5 Reasons Adrian Lamb is NOT the Candidate for America

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What happens when a loose cannon runs for president, wins, and decides he can do whatever he wants? What happens when emotion replaces common sense and reason? What happens when distracted people forget their values and fall into the religion of opinions and vices?

When I sat down to write Cavernous in 2013, I never dreamed it would approach reality. But now, with the circus of the 2016 election campaigns, I’m not so sure antagonist Adrian Lamb wouldn’t fit right in to the mix.

The political disarray of Cavernous starts with a small Facebook group that goes viral and grows into over a million followers. Dissatisfied Americans throw their fits on social media, leading to the assassination of the president and vice president, which throws the country into a tailspin. One man rises up to set things back in order, convincing several US states to secede and form their own nation.

Far-fetched? At first, I worried that this plot might be. However, the character of Adrian Lamb was crafted from traits observed in several notorious extremist leaders throughout history. Anything is possible, and we must all take caution to choose candidates who reflect our values not only in their stated promises, but also in speech, policies, character, and personal lives.

Here are five traits Adrian Lamb possessed that should make a voter shy away from any candidate:

  1. Adrian focused his attention on attacking others rather than championing them. Remember that the president must lead ALL his or her constituents, whether they agree with them or not. It’s impossible to lead someone and vehemently oppose them at the same time. A good president will engage in civil disagreement, and realize that it’s policy or action they hate, and not the person.
  2. Adrian’s campaign was focused on problems rather than solutions. America is obese,  we’re addicted to too many things, our schools are in crisis, morals are declining, and unemployment is too high. So, he took over the schools, banned the vices, implemented a forced religion (with his own version of the Bible), restricted food, and gave people assigned jobs. Maybe some of those things are true, but a person who does nothing but complain in the campaign will likely do nothing but complain in office. A solutions-oriented president will brainstorm, test out ideas, seek advice from wise counsel, and implement good practices.
  3. Adrian rewrote the rules to suit his whim. Lack of consistency makes it near-impossible to lead, and whims change. With Adrian, the more frustrated he became with opposition, the more rules he wrote to protect what he envisioned his perfect world. Before long, those disobeying his wavering rules faced terrible punishment, including death. It’s happened over and over in history. Think King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, for example. How far is any society ever from the point of punishment in a lion’s den or fiery furnace?
  4. Adrian sowed seeds of discord rather than unity. He pitted different groups against each other to draw attention away from his own misdeeds. This will come back to haunt him, because once they all realize what he’s done, they will unify against him. Good leaders bring people together to reach common goals rather than trying to consolidate their own power.
  5. Adrian revised history to distort modern truth. He relied on the disengagement and lack of knowledge of Americans, both regarding Scripture and historical fact. For so long, schools have struggled with students who have not seen the value in learning about the political mistakes of the past. He tapped into the frustration of overzealous folks who want to use religion to create a utopian world. They were blind and ignorant to the consequences of Adrian’s policies because they weren’t informed about historical tragedies and focused on their own selfish desires.

One of the scariest things about a leader like Adrian Lamb is how easily he convinced people to buy into his extremism. He catapulted himself into celebrity status with little, seemingly inconsequential requests. Then, voters were willing to give into his outlandish requests, like asking to be called lord rather than president. Finally, his constituents were easily tricked into giving up their free will.

Some may read this post and believe I’m assigning these traits to a current candidate. I merely believe these are issues to consider with all candidates. My support wholeheartedly goes to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I’ve lovingly disabled comments because I have no intention of engaging in a political debate about one candidate over another 🙂 Thanks for understanding!

Cavernous is available on Amazon, for both Kindle and print. Book two in the series releases in Fall 2016.

 

 

Coming soon!

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but it’s been an insane March and April! Sorry I’ve not posted a lot lately, but here’s an update of what’s to come of Callie and the Goddess girls over the next few months.
One of the blessings of a small publisher is how personal a relationship you can have. I am eternally grateful to Mantle Rock for giving me an extension on finishing Cocooned. It had a couple sections that just didn’t feel right to me. So we’ve tentatively set the release date for August, and I’ll have a release date soon. And, in case you missed the cover reveal, I’ve attached it to this post again. 🙂 Love, love, love how Paper and Sage Design have branded this series.
As for the goddesses, Medusa is coming in May. Only a few more weeks!  Remember Savannah’s good friend Megan Carter? Here’s the blurb:

Twenty-eight year old waitress Megan Carter cannot stop crossing paths with the ruggedly dashing Zach Allen, who resents her from brushing him off in high school. Zach truly loves Megan, but he can’t let go of his party boy persona long enough to show her he’s serious. Her heart’s so bitter toward him that she cannot love anyone, especially herself. As soon as she graduates beauty school, she plans to walk away and leave him behind for good.

When Zach’s stepsister Larissa disappears, her teenage daughter Kelsey shows up on Megan’s doorstep asking to crash for a few days. Her dad lurks in the background, making every possible effort to lure her into heinous crime. Convinced Larissa is in danger, Megan begrudgingly enlists Zach’s help. She starts to trust him and opens her heart, but before long she realizes he’s still struggling for sobriety and clinging to his past mistakes. How can she forgive him when he refuses to change?

Zach and Megan must overcome their differences to find Larissa and save Kelsey before she becomes trapped in a life of sex trafficking and degradation. In doing so, they fan the flame that’s burned between them for a decade, and put themselves at great risk. Can they stop Kelsey’s dad and follow their hearts to happiness before it’s too late?

Following these two, I’m planning to finish up the third and final book in the Cavernous series, Conceded. This is going to be a story about yielding completely to God. None of self, and all of thee. Full trust, full commitment, and full surrender.

After that will come Athena’s Baby, third in the Goddess series,  and a couple of other side projects I’ve been working on 🙂

They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

 

In with the new! This weekend marks a new chapter for the Fairfax Church of Christ as we welcome Diondre Hensley, our new preacher. Come and join us on Sunday morning for Bible study at 10:00 a.m. and services at 11:00 a.m. 2475 Boonesboro Rd. We’d love to have you! Dana Kate will save you a seat.

I’ve written about Natasha Bedingfield’s song, “Unwritten” before–I love that line where it says, “I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned.” And, “Staring at the blank page before you…” That’s exactly what this new chapter feels like. A blank page, a fresh start, and a chance to redefine ourselves as members of the Lord’s church.

We’ve spent weeks sprucing up the building–new paint, new floors, and new office furniture. And, with the new comes excitement. It seems like all our members have a new attitude. During our transition, we’ve grown in love.

In 2016, our goal has been to focus on becoming a more family-oriented church, rich in fellowship and encouragement. We want to be a place with sound Biblical teaching, sure, but we also want to be a place where broken people who need His healing can feel like they belong. We all have our challenges, but together, we can hold each other accountable and help each other walk in a more direct path toward Heaven.

Many quote Proverbs 3:5-6, but I particularly love this entire chapter, especially verses 1-6.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. 

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

How interesting that prior to advising to trust the Lord with our entire heart, we’re told to bind steadfast love and faithfulness close to us. Yes, if we step out of our comfort zones and commit to offering love to everyone who crosses the threshold of our building–no holds barred and no questions asked–we might get burned. But God’s asked us to trust him. We’ve been told to not lean on our own understanding, which tells us that we’d be foolish to offer unconditional love to all sinners.

In a world where so many yield to the temptation of righteous indignance and a judgmental, holier than thou attitude, may we all strive to remember how Jesus answered the scribe in Mark 12:29-30:

“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Christian Fiction Freebie: Medusa–The One Who Couldn’t Forgive

Medusa’s Hands is the second book in the Goddess to Daughter Series. Available on Amazon, and FREE Feb 10-14

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Meet the characters in this short story promo.

MEGAN CARTER dropped her apron on the table and slid into the booth. Money spilled out across the Formica top, and she stuffed it back in the pockets.

“Here you go.” Opal handed her the receipt from the register. “You owe me $427.63.”

Yawning, Megan sorted bills into piles and made stacks with her change. She added the ticket totals: $392.75. Did her eyes deceive her? She hadn’t even counted the bills. Nearly all the cash was hers.

Before she could relish the thought, a receipt caught her eye. Ten-ounce steak, medium rare. No tomatoes or onions on the salad. Loaded baked potato. Familiar scrawl. Fourteen cent tip. Stupid jerk. More than last time.

Zach Allen had demanded new ketchup, all the available sauces, a recooked steak—he complained about anything he could to get her running. His rowdy friends laughed every time. Tears brimmed her eyelids. And Opal made her wait their table. Every single time.

Zach Allen, who’d made her entire world go around in middle school. The boy who’d begged her to be his date to the Snowball Dance—she refused because he’d bullied her best friend. The boy who tried to apologize all through high school.

The boy, now a man, who bad as she hated to admit it, still filled her dreams at night. Which was crazy. He was a total jerk.

She took out a ten, five, and twenty and handed it to Opal. “You can keep the twelve cents.”

Opal glared over her horn-rimmed glasses as she took the money. “Get out of here, girl. See you at five in the morning. Be here on time.”

“Right.” Megan sighed. “Five a.m.” She stuffed the cash inside her purse. “See you, Opal.”

Orange lights reflected in puddles across the parking lot. Megan headed toward her apartment, passing the group of boisterous drunkards gathered around Zach’s Chevy.

“Woo-hoo, boys.” Zach tipped his cap to her. “Heeeeeeere’s Medusa. Thanks for a lot of nothin’, sugar.”

She stopped in her tracks and dug in her purse for fourteen cents. Tossing the coins at his feet, she glared with every ounce of hatred she possessed. “Don’t you have something better to do than roughhouse in the parking lot of the local bar and grille? Get a life.”

Zach kicked the coins at her. “Don’t you have something better to do than work at the local bar and grille? Get a real job.”

“Loser.” She stalked past his truck, leaving the coins in the street.

“See you tomorrow night, sweetheart. Maybe you can get my steak right next time.”

She didn’t have to look to see his lopsided grin, the one frozen in her mind since he’d tried to kiss her at the prom ten years ago.

“Megan!” The high-pitched shriek forced her to turn back anyway. Opal held up an envelope. “Forgot to give you this tonight. Some girl left it for you.”

“Opal. I’ll be here in the morning.” The woman wasn’t going anywhere. Megan huffed and crossed again to the restaurant door. She accepted the envelope and resumed her walk.

“Ooh.” Zach stepped in her path again. “See you got your invite.”

She furrowed her brow. “Invite?”

He palmed her wrist and twisted her into a spin. His breath reeked from alcohol, and his hands felt sticky and gross. “The reunion. Save a dance for me, will ya?”

“No thanks.” She jerked free, rushing forward. Zach followed.

A few feet in front of her, a dark figure leaned against a streetlight pole. When she passed, he emerged. “Hey, Megan. I’ll take you home.”

Geoff Spencer folded his arms, meeting Zach’s wide-eyed gape. “If you want a job, you’d better get on home. Leave Megan alone.”

Zach looked at his feet. “Sorry, bro. I—”

“I don’t want to hear your excuses. Leave her alone, or find other employment. And get someone sober to take you home.” Geoff tucked an arm around Megan’s shoulder. “I’ll drive you. Where to?”

She drew in a deep breath. “I live down the road. I can walk.”

“Well, I’ll walk with you.”

Zach and company huddled around his truck. Geoff shook his head. “Crazy fools. I’ll talk to him tomorrow when he’s not plastered. He won’t bother you anymore.”

Megan snorted. “Wow. A big promise from the guy who used to bully everyone.”

Geoff pressed the button to cross the street and faced her. “I’ve not been a bully for years. In fact, I’ve been working to make it up to everyone I hurt.” He swallowed. “You’re on the list.”

The muscles in her face loosened, jaw slacking. “It’s been years.”

“I know.” He pointed to Opal’s. “But you’re not happy. I’d like to help you.”

“You? Help me?” The walking signal appeared, and she strode through the crosswalk. “No offense, but I think I’m beyond help.”

“I am in charge of the adult scholarship fund now. I can send you to any state college you’d like to attend. You’d definitely qualify.”

Laughter choked her. “Me? College?”

“Why not?”

He blinked at her. He was serious. Megan clutched her uniform collar. Could she go to college? She fingered her springy natural curls. She had once considered being a hairstylist. “Would it pay for cosmetology school?”

“Sure.”

“And no strings attached?”

Geoff extended his hand. “No strings. Can we shake on it?”

She let out a nervous giggle. “Okay. How do I…?”

“What time is your shift tomorrow? I’ll come by and bring the paperwork.”

“I finish at one.”

“One sounds great.” Geoff took her fingers in his and squeezed. “I’ll meet you at Opal’s at one.”

They reached her apartment, and he stared in the direction they’d come. Even from the short distance, the drunkards’ laughter carried.

“Stupid jerk.”

“Give me time.” Geoff tossed Zach a small wave. “I’m working on him. You let me know if he bothers you again.”

“I will.” She entered her apartment, and he nodded to her before she closed the door. “Bye, and thanks.”

“No problem.”

She dumped her purse’s contents on the kitchen counter, her heart stopping when only change tumbled free. Her money! Where could it be?

No! She sifted through every pocket. Nothing. She hurried to the door, jerking it open. Maybe she’d lost it in the parking lot.

Zach stood on the other side, his finger pointing toward the doorbell.

“What do you want?” She forced herself to breathe.

“Ya dropped something.” Zach pulled the wad of cash from his pocket and offered it to her. He scuffed his boot on the sidewalk. “I’s going to keep it, but… It must stink to live here.”

Her eyes filled, and she snatched it from him. “Not everyone can live in luxury on free property next to Geoff Spencer’s farm.”

“Didn’t mean…” He shoved his hands in his pocket and stood straighter. “It occurred to me you might need your money.” He bowed in dramatic flourish.

“Well, thanks.” She slammed the door.

He caught it in with his palm, pushing it open a crack. “Wait.” Holding the door with his foot, he pulled a hundred-dollar bill from his wallet.

“I don’t want your stupid money. You’re drunk. You won’t even remember giving it to me.”

“Take it.” Zach tossed it into her entry. He spun and stumbled off before she could protest.

“Hey. Zach!” She locked up, and ran after him to his truck.

He fumbled with his door handle.

“Listen. You can’t drive right now. Let me take you home.” She covered her lips with three fingers. Was she crazy? But she had to. Zach would wreck and kill somebody.

She wrenched his keys from him and led him to the passenger seat. He gave her a dopey grin as she fastened his seatbelt.

“You’re a doll.”

“Right.”

After deciphering his slurred directions, she drove him to his trailer and called a cab. He snored while she waited.

Under the dim porch light, his shadowed face bore a sweet innocence, reminiscent of the boy who captured her heart years ago. Her fingers, drawn to his face, rubbed the ridges of stubble covering his chin. Would things have been different if she’d given him a chance then?

She pressed her palm against his heart, and he grasped her hand with both of his. Prying herself free, she scooted to the far edge of the truck.

A white envelope with teal print stuck out of the door pocket. She picked it up and extracted the letter. “Oh.” She snorted, glancing at Zach. “A cordial invite. How swanky.”

Remembering Geoff’s offer, she smiled. Maybe she would accept since she had something to boast more than waitressing at the local bar and grille. She’d get a cosmetology degree and open her own shop in a different town.

She stole another glance at Zach. And then, she’d never have to see him again.

Don’t forget to check out the first in the series, Pandora’s Deed, if you haven’t already.

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YA Book Review–Betrayal (Kings of Renown Book 1)

I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading Julia Fugate’s Betrayal, Kings of Renown Book 1. It’s a great inspirational fantasy exploring what might happen if humans and angels bore hybrid children, and their normal teen lives became intertwined in the battle of good and evil.

Cross a hint of curious, a touch of sweet, and an abundance of rebel, and Inara Mason pops off the page. When she finds a strange, powerful blue-tinged diamond its attraction grips her, and she realizes her mother must have been an angel.

Her curiosity is stifled by her overprotected father, and Leo, one of the wayward boy’s he’s helped to get back on his feet.

As she seeks answers about the diamond, she crosses paths with Tara Cox, whose father is stifling in a different, more sinister way. Tara struggles to fit in with the popular, beautiful Inara, but they find a connection deeper than either of them could ever imagine.

As they attempt the difficult choreography of navigating teen romance and peer pressure, they must learn to embrace what makes them different and the danger that comes with it.

Betrayal is a clean, realistic portrayal of teen angst and the growth that arises from facing challenges that are larger than life.

I recommend it without reservation, although some of the teen challenges may be too mature for young readers.

Luke 4:18–A Checklist for Being Christlike?

 

In Luke 4, following the temptation of Christ, he makes His purpose clear. He teaches in the synagogues in Galilee, then returns to Nazareth, where he opens to the book of Isaiah and reads from it.

17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,[j]
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”[k]

20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

What a checklist!

  1. Preach to the poor
  2. Help the brokenhearted heal
  3. Fight for liberty for the captives
  4. Help the blind see
  5. Proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord

I have to ask myself how this could possibly apply to me.

Well, first of all, if I’m to be like Christ, then shouldn’t His mission be my mission? Shouldn’t this checklist be my checklist? True, I can’t work miracles and restore sight to the blind as Christ did, but I think we can still draw from his example and apply these things to our daily lives.

And if you notice, this checklist is basically a how-to list–how to make the world a better place and spread positivity, hope, and light across the world.

How can I preach to the poor?

Notice that it says to, and not at. And Scripture teaches this is done through our works. In James 2:18, we are told that we show our faith by our works. So the good we do for the poor will be like a beacon for them, illuminating Christ. I teach in a high poverty school, and so many of these families are disheartened and depressed. The slightest bit of hope can make all the difference for them. So, in our abundance, we must find ways to glorify Christ through our service to the poor.

How can I help the brokenhearted heal?

Sometimes, helping someone heal is a matter of just listening. It might be a gift of flowers or a small token to let that person know you care. For many of us, I think the biggest problem here is that we’re so wrapped up in our own selves and our own lives that we don’t realize when others are brokenhearted. We tell people they don’t have to be alone, but we don’t actively seek to pull others free from the imprisonment of their isolation. Biggest way to accomplish this–to pay closer attention to others.

How can I fight for liberty for the captives?

In Bible times, there were many imprisoned for their faith, and a lot of times we intepret this verse to mean that Christ came to save them from their imprisonment. But in today’s society, as I’m sure it was in Bible times, there are many walking around in captivity because of their sin. What are you slave to? Gossip? Greed? Addiction?

I’ve learned over the years that we free ourselves through service to others. Many times, those who have overcome addiction will work at treatment centers to help others, which helps them. When we devote our lives to helping others overcome the consequences of their sin and learn to walk righteously, we walk more righteously ourselves.

We have to stop… we HAVE TO STOP… saying that people deserve the consequences they get for their sins. We ALL deserve that. But, we all have been offered the grace and mercy of God, and it’s not up to us to decide who to extend that offering to. No, we must fight to free the captives.

How can I help the blind see? 

I was blind, but now I see. Proverbs 4:19 says,

The way of the wicked is like darkness. They do not know over what they stumble.

I don’t think this verse means we need to go pointing out to everyone all the different ways we stumble. Now, work with me here. I know all Scripture is given by inspiration for doctrine, correction, and reproof. Absolutely true, but correction and reproof has its place. And if you are blind to Biblical Truth, no amount of giving redirection is going to steer you in the right way.

The Bible tells us in the Great Commission that we should be preaching THE GOOD NEWS. We should be preaching Jesus long before we start correcting and reproofing people. No wonder Christianity has a bad name. We’re trying to convince people to change behavior without letting them get to know the Savior who died for them. He is the Light of the world. If they are to see to find their way out of the darkness, we must be teaching about Him.

How can I proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord?

My understanding of this phrase is that it’s the year of the Lord’s favor, or the time when God will still accept the repentance and obedience of sinners. We need to be teaching for people to repent while there’s still time, and make it clear that a time will come when repentance is no longer an option. Life is a vapor, life is not guaranteed. We sing it–today is the day of salvation, tomorrow may be too late, but do we have a sense of urgency about it? Do we convey that to the lost?

My goal for today, and everyday, is to be more Christlike. Will you join me?

 

Less is Much, Much More–Ten Goals for a Better Me

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Christmastime always strikes a nerve in me–this guilty feeling that I enjoy more abundance than most, even though I wouldn’t be considered wealthy in the least. And while I continually count my blessings–the roof over my head, plenty of clothes and food, a car that runs well, a beautiful family who loves God–sometimes it feels like I have too much to count.

As I approach the new year and start reflecting on resolutions, I have come to the conclusion that my focus needs to be on the concept of Less.

John 3:30 tells us his testimony concerning Christ:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

I’ve never been a fan of carrying about a big wad of money in my pocket. I always lose some. And I love coins. Sometimes I wish I could carry some of those pretty, shiny $50 gold coins in my pocket. Of course, most of the time I carry around the copper variety instead. Regardless, I like it better when I have fewer, higher quality bills than a pocket full of random change.

As far as money goes, less means giving benevolently. And I struggle with this at times. It feels backwards–like we need to HAVE more so we can GIVE more, right? But unfortunatetly for most of us, the more we get the more we keep and spend on things on ourselves. So definitely, we can all work on avoiding the trap of needing to have more and more.

But Less is about so much more than money. And with that thought in mind, I’ve brainstormed a list of Less goals for next year. Call it an early resolution, and you’re welcome to join me.

  1. Let’s worry less. Nevermind the fact that worry destroys our health, and we are commanded to not worry in Scripture (Matthew 6:25-34). We need to worry less because it’s a huge waste of our time. How many of us spend so much time worrying that we leave little time for the actual tasks we need to do. Goal for next year: Worry less; accomplish more.
  2. Let’s reward ourselves less. Everybody needs a pat on the back, right? We all deserve a trophy. I was good all week on my diet, so I deserve this dessert. I did a great job at my job, so I deserve this expensive pair of shoes. And we even pass this mantra on to our kids. If you’ve been good all year, Santa will bring you lots of presents. But I’m afraid we’ve come to a point where we’ve rewarded ourselves so much that nothing’s a reward anymore. And then, we have to deal with the clutter of it all. Goal for next year: Reward myself less; be grateful more.
  3. Let’s lessen our acquaintance-style friendships. To have any kind of social media presence, you have to work the system. Make friends with people, network, share, blog, tweet–but what ends up happening is that we overextend our kindness and make friends with people who aren’t truly our friends. This opens up a whole new can of worms–political arguments being spewed publicly all over Facebook that cause us extreme distress. And yes, I have some incredible friends I’ve met via social media, but for the most part, many sit on my friends list and I never interact with them or think about them. Goal for next year: “Friend” fewer people; be true friends to more people.
  4. Let’s brag on ourselves less. Social media has turned those private conversations we used to have with our families into public bragging sessions. Look what I made for dinner! Look what I won! Look what I built. And while there’s some definite benefits to be gained in sharing things we’ve learned and such, we’ve also become quite self-centered. I love how Kid President put it–fewer selfies and more other peoplies. Goal for next year: Less bragging on me; more complimenting others.
  5. Let’s complain less. Self explanatory, right? I’ve grown so tired of negativity. My goal for next year is to spread as much positivity to the world as I can. Goal for next year: Less complaining; more inspiration.
  6. Let’s eat less. It’s that time of year again. We gorge ourselves until we can’t eat another bite, then bemoan our weight gain and health problems. We spend outrageous amounts of money on the next quick fix, when really the solution is to stop engaging in gluttonous overindulgence. Eat less sugar, drink less soda, eat less bread, eat more healthy veggies… we know the drill. Time to just commit. Goal for next year: Eat less, enjoy the quality of food more.
  7. Let’s consume less. Waste is a huge problem in America. Everything is disposable. And it’s because we’re lazy. I’ve come to the conclusion that we only need paper plates because I’m too lazy to wash our Corningware ones. We only need plastic water bottles because we forget the metal ones in the car. And it ends up being a huge task for us each week to gather up all the trash. Consuming less is about being very deliberate about what we use, and only purchasing exactly what we need. Goal for next year: Consume less, declutter more.
  8. Let’s medicate less. As my children get closer and closer to an age where I’ll have to start worrying about the temptation of drugs and alcohol, I’ve become very aware every time I take medicine in front of them. Am I teaching them to quick-fix their problems with medicine rather than seeking other solutions first? It sometimes scares me how much we rely on pills to keep us going. Benadryl to sleep at night. Blood pressure meds because we haven’t lost the weight. Antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle. Goal for next year: Medicate less; work more on maintaining overall health.
  9. Let’s trust less. I love the meme circling around that tributes the quote, “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet” to Abraham Lincoln. If I could make any worldwide change next year, it would be to erase the Share button from Facebook and make it so we had to take the effort to go to a page, copy and paste the entire link. That quick-share causes a lot of people to forward information when they haven’t checked the accuracy, and a lot of it is false. Goal for next year: Trust less; research more.
  10. Let’s pray for less. Hear me out. We should definitely, DEFINITELY pray more. But we need to pray FOR less. God has already given us the world, His son, life… and we need to offer up prayers of continual praise. God is not Santa Claus. God is not the fairy godmother. God is our Father. He’s given the gift of salvation, and we need to pray that we continually please him. So many of our prayers are selfish with good intentions–keep this person alive so I don’t have to live without them, fix this challenge so I don’t have to face it. But the Bible is clear when it says those “all these things” will be added that we should be seeking first the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33). Goal for next year: Pray for less; praise more.

So there you have it. Will you join me on my quest for less? Please, feel free to add your own goals in the comments!

 

 

Christian Fiction Freebie: Pandora-the One Who Ran Away

Monica Mynk

Meet Pandora, the first of the seven Humbled Goddess Girls.  Pandora’s Deed releases from Mantle Rock Publishing February 2016. If you’d like to read all seven stories, Humbled Goddesses is available on Amazon for 99 cents, plus get a sneek peak of chapter one of Pandora’s Deed.

humbledgoddesses-mynk-ebookweb

SAVANNAH BARRETT balanced the stack of envelopes atop her still-steaming latte and bumped the mailbox closed. She stepped to the right, making room for her fuzzy-leopard-coated neighbor and blew a strand of hair out of her eyes.

A blast of wind tore through the parking lot, and Savannah pivoted, losing a long, white envelope with embossed teal words.

“Here you go, sugar.” Leopard-print knelt straight down, her tiny skirt shrinking as she retrieved the letter. She stood and placed the envelope on Savannah’s stack.

“Thanks.” Savannah brought her latte close to her chin, securing the mail as she crossed the lot…

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Christian Fiction Freebie: Pandora-the One Who Ran Away

Meet Pandora, the first of the seven Humbled Goddess Girls.  Pandora’s Deed released from Mantle Rock Publishing in February 2016. Click on the image below to purchase the Kindle version for $2.99.

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SAVANNAH BARRETT balanced the stack of envelopes atop her still-steaming latte and bumped the mailbox closed. She stepped to the right, making room for her fuzzy-leopard-coated neighbor and blew a strand of hair out of her eyes.

A blast of wind tore through the parking lot, and Savannah pivoted, losing a long, white envelope with embossed teal words.

“Here you go, sugar.” Leopard-print knelt straight down, her tiny skirt shrinking as she retrieved the letter. She stood and placed the envelope on Savannah’s stack.

“Thanks.” Savannah brought her latte close to her chin, securing the mail as she crossed the lot to her apartment.

A battered cardboard box leaned at a precarious angle on her stoop. She hooked a heeled sandal underneath and slid it to the ground.

Her keys. Where were her keys? She cast a glance over her shoulder at Nellie, her beat up Nissan, and groaned. Still in the ignition. A strip of duct tape waved like a flag from the driver’s side handle.

“Great.” As she lowered her latte to the tiny concrete porch, the letters fell to her feet. She slid the envelopes underneath the lip of the box, protecting them from the droplets, and hurried back to Nellie.

Rain pelted her as she fumbled with the handle, tugging and jerking until the stubborn metal yielded. She spotted her keys on the floorboard, snatched them, and slammed the door so hard the handle pulled free and dropped to the asphalt.

Sighing, she tossed it inside the car. Wouldn’t do any good to tape it up in the rain. She dashed to her apartment and unlocked it.

The dampened envelopes clung together. She balanced them on the box then laid them out on the counter to dry.

By the time she returned for her latte, rain had collected in the lid. Fantastic. She dumped the water in the small rectangle of grass before her apartment window and wiped the mouth with her sleeve.

A tiny sip of caramel macchiato sent warmth down her throat and through her soul. She secured the deadbolt and the chain, and grabbed the package.

Her adoptive mother’s scrawl covered the bright yellow label. Savannah eyed her calendar, which hung lopsided on the refrigerator by two weak magnets. Rose had sent a birthday present, no doubt.

Savannah sliced the tape with her apartment key and opened the damp lid. A shiny teal ribbon looped around a white dress box. Underneath, the Dreyfus High 2005 senior class cheered at her from a shiny yearbook.

She tossed the dress box into a crate of textbooks next to her wall-mounted mattress. Why would Rose send her a yearbook when she didn’t graduate from Dreyfus High?

A trickle of water dripped from her kitchen counter to the floor. She grabbed a handful of paper towels and mopped up the puddle left from the envelopes then blotted them with another wad of towels.

Perfect calligraphy smudged over the fancy white envelope, leaving dark splotches surrounding the embossed teal print. Savannah tore through the wet paper and spread out the letter. Not a letter. An invite.

They wanted her to come to the high school reunion? Why?

Savannah’s chest constricted. No way could she go back. Not ever.

Fourteen years fell away, and she saw her chunky middle-school face in the lipstick-smeared bathroom mirror. She’d adjusted her dress, smoothed her hair, and blown herself a kiss before walking into the gymnasium to join the other students.

Geoff Spencer grinned as he took her hand and led her across the dance floor to the opposite corner. “Let’s get our pictures made.”

The photo backdrop sheet reflected the dance’s jungle theme, complete with bright parrots, monkeys, and snakes. A sturdy fence surrounded the area, and a walkway led to a small stage where couples could pose.

Her friend Megan waved from the front of the line. “Let’s pose together.”

Savannah joined her, barely squeezing through the opening. She made her way to the stage and draped an arm over Megan’s shoulders.

“Say ‘Friends forever.” The photographer snapped the picture. Then Megan and Savannah exited the space.

“My turn.” Geoff dragged her back to the end of the line, and the photographer turned his attention to the other couples. Finally, the line dwindled to the two of them.

“Last ones?” The photographer yawned.

“Yep.” Savannah grinned. She stepped through the fence, and Geoff bumped the decorative gate shut behind her—only it wasn’t decorative. It locked, trapping her.

Behind the backdrop, giggling girls removed the sheet to reveal another depicting a mountain and deep blue clouds. In the forefront, bamboo trees hosted a mother and baby panda.

Her heart stopped. As Geoff leered from the other side, the crowd of students waved their fists. “Panda! Panda! Panda!”

The photographer struggled with the gate. It didn’t budge.

She should have known. Why else would Geoff have paid her sudden attention?

The chants stopped, and something creaked overhead. A bucket swung then teetered, dumping stalks of celery in her lap.

“Panda! Panda! Panda!” Amidst cheers and claps, the chants resumed.

While the principal sent the shop teacher out for tools to free her, she tugged the sheet, ripped it from the ropes holding it up, and cowered beneath it.

Taking a deep breath, Savannah blinked back to the present. She eyed the blurred numbers for the RSVP. Fate herself decided she couldn’t go. She shredded the invite into tiny wet pieces and dropped them into a bag of leftover takeout Chinese.

She settled on her worn linen couch, a spring poking her leg as she eyed the yearbook. Would her fingers burn from touching it? Curiosity battled resentment, and she took it in her hands.

Flipping pages to the senior spotlights, she traced the colored pictures. Megan Carter, her former best friend and partner in crime, glared through glazed eyes beneath jagged jet-black bangs.

A pang struck Savannah’s chest. Megan, who’d wanted to be a pediatrician from the second grade, listed her ambition as moving to California to be a beach bum.

On the next page she found Athena Lewis, another good friend, listed as Athena Clark instead. Athena, who’d sat next to her every week in church and spouted off scripture at every given opportunity? Married with a child in high school?

Below Athena, Anabelle Cooper’s frown punctuated her airbrushed face. The caption reflected her desire for happiness.

Tears wet Savannah’s cheek. They’d all been so close. But these girls were strangers. All her fault.

A couple more pages past, her heart flip-flopped when her gaze landed on Geoff Spencer’s sun-kissed face. A wave of nausea rendered her clammy.

She knocked herself in the forehead with the heel of her hand. “Shouldn’t have looked.”

His smile seemed genuine, less of the playful smirk she remembered. She eyed the caption. Born again Christian? No way. His life goals were to attend college, to find a good wife, and to have several children? Not the Geoff Spencer she knew.

She snapped the book shut and forced several deep, calming exhales. If Geoff Spencer was a Christian, then she was a deep-sea diver. No way. She’d take the stupid yearbook straight to the dumpster as soon as the storm ended.

Thunder cracked, as if in response. The book slipped from her grasp and landed on the carpet. A shiny piece of paper poked out of the pages.

First a glance, next a stare. Finally, she grabbed the book and peered at the marked page. Her breath caught when she saw the heading. The Ones We Miss. There, in the center, her brace-faced eighth grade picture overlaid a pale pink heart. Her picture, before Lynn Thomas, who died in a house fire. Before Keith Wells, who lost his battle to cancer.

And worse—apologetic messages from the horrid people who ridiculed her and drove her out of town, dedicated to Pandora, the dreadful name she legally changed years ago.

Six words, etched by a scratchy pen, sent a jolt through her. With all my heart, I’m sorry. And the signature beneath it… Love, Geoff Spencer.

She closed the yearbook and tucked it in the crate beneath her birthday box. As she settled on her couch, she raised her cooled latte and toasted the air. “Here’s to twenty-eight. May it be drastically better than fourteen.”

Praying for World Peace? Try Personal Repentance

Praying Hands by Albrecht Duerer {PD-ART}

Praying Hands by Albrecht Duerer {PD-ART}

Following the string of recent tragedies, like many of you, I’ve found myself at a loss for what to say. My heart has been affected in different ways–fear, sadness, anger, shame for a society that’s so snarky and indignant, convicted, overwhelmed by touching responses. For many days, I felt almost paralyzed, trying to process my thoughts and come to terms with living and raising children in this world.

But then I thought–why am I so surprised?

When so many have abandoned God for self-seeking purposes, why am I surprised that evil runs rampant around us? If He is the light of the world (John 8:2), and so many have abandoned Him, why am I suprised that we are living in a time of darkness?

My morning Bible reading let me to the prophet Joel today, in chapter 2, where he prophesied to the kingdom of Judah. In the beginning, it’s quite the eerie chapter, declaring the “day of the Lord,” a time of judgment for those in Judah who refused to seek repentance. It brings a reminder of God’s wrath, which like Judah, many have started to dismiss completely or take lightly.

In the first two verses of Joel 2, we read:

Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the Lord is coming,
For it is at hand:
A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness,
Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains.

The next few verses describe utter desolation. A devouring fire, people writhing in pain with their faces drained of color…the imagery in this passage  (verses 3-10) is beautifully disturbing.

And then, Joel says this:

The Lord gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great;
For strong is the One who executes His word.
For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?

It’s a reminder that yes, the day of God’s punishment is terrible and disturbing, but also that the Lord is in control. And in the midst of despair and great suffering, His omnipotent power is something tangible and everlasting. We can bank on it, and it should give us hope… provided we are inclined to repentance.

Following verse 11, in 12-13 we see that offer of hope extended to Judah–the same hope that we can access through turning back to Christ.

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord“Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.

This next set of verses really spoke to me about where we are in society today. It is not a call for Judah to cower or to complain. It’s not a call for indignance or wallowing. It’s a call to action. A call to pause what they were doing in this grief and sin-stricken world to fulfill their own selfish desires and rather to fast, santctify, assemble, and weep.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the LordWeep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O LordAnd do not give Your heritage to reproach,
That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

As we banter our opinions back and forth and reject or neglect His truth, are the likes of ISIS sneering at us and asking the same question?

The great hope begins in verse 18:

Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, And pity His people.

God is a god of compassion. He loves us because we are His creation. His heart is broken over our defiance and self-seeking. But, he is, according to Hebrews 11:6, a rewarder of those who dilligently seek Him.

The beauty of Joel 2 is the promise given in its last verses–for the spririt of God to be poured out to us. It’s a promise of deliverance. And a promise that has already been given.

In Luke 4:16-21, it tells of Jesus reading from Isaiah 61 on the Sabbath day. He chose this passage from verses 1 and 2:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Verse 19 gives even deeper hope. There is an acceptable year of the Lord. And we do have a Lord who shines light in the darkness. And as the passage continues, we see the evidence of this promise being delivered.

Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

It’s our own selfishness and stubbornness that leads us into darkness. Repentance is simple, really. Turn your path away from self and toward God. Dive into Scripture, seek His will, and follow it rather than your own. When you feel that indignance bubble in your veins, stop to ask yourself if you are really listening to Him or yielding to temptation.

If all of society began walking in His light, we’d have no more darkness.