Masked Bandits

I have all kinds of succulents and cacti growing on the steps and on our patio. But recently I dropped seeds into some extra little pots that I have—tomato currant, chili pequin, and sweet pepper.

The tiny plants had just started breaking through the dirt when we had another visit by some frequent, albeit not always welcome, guests.

Three young raccoons make a monthly visit, usually when the moon is full. They have a party on our patio. They look for the food they know we have—deer corn and protein and bird seed. They poke around my plants where water is pooled around the pots. And they just seem to hang out because they like it on the patio in the wee hours of the morning.

I know this because we have a ring camera and I’ve seen their dark forms lumbering about, the occasional beady eyes glinting in the camera.

I usually don’t mind. I’m just a bit more cautious about letting our small dog out into the back yard in the evening without first checking for these guests. They not only outnumber him, but outweigh him by at least 10 pounds. We’ve had to replace the deer feed storage bin with another bin having (supposedly) raccoon proof closures. The two five pound weights we placed on the top of the original bin didn’t deter the raccoons in the least. Provided a bit of challenge I suppose. In all their efforts, they eventually cracked the bin’s lid, hence the need for replacement.

Like I said, I usually don’t mind their visits. They’re kind of cute.

Until they’re not.

The little bandits knocked over my small pots, spilling dirt and damaging my tiny plants. After my tender efforts to grow them, I’m not sure if the plants will survive. I gently repotted each one and placed them on a tray in a less-raccoon-accessible location.

Isn’t that how life can be, though? We see God plant tiny seeds of faith and bring growth to the tender gardens of our human hearts. He tends our faith with love and grace and soon our hearts produce new fruit of trust, joy, peace.

Then in the night, the masked bandits come. Night thieves. Careless looters. They poke around, sniff around, and create turmoil and trouble where seeds of faith are growing. Maybe intentional, maybe not. But the damage is the same. A mess made, hearts breaking and spilling over with tears, maybe even faith damaged.

The bandits may come as the death of a loved one, illness, the loss of a job, a move, a friend’s betrayal, an accident, divorce, anything that rocks our world.

But God is there, scooping up the mess, comforting us in our grief and tears, and restoring our tender faith.

A few promises from Scripture to turn to when the bandits come:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

John 16:22

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

Ephesians 3:16

Grace and Peace

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What Darkness Fears

Just in time for Halloween. What Darkness Fears, an anthology of stories and poems portraying light in the darkness. A perfect read for the spooky season. What Darkness Fears includes stories by authors Anne J. Hill, Lara E. Madden, and my friend/critique buddy, Lauren Thornhill, among others.

I asked Lauren to answer a couple of questions about her book because inquiring minds want to know.

How did you get involved in the anthology, What Darkness Fears?

I became involved in the anthology almost entirely through Instagram. I found Anne J. Hill on Instagram because she was a fellow writer and editor. In fact, she edited my current WIP for the King and Prophet Chronicles. We became friends, and I met her in person at the Realm Makers Conference (RM) this year. About a week after RM, Anne sent me a chat about the anthology and asked if I would be interested in submitting some stories. Of course I jumped at the chance. I love spooky stories, and I loved her theme of light in darkness, and keeping it clean fiction. I sent in a short story and two poems for consideration. The story and one poem was accepted.

What’s been the best part about being included in the anthology, What Darkness Fears?

Easily the best part of the anthology was the community. Anne created a group chat in Instagram for the anthology authors and anyone who wanted to help promote it. For two months I enjoyed the chats, the group thinking, and everyone’s enthusiasm for the project. It was intoxicating. Writing is so often done alone. This was a community, and we were having fun, even if it was just over chat.

What would you like readers to know about the anthology, What Darkness Fears?

This anthology was written by authors who love the spooky, but love the light more. Anne and Lara (Lara E. Madden) led us through this project. They kept focusing on the positive, making sure scripture was put in the book, and that the message of light conquering dark prevailed. We all learned a lot, and you can see the love in what we’ve put together—love for our Savior and love for our craft.

What Darkness Fears is available on Amazon, in Kindle and paperback.

Thank you, Lauren Thornhill, pen name, L.A. Thornhill.

Lauren has also published her own novella, The Lost Descendants, for the King and Prophets Chronicles. The Lost Descendants is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback and, coming soon, will also available as an audio book.

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Be Still Series – Final Reflect Update

My box of books waited for me, having arrived before came home from our trip to Colorado. Tired from our two days of travel, I decided to put off opening it until the next day. If anything was amiss, I didn’t think I’d have the wherewithal to handle it.

Worries tried to invade my thoughts. Had I completed a final proofread of each book, to make sure there weren’t any glaring errors? Where the covers going to look as good as I hoped? Did I order the correct amount? What if I messed something up when I updated the other four books?

Thankfully I didn’t spend too much time on those silly, invasive thoughts. Because the next morning, with a grand flourish, I opened the box and low and behold, everything looked perfect. I haven’t found any glaring errors, the covers look amazing, I ordered exactly what I wanted, and a quick flip through the books told me I had’t messed up anything noticeable.

I have to admit, seeing my name on the front of a glossy book gives my heart a bit of a thrill. The excitement of this thing we created, my husband’s beautiful pictures inside, the thoughts I’ve shared, the space we’ve created. It all inspires me to do it again. Indeed, I already have an idea for next years book. I’m just not sure of the title yet.

I’m hoping this next year to 1. create the sixth book in the Be Still series, 2. be consistent in posting blogs, and 3. get my author newsletter going. I still have a couple copies of the first two books with their original covers. They might could make for free giveaways in some drawings when readers sign up for my newsletter. It’s a thought, still in conception stage.

In my next post on the Be Still series I’ll talk about the upcoming Artisan Fair where I’ll be selling all five of my current books. The husband and I will have a couple of tables along with many other amazing artisans in our local area.

Details for each book in the Be Still series can be found on my Be Still blog page and details on ordering are available on my Amazon author page.

Grace and Peace.

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Blood, Guts, and Fire by Rob Bell

The Gospel According to Leviticus

If you’ve ever read through the Bible, what did you do when you reached Leviticus? Did you cringe? Try your best to plow through it? Skip it altogether?

This year I’m reading through the Bible with a group of amazing women. But I wanted to do more than read through the Bible, I wanted to understand, learn, grow, and maybe, just maybe, know the God behind it all just a tiny bit better.

To reach that end I’ve been diving into podcasts, online bible studies, books, and other resources for each book as we read through it. Cue up Leviticus. What could possibly breathe a little life into a book filled with many, many detailed instructions on sacrifices and law after law after law.

No small task. But one taken by a very enthusiastic and dynamic preacher, teacher, speaker. I’ve been listening to Rob Bell since his Mars Hills days and I’ve actually read his books to see if all the hype and hatred have been warranted. They have not. His books bring a much needed perspective into faith conversations today. I still listen to his podcast, although I do wish he’d go back to teaching scripture. Because he’s amazing at it.

Some call Leviticus a “primitive and outdated and barbaric and strange book” but Rob describes it as “a book about justice and caring for the poor and living with intention and being a good steward of creation and making amends with someone that you’ve wronged-which are exactly the kinds of issues we’re still dealing with, thousands of years later.” Seems like we all could pay a little more attention to these sorts of things.

When he first released Blood, Guts, and Fire several years ago (only available on audio format), I definitely wanted to listen. Rob did not disappoint. In true Rob form, he brought this book of the law to life in a way that I can’t even explain. I can actually say Leviticus is one of my favorite books in the Bible and I look forward to reading it again. Blood, guts, fire, and all.

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What’s in Your Cart?

A friend recently recounted a story and, of course, I saw the potential for a devotional for my Abundant Living blog. With her permission, I borrowed her idea and added a bit of artistic license.

While shopping at the local grocery store one might take notice of the various items people put in their carts. Of note, two shopping carts equally filled, however the similarities stop there.

One cart filled with a rainbow of color. Rich greens of spinach, arugula, swiss chard; deep purples of egg plant, plums, beets; Bright yellows and oranges of carrots, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, melons; vibrant reds of tomatoes, strawberries; and other flavorful items like fresh onion, garlic, cilantro, basil, bags of ground spices. The cart also has an array of hard and soft cheeses, skim milk, yogurt, and bags of beans and lentils, as well as assorted nuts and dried fruits. I imagine the amazing meals the shopper can make with the items in the cart. Filling, satisfying, and nutritious. Oh how I’d love to sit down at that table and linger over the feast.

What are the benefits of a healthy cart? More energy. Lower weight. Lower blood pressure. Disease fighting nutrients. Longer, fuller life.

The second cart equally loaded with a lot of food that can fill stomachs. Boxes and bags of highly processed, convenience foods along with equal proportions of sugary, salty junk food. Quick, easy to make, mimicking natural foods, maybe filling, satisfying for a moment, until the sugar crash sets in and leaves one hungry again. Foods definitely not very nutritious or satisfying. Even describing the contents isn’t all that fun. I imagine quick preparations, a rushed dinner, maybe even grab and go.

What are the negatives a junk filled cart? Less energy. Higher weight. Higher blood pressure. Disease causing ingredients. Shorter, more health challenged life.

How do the two carts compare to our spiritual lives? When we take a hard look at what we’re feeding our soul, can we describe it as rich, deep, bright, vibrant, flavorful, satisfying? Or is it sugar coated, salt filled, empty calories leaving us unsatisfied, devoid of energy, and always wanting more?

What might a spiritually starving diet look like? Hit or miss worship. A prayer thrown up here and there. Sporadic reading of scripture, if at all. Rushed relationships with little time for deep conversations. Hearts heavy with worry and anxiety. Attitudes of grumbling, complaining, self-seeking. A spiritually starved soul displaying anger, rage, malicious behavior, slanderous and unprofitable talk. An empty soul with nothing to give, no energy to serve, no joy to share.

In contrast, what are the essentials to a healthy spiritual diet? When we sit down to our spiritual meals, what are the things we need to have our our plates? Large helpings of teaching, reading, and study of the word. Generous portions of fellowship and healthy relationships. Dishes heaped with the breaking of bread, communion, and spiritual traditions and practices. Bowls of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.

What are the benefits of a Spirit filled diet? Scripture tells us the fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23) We glow with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and unity. (Colossians 3:12-14) Our energy abounds with faith, excellence, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. (2 Peter 1:5-7) Spiritually healthy souls share with others. Healthy hearts overflow with generosity, serving and seeking out those in need to give from our place of abundance and joy. (Acts 2:42-47)

What’s in your cart?

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