everything feels hard, tough, and not easy.
The question we must ask ourselves is when the source of our troubles came to be. And why. Are we responsible for the hard times? Is the mess a result of a spiritual attack? Why is this situation driving us down? Can we make a U-turn?
During the confusion, finding the answer(s) won't always be easy. For believers, we understand the Lord will let us walk through our problems without interference that we can see and recognize. He's involved, but we just can't see how. We wonder why He would allow such struggle. However, when the season of turmoil ends, we often see that our part in ushering in the circumstance is larger than we initially perceived. We clearly can be our own worst enemies.
Believers in the God of the universe know they don't know. They are not privy to all the answers going on around them. They may get the understanding in hindsight - but they might not too. This life is a journey spent for a specified amount of time for each individual. There is purpose in it all - even though we can't determine all the time what it could possibly be. A far grander scheme than our finite minds can conceive has a plan for us. We don't want that plan to include hardship, but it always does. Our character is at stake. Do we have good character in times of woe? How do we know until we're immersed in it?
I've failed so many tests of my character so many times through the course of my life. It's terrifically rewarding when I don't fail.
God is truly the answer. There isn't any other reliable solution to life's struggles. Even when it doesn't feel like it, He is the only Way.
My Monday ramblings . . .
Father, you've been so gracious to me - none of it deserved. But I'm so grateful for it, for your kindness, for your rescue, for your forgiveness. Thank you is never enough. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Love it or hate it, Black Friday has become a tradition for retail. This year a few stores spent those precious advertising dollars to stipulate they would not be joining the growing number of stores opening for Christmas deals on Thursday, Thanksgiving, because it should be spent with family. However, many families opt to shop together and make an event of Black Friday be it late on Thanksgiving or on the actual Black Friday during early morning hours.
From a retail standpoint I get the big deal, especially in the horrible economy that has been thrust upon this country. Retailers have seen sales dipping each year and it's their hope that this one event/day can make up for the slump. So many unemployed, higher food and gas prices, and the raised general cost of living have escalated the losses of revenue for big and small businesses. Many people will try to take advantage of the huge savings some stores offer in those dark hours.
It's also understandable when businesses close their doors for Thanksgiving and allow their employees to spend time with family even if they're recalled for duty in those early morning hours to serve some rude and some thankful shoppers.
Since I'm an early riser, I've already taken advantage of one particular retail store's Black Friday offering this morning. I was in and out within 20 minutes and although there were plenty of people in the store as soon as this sale began, there was no trampling or pushing or sour faces. I got what I came for and went home to wake my husband up for work. Mission accomplished with a smile and a Coke.
The Christmas season has officially begun although I've been happy to see some decorations come out in October. I love Christmas.
Lord, thank you for everything you gave us on Christmas. We were desperate for you then just as we are now. I love you, Lord. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I'm not a fan of Apple/IPod/IPhone/or anything that begins with "I" technology, but I understand how remarkable the gadgets are to those who love the incredible advancements in this medium. At present, this commercial has to be one of the very best and if I was interested in this particular item, this ad would definitely have sold me on it.
However, if I'm not mistaken, the originators of Apple products do not believe in anything more than secular humanism and progressive politics. Which is a shame. Anyone who can watch this mesmerizing example of just a tiny portion of a vast universe with its unique beauty coupled with creative melody and great voice and choose to deny our God exists . . . Well, unexplainable. And tragic.
Intricate beauty and function beyond our capabilities to totally understand . . . I'm thankful for the mysteries of our God. So much more than humanity. Creator. Savior. Lord. Of heaven and earth.
Thank you, Lord, for who you are and what you've always been and always will be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Steven James' latest in his The Bowers Files, Every Crooked Path, follows the prequel Opening Moves. Every Crooked Path was sent to me free for an honest review.
You might recall my post Agenda-driven?Every Crooked Path is the impetus for that post. Steven James remarks in his "Author's Note" at the beginning of the book that this might be his most "important" story yet. And, indeed, from the standpoint of presenting the horrific infection of pornography involving children and their exploitation in the sex trade, it's a very important work, but, precisely because of its subject matter, it's not an easy read. And, again, because of its subject matter, it's difficult to recommend.
I'm a fairly tough reader - "tough" in that I can take a fair amount of grit and horror. I watch crime dramas as in Criminal Minds (although I often ask myself why I watch it). But I must say Every Crooked Path almost hit the "can't do this" button before I was able to finish it. I stayed the course, but I'll be honest: it wasn't easy.
As any Steven James reader will tell you, his novels are well-written, highly complex, involve many different types of characters with plenty of evil to go around, and throw the reader into impossible twists they never see coming. His protagonist Patrick Bowers is highly intelligent, daring, thinks outside the box, and is like a dog with a bone when he finally gets his geospatial ducks in a row. He'll pursue predators whether or not he can outthink their motives, and he won't let up until they're in handcuffs or on a slab often putting himself in extreme danger.
An unsettling, odd suicide begins the search for whatever "Aurora's birthday" might be and opens up the perverted, depraved, and deadly world of kidnapped children used for sexual plunder available on the deepest, darkest, highly guarded web.
We're introduced to Francis, a young man employed by the organization designed to catalogue and register all manner of recorded child pornography. As the reader can imagine, this kind of work - looking at the images of sexually exploited children - renders its toll on the individuals who do this for their life's work. Francis is an unusual character who hears and conducts conversations and arguments with himself, never sure either of his "voices" is correct. One thing he is sure of, his work is important as are the very ill children he visits at the hospital.
This story takes place during the middle stages of Patrick's relationship with his future wife Christie and her teenage daughter Tessa. We see Patrick's struggle between his job and his personal life with his job tending to take precedence over everything else.
We meet a Detective Tobin who's experienced the ultimate of sorrows, and we view the evil counterparts who have slithered to the bottom rungs of humanity.
As I noted, this story weaves all around the pursuit of evil on the dark web with characters surfacing, hiding, dying, betraying, and existing inconspicuously. It's a terrible tale with only minute victories. It's not only "chilling", a word used profusely in the endorsements and description of this story, it's haunting and revolting.
Christie's newer Christian faith separates her from the rest of the characters and gives her a boost of reality and reason while doing her best as the single parent of a very smart and sassy teenage girl. Patrick is less jaded about faith in his early life but clearly does not embrace it for himself.
Every Crooked Path ties up many loose ends but leaves one dangling which might set the stage for the next Bowers Files. Steven James writes an accurate, not graphic, story of this wicked "industry". It left this reader more aware . . . and more sickened by it all.
God, I'm just so sorry for all of our wickedness. So, so sorry. Please forgive me for mine. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
I could say I don't like agenda-driven literature, but then I wouldn't be reading anything. Everything is agenda-driven, depending of course on your definition of "agenda". Whether it's agenda-lite or agenda-heavy depends on that definition. But the agenda is definitely there. I readily confess I write with one.
If the agenda speaks to the reader you have in mind, you have writing success. Those who don't - or won't - appreciate your agenda aren't your target audience. Another way to discuss this "agenda" is simply by stating the authors have a point they want to make. Whether it's the hope of happily-ever-afters or that terrorism is real, whether they "just want to entertain" or they want to "present a possibility", the purpose of fiction is to traverse the gamut of reality, surrealism, fantasy, etc., in story form.
Addressing social issues in novels is age old. It's a risk because some don't read fiction for an agenda-heavy experience. The target audience is established by the particular issue, and it conceivably could be a smaller group of readers whether it should be or not. Authors who have an established following can throw in an agenda-heavy novel successfully. How it will be received is anyone's guess. Some readers will praise the effort because it focuses on a topic they view as important. Others will quickly close the cover after the last page and attempt to file it in their not-so-fond-of memories.
When Christian authors decide to deliver the gospel in various ways, they are basically writing for those who either are believers or who are not closed off to things of God and are aware they can count on "clean" books to read in the overall genre. Secular humanists who pick up a Christian novel are generally the first to be "offended" by it. They want no suggestion or mention of prayer, God, Jesus, certainly not the Holy Spirit, and if agenda-lite, where these factors are barely there, they most likely won't recognize the godly principles presented throughout the story. If they do, they tend to resent them.
Authors must take a stand. Especially Christian authors. By that I mean define who they are in their literature. Do what they were created to do and do it well. Make statements in characters, circumstances, emotions, locales, everywhere and in everything authors need to proclaim reality, truth, sin, and the consequences of it all. Real life demands it.
Father, you are what we all need. You are The Creator. You are Life. You are Love. We need you more than we can ever know. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
So. These are women's tennis shoes, sneakers, athletic shoes, whatever your preference for calling them. I tried to find a blend of shoes. No Converse present, but I think this is a generally good selection. Do you have a favorite here? My favorite is the yellow/black pair. I would add the black/red pair, but I don't like the soles - I know they wouldn't work for me.
Thanks to BK Jackson for this idea.
Lord, the beauty and creativity comes from you. All of it. We often forget that. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Thank you is not enough, but I do thank all who served, who honored their country, and who represented the USA with their devotion and loyalty. I thank God He allowed me to live in this wonderful One Nation Under God, and I thank God for those He appointed to be warriors and protectors. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
So. Emotion is never "just" emotion. To a writer it's an essential element to lead a reader into story, into time investment for that story, to connect with that story's characters and circumstances, locales and structures, even with the weather and season. It doesn't matter if the writer doesn't consider him/herself "emotional". It does matter that they convey enough emotional investment into the story to captivate their reading audience.
Emotion touches the heart and soul. We recognize that melodrama can overdo emotion. We understand that little or no emotion puts a character into sociopath mode. Each character must establish his/her personality and the story will indicate how emotional responses play out in its telling.
Romances typically create intense emotional reactions and situations for the characters. Thrillers tend to elicit emotional responses from their readers such as fear or anxiety as they dart through the pages of roller coaster events. When humor breaks through in moments of intensity, the reader is grateful for the laugh. When conflicts are resolved, relief is present. The reader can finally relax.
Emotion must be written well in order to reach the particular audience each story solicits. Hearty historicals might only include a few highly emotional scenes while epic sagas of star-crossed lovers will warrant plenty of available Kleenexes for its readers. Whether few and far between or abundant, emotion is necessary to draw the readers into the characters' stories and make them care enough to finish the book.
Father, thank you for your emotional investment in us. We need it and we are desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.