Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Job: story of suffering, faith and trust in God

This month’s study is on the book of Job. It is an illustration of God’s sovereignty and the meaning of true faith. It addresses the question, “why do the righteous suffer?” A question that is still debated today. The book of Job is believed to have been written during the time of the patriarchs (approximately 2000-1800 BC) and the first book of the Bible to be written. It is the first poetic book of the Bible. The book of Job opens in the land of Uz where Job is living with his family among vast wealth. Job was “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3).

Satan approaches God in heaven and the discussion turns to Job. Satan believed that Job was a righteous man because he had everything and if it were taken from him, he would turn from God (Job 1:9-11). God gives Satan permission to take everything Job has but he could not physically harm him (Job 1:12). Soon, Job loses his children, his herds and still does nothing wrong. Job is given a second test in which God allows Satan to physical harm Job but he could not take his life (Job 2:6). There Job sits with every sign of his wealth taken and illness has claimed his body but Job still refused to turn from God (Job 2:10). Job discusses his sufferings with his friends who all give their view as to why he is suffering.

First, Job’s view about his suffering is “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21) and “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). His attitude is that we should not give up on God simply because he allows bad experiences. Faith in God does not guarantee prosperity and a lack of faith does not guarantee troubles. Job was a man of faith, patience and endurance. As his friends claim that he is suffering for something he has done, he is willing to confess it if he knew what it was. He demands to be shown what sins he could have committed to deserve such punishment (Job 13: 23-24). Job wanted to know why and claimed he could bear the suffering if he could only know why (Job 23. It is a very human demand to know why we are suffering. Does understanding the reasons help the pain and suffering? If God were to answer why would it be easier to accept and bear the pain? The question why is the hardest to answer because you may get the reason but you may not like or accept such an answer.

Second, his friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, come to comfort him and offer advice. They soon turn to accuse Job of an unresolved sin in his life. Eliphaz’s view is simply that man is responsible for his own troubles for “those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8). Bildad claims that Job’s suffering is because he is unjust as God would not reject a blameless man (Job 8:20). When Zophar joins the discussion he adds that only does Job have sin in his life but his sin deserves more punishment that he already is suffering (Job 11). It is a sentiment the friends will repeat several times. It is also a sentiment repeated in churches today: “Oh you are dealing with financial issues because there’s sin in your life.” Or “You are in pain because you haven’t confessed a sin.” While God does allow the consequences of our sin and bad decisions to play out despite our confession, it does not mean that the bad circumstances are the result of your personal sin. Good and innocent people will suffer bad circumstances because people don’t always do what is right and innocent parties will suffer. Does this mean that you shall lose faith? No, because faith in the bad times shows a stronger character than faith in the good times.

Lastly, the Lord speaks to the group. He first addresses Job and demands to know why he speaks with knowledge (Job 38:1). The Lord rebukes Job for daring to demand an answer, to question God and the workings of the universe he couldn’t possibly understand. God uses His questions to Job to demonstrate how little he really knows (Job 38-39). Job acknowledges that he cannot understand what God understands (Job 40:4). In Job 42:2, Job says “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” This is a concept that many believers must face and learn. There’s a Yiddish proverb which states, “Man plans and God laughs.” We can carefully plan but if it is against the will of God, it will not come to fruition. As believers, we must submit to the will of God in our lives. As it says in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The Lord then addresses the three friends because they “have not spoken of me what is right” as Job has (Job 42:7). The Lord blesses Job’s life with far more than he had originally because he passed the test of faith.

In conclusion, the lessons learned from Job is bad circumstances are not always the result of sin and knowing the reason why isn’t the point. The point is our faith in God in times of prosperity and in times of troubles, especially in times of troubles. It may sound easier said than done and it is something I still struggle with from time to time. There has been other times when my faith was tested and it will continued to be tested for the rest of my life. There are times where I worry and I think “how am I going to do this?” And I forget to lean on my faith in Christ. However, there is always something that reminds me to trust in Him. It would be a whisper in my dreams, a voice of a friend, or a verse I read during my studies. Even in his anguish, Job never turned from God. And in mine, I won't either. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Hammer of Thor: Book 2 of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series

The next book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard is here! Book 2, The Hammer of Thor, opens six weeks after the events in Book 1, The Sword of Summer, take place. Magnus is given a clue as to the whereabouts of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, which is missing again. Magnus and his friends are soon on the trail to find the hammer before a looming deadline. Magnus’ adventures takes him to Alfheim, the kingdom of air and light, and deep underground of Midgard as he must find the tools to stop the evil plans of Thrym, the Frost Giant, the God of Ice and king of Jotunheim. Along the way, he meets important figures of Norse mythology who help him along the way. Will Magnus and his friends be able to thwart Thrym’s plans before it’s too late?

Rick Riordan has opened up the world of mythology in an exciting and brilliant manner. I thoroughly enjoyed his Percy Jackson series as well as The Heroes of Olympus series. While the Magnus Chase series isn’t on the same caliper of the first two series, I love seeing the Norse gods in their mythological images (and not the common Marvel ones where Thor is a gorgeous superhero). The Hammer of Thor further expands the world of Norse mythology where the reader is introduce to the common and not-so-common Norse gods. I look forward to future books in this series (book 3 is set to be released in October 2017). If you enjoyed the Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus series, you should give Magnus Chase a try, especially if you are unfamiliar with the Norse mythology.

The Hammer of Thor

is available at major booksellers

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Pattern Artist: one woman's courage to fulfill her dream

The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser is the story of one woman’s dream to make her life better than what she lived before. Annie Wood is a housemaid for a wealthy English family. She has dreams of becoming a lady’s maid in the household as she travels with Lady Newly and her daughter, Miss Henrietta, to America. When she realizes that her dream isn’t going to become a reality, she strikes off on her own in New York City.

Set in 1911, Annie is a young woman with a natural talent for fashion and her skills for alternations and sewing are used to the advantage of the lady’s maids.  She sets out with Iris and Danny Dalking, servants from the household that she’s visiting. Alone on the streets with nothing to their names, the trio is taken in by a family who runs a bakery. Knowing that working in a bakery isn’t where she wants to be, Annie sets off and tries to get a job at Macy’s. To her surprise, she does and immediately begins to establish herself with great customer service and an eye for the fashions her customers desire. She soon gets involved with a pattern salesman, Sean Culver, who helps open another door which will lead her closer to a new dream of design fashions for the everyday woman. As she works, more and more doors of opportunity open. Does she dare walk through them, knowing there is no return? Can she trust God to guide her through those doors?

The Pattern Artist is a great story of the American Spirit where “humble beginnings are a badge of honor. It’s not where you begin but where you end up.” I loved Annie who struggles with her own worth but had the bravery to try anyway. I loved all the characters she meets along the way especially Sean. The budding romance between the two is sweet and heartwarming. The story has romance, suspense, heartbreak and joy. I highly recommend The Pattern Artist.

The Pattern Artist
is available
in hardcover, paperback and Kindle/Nook

on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Twilight Wife: one woman trying to get her life back

The Twilight Wife by AJ Banner is the story of Kyra Winthrop as she recovers from a diving accident. She now suffers from anterograde amnesia (the difficulty forming new memories) and retrograde amnesia (the difficulty remembering old memories). As she struggles with her recovering, she begins to suspect something’s not right with what she knows. She begins to question her husband, Jacob, and her life with him. When she begins to search for clues of the memories she has lost, she learns that everything she knows may be false. When she finally learns the truth, she must play safe as she tries to recover the life she lost.

The Twilight Wife is set on an island in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. It is an excellent book from the first page. Readers will feel for Kyra as she struggles to recover and catch your breath as you learn the truth alongside her. It is suspenseful with clues pointing to so many directions. Readers will decipher the clues with Kyra as she tries to pierce the fog in her head and the lies she’s been told. I highly recommend The Twilight Wife. It’s an excellent, excellent book!

The Twilight Wife
will be available December 27, 2016
on Amazon in paperback and on the Kindle
as well as Barnes and Noble

in paperback and on the Nook 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The season is more than just a phrase

The holiday season is in full swing. Christmas songs are playing on the radio. The stores and malls are decorated with garlands and trees. And the ads are begging you to buy the expensive gift for your special someone. I love this time of year especially now that my daughter is old enough to fully participate in decorating the tree and wrapping the presents. Even old enough to ask for specific gifts and talk about Santa (even though she really knows Santa is Daddy). This year I have been studying the Bible book by book and I’ve been thinking about many things that some Christians do that I think really shouldn’t be done.

First, harping over “Happy Holidays.” I’ve heard stories of people, very rudely, lecture “Merry Christmas” when a cashier has told them “Happy Holidays.” This attitude takes away from the meaning of the holiday. Yes, Christmas is Christ mass, a celebration of Jesus’ birth. However, it does not give Christians the right to bully others to say “Merry Christmas.” Yes, I said bully because that’s how I see it. Christmas isn’t the first holiday to be celebrated in the winter. The celebration of Christmas was moved to the winter solstice to encourage non-believers to convert to Christianity. Everything we love about Christmas has non-Christian origins. The Christmas tree was originally a Scandinavian tradition as it was thought to protect the home during the long dark winter. Even gift giving, originally a New Year’s Day tradition, was shifted to Christmas in the Victorian Age  when Queen Victoria gave her family gifts on Christmas Eve in 1850. So I’m not going to get snippy with a cashier for saying “Happy Holidays.” I’m going to reply “Thank you. You too.” Why? Because the cashier was pleasant enough to acknowledge the season and he or she doesn’t know if I’m Christian or Jewish, etc. I know why I celebrate Christmas and someone saying “Happy Holidays” to me doesn’t take away that reason.

Second, I think too many Christians are seasonal Christians at Christmas and Easter. As Christians, we should celebrate Jesus’ birth, as well as his death and resurrection, every day. To be thankful that I have Christ in my life every day. I wake up every morning knowing that Christ will be there to be my guide. And peace on earth and goodwill toward men should be practiced every day. While at Christmas time, I am more active to give to my fellow man in the form of physical gifts; however, every day I give the gift of my time. Every day when someone asks for my help, I will help. Even though I may grumble about the person needs my help again. I am reminded that Christ helps me when I absolutely don’t deserve it. I’m not saying that Christians should be a doormat and be taken advantage of. What I am saying is if someone truly needs your help, even time after time, reach out your hand and help. If it’s to help a tired new mom watch the baby as she takes a shower she desperately needs and wants, do so. If it’s to help the man with the car that constantly breaking down, do so. If it’s the friend who needs to talk at 1 am and you want to sleep, talk. We can show Christ’s love more in our actions than our words.

Lastly, many Christians forget that Christ told us that many will be invited but few will be chosen (Matthew 22:14). Don’t be surprised when your family and friends resist your message of salvation through Christ. Christ even warns us that His message will divide people (Luke 12:53). Jesus speaks of the four soils in Matthew 13:1-23 when the seed is thrown in different soils and not of all them take root. Just as His message will not take root in everyone’s hearts. We see the division that Jesus speaks about in the world today. Today Christianity is becoming the number one persecuted religion in the world. However, again do not be surprised at that. As Jesus warned about that. Matthew 5:11, Christ says “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Also don’t forget that many evil things were done in the name of Christ either. Many people have read the message of Christ and perverted to their own means. Totally missed the message and used it to persecute others for their gain. Today’s true believers will have an uphill battle to show the world Christ’s love and message. Many non-believers will not let you forget about the atrocities done in Christ’s name. Keep in mind Matthew 5:11 when they spit back at you.

In conclusion, the holiday season is a time when we stop to reflect on the year past, to celebrate Christ’s birth and remember what’s more important. It’s not the gift but the person giving it. We need to stop nitpicking on the small details like Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas and remember Christ’s message of salvation. Reach out with love as we spread Christ’s message. Be gentle but firm and remember that not all well receive His message. Remember the parable of the four soils and keep in mind that it may not be their time for the message to take hold if it does at all. So refrain from insults and name calling when someone rejects your message. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, may you and your family’s holiday season be filled with love, laughter and precious time together. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Bear and the Nightingale: a fairytale is about to become very real

The Bear and the Nightingale by Kathrine Arden is a story of a brave young girl who must battle magical beings and physical obstacles in order to save her family and her village from the cold Russian winter. The story opens during the reign of Ivan I where a young family in a Northern Russian village is settling in for a story. The story, a fairytale, about a young maiden and the Frost-Demon. The children have no idea that the story will become very real.

Vasilia “Vasya” is the youngest child of Pyotr Vladimirovich and his wife, Marina. Marina dies shortly after her birth and a prophecy that Vasya will inherit the gifts of her grandmother. As a young girl, Vasya, loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. She is told to honor the spirits of the house, yard and forest that protect them from harm. She begins to see things that others do not see. She learns quickly to be quiet about the strange beings she sees around her home and her village. When her father remarries, her stepmother forbids the honoring of the spirits. When Vasya reaches the age of 14, a danger grows as the spirits are weakening. The strange occurrences seems to happening more and more. She tries to warn her father about what is happening but he dismisses her concerns. Vasya realizes that she is on her own to save her family and her village against the growing threat. Will she be able to fight back the growing power that seems to build in the wintry cold?

The Bear and the Nightingale is an intricate story where every detail is important. Every event is a clue to the growing danger. I cannot discuss too many details as it will give away too much as the story reveals its secrets. What I can say is that while in some places the story seems to lull; however, I recommend to keep reading as the story reaches its climax it all becomes clear. I loved the imagery in the story. Ms. Arden’s descriptions are breath-taking and some are designed to frighten you. I highly recommend The Bear and the Nightingale. If you enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or Anansi Boys, you will love Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale!

The Bear and the Nightingale
will be available January 10, 2017
on Amazon in hardcover and on the Kindle
as well as

on Barnes and Noble in hardcover and on the Nook

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

¡Hola!: a great new book for children to learn Spanish

¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish with Pete the Pilot and Panchito by Judy Martialay is a fun and adventurous story through Mexico as the reader is introduced to vocabulary in Spanish. Panchito is a Mexican jumping bean and he is on an adventure to find friends. As he travels through various locations in Mexico, he introduces the basics of conversation, names, places, food and much more. The Spanish words are in bold and the English words are presented only at the first time a new word is introduced. Each time after that, only the Spanish word will be used. The book has fun games and puzzles to further teach the readers the Spanish words. For instance, a Treasure hunt can be played to find the items in Spanish around the house as well as a skit to practice a conversation in Spanish. The book also includes an online resource for pronunciation help and a Parents page for downloadable versions of the games for further practice.

I was approached by Ms. Martialay about reviewing ¡Hola! and I jumped at the chance. My husband and I have been trying to teach our daughter Spanish. I’m currently learning while my husband grew up speaking both Spanish and English. I have been looking for new ways to introduce Spanish to my daughter. While the book is recommended for children ages 6-10, my daughter, who is 4, enjoyed hearing the story as Panchito searched for new friends. I enjoyed the presentation of the Spanish words and the resource of an online Audio pronunciation help. I loved the games that the book presents as a great way to integrate the Spanish words into the reader’s everyday life. I highly recommend ¡Hola! for any family and classroom libraries. It is a great resource for children and adults who wishes to learn because you are never too young or too old to learn a new language.

¡Hola! is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

in print and on the Kindle

Monday, December 5, 2016

Always: a love story

Always by Sarah Jio is the story of Kailey Crane who seems to have moved on after the love of her life disappeared from her life. Until one night, she stumbles across a homeless man who she is convinced is Cade. The narrative moves back and forth between the present of 2008 and the past and the events which led to Cade disappearance.

Kailey is a food reporter with the Seattle Herald and engaged to Ryan. Her life seems to be idyllic and happy. Until one rainy night, she sees a face which throws everything out of balance. She becomes obsessed with finding Cade and helping him regain his life. As Kailey investigates what happened to Cade, it becomes clear that he didn’t just leave and she wants to discover the truth. However, she is met with resistance from James, Cade’s best friend and former business partner, her best friend, Tracy and her fiancé. Is the homeless man Cade? Will she be able to find out what happened to him?

Always is an amazing book. From the first page to the last word, the story grips the reader in as Kailey searches the streets for the man who believes is Cade. She must fight against prejudices against the homeless as well as her own ideas about what she wants in her life. I loved the flashbacks to the love story of Kailey and Cade and I cheered her on as she was determined to find out happened to Cade. I highly recommend Always. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll fall in love with a true love story.

will be available on February 7, 2017
on Amazon in hardcover and on the Kindle
as well as

on Barnes and Noble in hardcover and on the Nook

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Emotional Eating: recognizing it and moving forward

Emotional eating is the tendency to eat in times of stress, anxiety, anger or sadness in order to deal with the situation. With emotional eating, an individual will suppress emotions with food instead of facing them. In recent months, I have taken a closer look at my eating habits. I realize now that I am an emotional eater. I tend to eat or not eat based on my emotions. If I’m angry or anxious or depressed, I don’t eat. I overeat when I feel guilty for eating the wrong foods. I also look for food when I’m bored. With this revelation, I was curious to discover more about emotional eating and what I can do to fight it.

First, recognize the difference between emotional eating and physical hunger. Emotional eating has a sudden onset while physical hunger is gradual. Emotional eating tends to crave certain foods, like sweets, and with physical hunger any food sounds good. Mindless eating is a clue to emotional eating and awareness with physical hunger. After emotional eating, there is no satisfaction once full and physical hunger, there is satisfaction. Emotional eating is often inside your head instead of your stomach. And most important, after emotional eating, there is often string sense of guilt, shame and regret. My biggest time for emotional eating is the idea of food is often inside my head. I’ll wake up at night with the thought that I am hungry. Often times I can fight it. I get up, go to the bathroom, get a drink of water and lay down again and fall asleep. Other times the thought is like a song that wouldn’t end. For instance, last night I woke up with the overwhelming desire to have a piece of cake that my sister baked for my mom’s birthday. The cake wasn’t gluten free and I knew the consequences if I ate it. Ate it anyway I did. This morning I woke up sick to my stomach. Due to the gluten or my guilt and shame? I think it was both.

Second, recognize the triggers which can bring on emotional eating. Stress is a big trigger for many emotional eaters. The need to temporarily silence emotions is another trigger. The need to avoid feelings of anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment and shame. Eating can be used to hide boredom or loneliness. Have you ever been home with nothing to do and you go to the kitchen thinking “I must be hungry.” And you eat simply to give you something to do? Emotional eating also can be from childhood habits. This is my biggest trigger. Growing up in a single-parent family, we didn’t have a lot of treats. So candy, chips and other treats were uncommon. When these treats were in the house or I was somewhere these were available, I hoarded. I ate mindlessly because I didn’t know when I would have them again. Instead of savoring the chance to have such treats, I gorged myself to the point that I would become sick and eventually overweight. You may eat to avoid conflict or conversation. Triggers can be one or all of the above. One method to figure out what your triggers are is to keep a food diary. Write down when you eat, how much you eat, what you eat, how hungry you were and what your feelings or moods were when you ate. Whatever one’s triggers may be, recognizing them is the next step to avoid eating because of them.

Once one has recognized the difference between emotional eating and physical and recognizes the triggers which brings on emotional eating, the next step is to figure out ways to combat the urge for emotional eating. In my research, stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing have helped calm urges. You can give yourself a hunger check: “Am I really hungry? Or am I bored, tired, etc.?” For me, if I’m not willing to fix food, then I am not hungry. If I’m looking for something to grab and eat, then I’m not really hungry. Having a great support systems through friends, family or even a support group is a great way to combat the urges. Having someone to call or reach out to in times of loneliness or depression can help relieve the urge to eat to suppress those emotions. Find an activity that you fill your time if boredom is a trigger or an outlet to relive the urge. A few examples could be exercise, crafts, in my case reading and writing. It is important not to derive yourself. Allow yourself a treat once in a while but focus on healthy eating habits. It is also important to forgive yourself for setbacks. Pick yourself up, brush it off and start fresh. You could even write down what to avoid in the future to keep a certain setback from happening again.

In conclusion, there are many great resources out there to help with emotional eating. I only touched on a few methods to combat emotional eating. The Mayo Clinic website is a great resources and your doctor can probably direct you to some support groups or other methods in your area. Bottom line is you are your greatest enemy as well as your greatest cheerleader. Your inner monologue will help or hurt you if you are listening. Being able to change those thoughts, get help and support when you need it and don’t allow failure to defeat you. You will falter sometimes. The important things is learn from the experience, pick yourself up and start over. For me, I realize that avoiding emotional eating is going to be a lifelong commitment. However, I know that I am not alone in my struggle and I will get better.


Normal Eating: an online support group http://normaleating.com/supportgroup.php

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther: when God seems silent

Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther are known as the post-captivity books. Ezra, the faithful scribe, records the Jews returning to their homeland after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. His records show God’s faithfulness to keep His promise to restore his people to their land. Nehemiah demonstrates leaders as he guides the Jews to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Finally, Esther is the story of courage to stand up to certain death for the livelihood of others and the celebration created as a reminder of that courage. Many people will point out that God is silent in these books. Although God doesn’t speak in these books, He isn’t inactive as the events unfold and His guidance is seen in the faithfulness and devotion of these three people.

Ezra, the true and faithful scribe, records the events which return the Jews to Jerusalem. The Lord moved in the heart of Cyrus, the king of Persia as he proclaimed that the temple was to be rebuilt in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2). Despite opposition from some Persian officials, the rebuilding begins with the king’s increasing support. Ezra was a committed student of the Law. He was determined to follow and teach the God’s word. Once the Jews were back in Jerusalem, he was determined to get the Jews back on track with God as he taught the Law to the returning families. Ezra showed the people that God kept His promise to return them to their land and they must show their gratitude by returning to God and the practice of His Word. “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Ezra is an example of how devotion and commitment to knowing and practicing God’s Word has a direct effect on how God works in our lives.

Nehemiah, the rebuilder of walls, was the cupbearer to the king (Nehemiah 1:11). A cupbearer was an important position. He was to ensure the safety and quality of the king’s drink. It also gave him unique opportunities to speak with the king. As Nehemiah waited for the right moment to approach the king with his requests, King Artaxerxes notices Nehemiah’s distress and opens the door for Nehemiah ask to be sent to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city (Nehemiah 2:1-6). In Jerusalem, Nehemiah was the type of leader which gets the work done. He carefully planned and encourage teamwork as he solved problems which often arise when people work together. He also have courage and tremendous faith to get the work done even if it meant getting dirty with the workers himself. He was a leader that people will follow. “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what they king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began the good work” (Nehemiah 2:18).

Esther, the Jewish orphan who become queen and she was placed in a position to risk for her life for others. Her cousin, Mordecai, had overheard a plot to kill the Jews by the government official Haman and he became distress as it was a king’s decree. Word got back to Esther about the plot and Mordecai pleads with her to tell the king (Esther 4:13-14). She agrees, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Esther devises a clever plan to expose the plot to the king by throwing a feast for Haman. At the banquet, she makes one more request. She asks the king to spare her people and the king is outraged that such a thing was plotted (Esther 7:3-5). She exposes Haman as the plotter and he is hanged. The king then decrees that the Jews had the right to protect themselves from whoever tried to do them harm (Esther 7:11). In response to these events, the Jews began a new celebration, Purim. Purim is celebrated as a day of joy and feasting. It is a day of giving presents to one another in remembrance of Esther’s bravery and courage.

In conclusion, while God is silent in these three books, He certainly isn’t inactive. He sent in motion the Jews return to their lands. He can be seen in the story of Ezra, a man who never forgot where he was from. He worked within the law of the land he lived with respect but he never let God’s law become second. He can be seen in the story of Nehemiah, a godly leader, one who isn’t afraid to work alongside the men to complete the work as well as caring for his men when the practice wasn’t so generous. And He can be seen in the story of Esther, a woman who hid her true heritage, only to reveal it when a greater threat loomed. From these examples, we need to remember that when God seems to be silent, He is working. He is working in your life and when you least expect it, that work will be reveal. Follow the examples of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, keep the faith and trust in God. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

An Ishmael of Syria: life as an outcast

An Ishmael of Syria by Asaad Almohammad is the story of Adam, an exiled Syrian living in Malaysia as his family still lives in his war-torn homeland. A self-proclaimed global citizen and philosopher of world events, Adam tries to make the most of his situation. However, he is met with intolerance and racism. He is a man without a country, without a home, without shelter from the cruelty of this cold world. Despite this, he does what he can for his family back home. As the news out of Syria becomes more and more distressing, Adam begins to question everything he believes about himself, God and the world around him. Will Adam ever be able to get back home? Will his family survive this terrible war?

An Ishmael of Syria is a moving and eloquent story as it unveils the events his present as well as the events of his past that brought him so far from home. The story brings to the forefront of the complexities that is the conflicts in the Middle East. Each side has what they believe is right and just and fighting against those who threatened or has taken away their homes. I suggest reading this book slowly, absorbing every description, every sight and try to imagine life as an Ishmael, an outcast. I highly recommend An Ishmael of Syria.

An Ishmael of Syria
is available on Amazon
in paperback and Kindle
as well as on Barnes and Noble

in paperback

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Girl who fought Napoleon: an epic story of one girl in the Napoleonic Wars

The Girl who fought Napoleon by Linda Laferty is the story of Russian hero Nadezhda Durova.  Nadezhda dressed as a man and fought valiantly as a member of the Russian Calvary during the Napoleonic Wars. The story opens with Nadezhda’s birth and the rejection by her mother, she was raised among the men in her father’s Calvary unit. It is also the story of the Romanovs, the Russian ruling family. Opening with an aging Catherine the Great and her efforts to keep her son off the throne in favor of her grandson, Alexander. The story moves back and forth between Nadezhda’s life and the events surrounding Alexander until the two meet as the country prepares for war with Napoleon and his invading army. Does she get found out? What happens if they discover she’s really a woman?

The Girl who fought Napoleon is an epic story about an extraordinary woman. The author’s descriptions of the Russian landscape, the political arena and the extravagant homes of the Romanovs in stunning details. I knew only the basics of this piece of history and Ms. Laferty has opened up the other side of the Napoleonic War. The invasion of Russia which he fails for many reasons. If you are interested in history, you will love this book. I highly recommend it.

The Girl who fought Napoleon
 is available on Amazon
in paperback, KindleUnlimited and audiobook
as well as
on Barnes and Noble in paperback and audiobook

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Things We Wish Were: one community's struggles with life's ups and downs

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the story of the Sycamore Glen neighborhood of Matthews, North Carolina and one summer when tragedy strikes and they pull together. Soon it becomes apparent that everyone has a secret, a past and pain that they wish to hide. Zell Boyette is an older married woman with grown kids who becomes the caretaker of Cailey after her brother nearly drowns at the community pool. Lance Bryson is the newly single father of Alex and Lilah. He has been struggling with life after his wife, Debra, picks up and leaves. Bryte Lewis is struggling with her husband, Everett’s desire for another baby and her desire to go back to work. Jencey is returning to her hometown after a long absence with her two daughters. As old friends and old jealousies emerge, the community must come together to help a family in need. Will they be able to put their past behind them and help? Will old hurts keep friends apart?

The Things We Wish Were True is a great story of a small community where life seems perfect but closed doors hide a myriad of secrets. There are secrets and unique issues which bring the characters to life as if these people could be our next door neighbors right now. This fast paced story will keep your attention as you read everyone’s perspective on the events of one summer in North Carolina. I highly recommend The Things We Wish Were True.

The Things We Wish Were True
is available on Amazon
in paperback and Kindle
as well as on
Barnes and Noble

in paperback and audiobook

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Echoes of Family: a story of one family's path to recovery

Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White is the story of a group of people who are a family bound by a common thread and reliance on each other. Marianne Stoke is a woman who suffers from bipolar depression and is reeling from a deadly accident she was involved in. Blaming herself, she flees her husband, Darius Montgomery, and almost-daughter, Jade Jones, and heads home to England. Back to her home village where she runs into Gabriel Bonham, a ghost from her past. When Darius and Jade catch up with her, she has a manic episode where she is hospitalized and meets another lost soil, Emj. While in England, she tries to confront the past and discover why bad things seem to follow her wherever she goes. Will Marianne learn the truth about these tragic events? Will she be able to forgive herself for her part?

Echoes of Family is an excellent and in-your-face story of one woman with bipolar disorder. The delicate balance of a bipolar sufferer’s life is touching and the reader feels for Marianne as the reality is she will suffer with it for the rest of her life. The manic episodes are described with such detailed that the reader feels as if he or she is a witness. The pain and sometimes helplessness of Marianne’s loved one cuts deep to the reader. Echoes of Family is filled with drama and pain but it is also filled with funny moments and wisecracks that can only come from people who are as close as family. I highly recommend Echoes of Family!

Echoes of Family
is available on Amazon
in paperback and Kindle
as well as
on Barnes and Noble

in paperback and audiobook

Friday, November 11, 2016

Life After Coffee: a story of one woman's struggles with life and family

Life After Coffee by Virginia Franken is the story of one woman’s journey from globetrotting coffee hunter to homebound mom. The story opens with Amy O’Hara late for her flight as she heads out for a six week work trip. She is a coffee buyer for a local coffee grindhouse, Mateo’s. She is also leaving on the day of her son’s birthday party. But on the way to the airport, she gets called back by her boss to inform her that she has been laid off as Mateo’s has been bought out. Amy goes home to the birthday party where the other parents there don’t realize who she is. When she informs her husband, Peter, about her job, he jumps at the chance to go back to work and have Amy stay at home. Peter dreams of selling a screenplay and dives into it, leaving Amy to her own devices. She and Peter begin to argue about who should be working and who should stay at home. Will Amy find her way in her new role as stay at home mom? Will she be able to get back to work? Will Peter sell his screenplay?

Unfortunately, I did not finish Life After Coffee to answer these questions. Amy is an out-of-touch mother who irritated me. I got through seven chapters before I couldn’t take anymore. I couldn’t stand the cussing. I understood why Amy was trying to be realistic about her husband’s dream of selling his screenplay; however, there are better ways to be realistic without deflating the person himself. As a woman who dreamt of being a mother and has struggled to have children, I couldn’t relate to Amy. Amy was a mother by birth only and not in action. Maybe she is able to find her motherly spirit but I found myself not caring to find out. I also found some of the dialogues of the children too unrealistic for a 5 and 3 year old. If this book seems to be your taste, then I recommend you give it a try. You may like it. I, however, could not enjoy it.

Life After Coffee
is available on Amazon in paperback and on the Kindle

on Barnes and Noble in paperback and audiobook

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline: the big story with little coverage

The Dakota Access Pipeline has been slowly gaining news coverage. However, this is only after the outrage of many citizens that it was being overshadowed by the election and other news stories. Many people, myself included, wasn’t really aware of the protest against the pipeline until the protest had made Facebook news. I wasn’t really aware of the protests against the pipeline until the arrest of actress Shailene Woodley was a brief blimp on the news. Other celebrities like Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon and even presidential candidate Jill Stein have protested against the pipeline. First, what is the Dakota Access Pipeline? Why are so many protesting against it? Lastly, what are the arguments for and against it?

The Dakota Access Pipeline is an approximately 172 miles, 30 inch diameter pipeline to connect production areas of Bakken and Three Forks, North Dakota to refineries in Patoka, Illinois. The idea is to reduce the current use of rail and truck transportation of crude oil and support domestic demand and reduce need of foreign oil. It was approved by the US Army Corps of Engineers and granted permits to the Energy Transfer Partners to build it. Energy Transfer Partners is a US Fortune 500 natural gas and propane company founded in 1995. The pipeline passes right by the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe has sued the Corp for threatening the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being” as well as damage and destruction of “great historic, religious and cultural significance to the Tribe” (Yan, CNN 10/28/16). The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now has said that 100% of affected landowners in North Dakota voluntarily signed easements to allow the construction of the pipeline (Yan, CNN 10/28/16).

The first argument in support of the pipeline is it would be an “economic boon” as it would decrease reliance on foreign oil as well as free up railways to transport “corps and other commodities” which are “currently constrained by crude oil cargo” (Yan, CNN 10/28/16). According to Energy Transfer Partners, a second supportive argument for the pipeline is that it would bring an estimate $156 million in sales and income taxes to the state and local governments as well as add 8,000-12,000 construction jobs. A third supportive argument states the pipeline will help avoid disasters like the 2013 train wreck which crude oil destroyed downtown Lac-Mégnatic Quebec, Canada with the resulting fire (Yan, CNN 10/28/16). However, according to a LA Times editorial, the data shows that “while train and truck accidents might occur more often, pipeline breaks spill more oil and generally cause more damage to the environment by fouling ground water and wilderness areas” (11/3/16).

The first and main argument against the pipeline is it would destroy burial sites, prayers sites and culturally significant artifacts as well as other environmental concerns: possible contamination due to breeches and greenhouse (Yan, CNN 10/28/16). The pipeline has already been rerouted when other citizens of North Dakota rejected it in the interests of protecting communities and water. The Bismarck route was rejected by the US Army Corps to protect the wells that serve the municipal water supplies on the grounds that it would have been difficult to keep the pipeline 500 feet or more away from homes (Thorbecke, ABC 11/3/16). A second and important argument against the pipeline is a possible rupture under the Missouri River and contaminating the water supply (Yan, CNN 10/28/16). A portion of the pipeline will be under a dammed stretch of the Missouri River (LA Times Editorial, 11/3/16) and eight other pipelines are already being moved across the river with the risk of contamination, do we need another risk?

I will begin my thoughts with a quote from David Archambault III, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, “We’re not opposed to energy independence. We’re not opposed to economic development. The problem we have, and this is a long history of problems that evolved over time, is where the federal government or corporations take advantage of indigenous lands and indigenous rights” (Yan, CNN 10/28/16). This is a sad truth. While researching this topic, I came across some comments that claim the protestors didn’t materialize until after the project had been greenlighted and construction began. Another commenter claimed that the tribe was asked to participate in the site selection and they didn’t respond in time. Given the US government’s history with the treatment of indigenous people, I wouldn’t put it past them to say “hey, help plan but you have to respond by this date” and the letter was dated only days before the deadline. While an advocacy group has said that the tribe’s claims are misleading as the pipeline doesn’t cross into the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation” (Yan, CNN, 10/28/16), you can see from the map that its very close and if a rupture were to happen, it would be devastating to the reservation lands near the pipeline.

In conclusion, somewhere in the middle is the truth. It is possible that the Standing Rock tribe was given a chance to respond. Maybe they ignored the chance until construction began. Maybe the chance to respond was unrealistic. Is it possible that both sides are twisting the truth to fit their cause? Of course, it’s possible. Bottom line is we didn’t need the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was defeated in 2008, and we don’t need the Dakota Access Pipeline. We especially don’t need it if it will possibly destroy sites which cannot be returned to their previous state in case of a rupture. Not just the possible destruction of beautiful sites but health and welfare of citizens are at risk too. Why does money always trump the health and welfare of our land and its people? On November 1st, Obama has stated that the Army Corps is investigating ways to re-route the pipeline to take into account the tribe’s concerns. With the Army Corps, the fate of the pipeline still rests. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the money will outweigh the environment and the people and the construction will continue despite the protests and concerns.

LA Times Editorial Say No to the Dakota Access Pipeline, 11/3/16 http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-dakota-pipeline-global-warming-20161102-story.html

Thorbecke, Catherine Why a Previously Proposed Route for the DAPL was Rejected, ABC 11/3/16 http://abcnews.go.com/US/previously-proposed-route-dakota-access-pipeline-rejected/story?id=43274356

Yan, Holly Dakota Access Pipeline: What’s at stake? CNN 10/28/16 http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/07/us/dakota-access-pipeline-visual-guide/

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Woman on the Orient Express: an adventure story featuring Agatha Christie

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford is a story of Agatha Christie and her journey on the Orient Express and the adventure she has while in the exotic Middle East. Its 1928, she is still reeling from the fall out of her divorce from her husband, Archie, and her mysterious disappearance which she has no memory of. Her trip is in hopes to travel incognito and a fresh start. Along the way, she meets Katharine Keeling, a young woman who has worked as an archeologist who is traveling to join her fiancé, Leonard Woolley. One night, she saves a young woman who attempts suicide from the back of the train. The young woman turns out to be Ann “Nancy” Grandfield, wife of the Viscount Felix Nelson. The three women soon becomes friends as they journey on the train, visiting the sights along the way.  From Venice to Istanbul to Baghdad, the three women become friend, each with their own secret they are desperately trying to hide. Will their secrets be revealed? Will they be able to stop running from their past and build a new future?

The Women on the Orient Express is a great story about three women in a world which often didn’t appreciate their intelligence ot their very existence. At first, I thought the woman in the title referred to Agatha Christie but I soon realized that the woman could also refer to Katharine or Nancy as it is their story as much as Agatha’s. Ms. Christie really did travel the Orient Express and toured the dig sites of the Ur with the Woolleys. There she would meet her second husband. The book also gives the insight on the inspiration for the books that followed this journey. If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, even if you aren’t, I highly recommend The Woman on the Orient Express was an adventure story which will introduce Ms. Christie to you in ways you may have never seen her before.

The Woman on the Orient Express
is available on Amazon in paperback and on the Kindle

on Barnes and Noble in paperback and audiobook

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Presidential Candidate Review: Dr. Jill Stein

As part of my political review for this election year, I will be review each of the presidential candidate. I will present a brief bio followed by reasons why I would and would not vote for each candidate. Today I will be reviewing Jill Stien:

Jill Ellen Stein was born May 14, 1950 in Chicago, Illinois to Joseph and Gladys (nee Wool) Stein. She is of Russian Jewish decent and grow up attending a local reform synagogue. Although she now considers herself to be agnostic. She is married to Dr. Robert Rohrer and has two adult sons. She graduated from Harvard with degrees in psychology, sociology and anthropology in 1973. She would graduate from Harvard Medical School in 1979. Dr. Stein practiced internal medicine for 25 years while also serving as an instructor at the Harvard Medical School. She retired from both in 2005 and 2006, respectively. She began her activism in 1998 as she protested against the “Filthy Five” coal plants in Massachusetts. She has served on the board of the Greater Boston Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. She co-founded and served as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities. Her activism hasn’t stopped. In September, a warrant was issued for her arrest by a North Dakota judge. She was with misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass and criminal mischief for spray-painting a bulldozer during a protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. She defended her actions by saying it would be “inappropriate for me not to have done my small part” in support of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Dr. Stein’s campaign history began in 2002 as a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate for the Green-Rainbow Party. She finished third of five candidates with 3.5% of the votes. In 2004, she ran for the Massachusetts House of Representatives candidate for the 9th Middlesex District. She lost to the incumbent, Thomas M. Stanley, with 21.3% of the votes. In 2006, she ran for the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth but lost to the 3-term incumbent, Bill Galvin, with 18% of the votes. In 2005, she was elected to the Town Meeting seat of Lexington for Precinct 2 and reelected in 2008. In 2010, she again ran for governor of Massachusetts; but, lost with 1.4% of the vote. In 2012, she ran for president, receiving less than 1% of the votes in the majority of the states. As the candidate for president for the Green Party, she has received the endorsement of actress and social activist Susan Sarandon.

Dr. Stein’s political positions on the major areas focus on renewable energy and green jobs. For the economy, she proposes a “Green New Deal,” which would create renewable energy jobs to address climate change and environmental issues. It would be funded by a 30% reduction in military budget. As well as funded by an increase in taxes on speculation in stock markets, offshore tax havens and multi-million dollar real estates. She argues that her plan would “end unemployment and poverty.” She calls for the “nationalizing” and “democratizing” the Federal Reserve. She calls for the Federal Reserve to end its independence and be placed under a Federal Monetary Authority in the Treasury Department. Dr. Stein supports the creation of nonprofit publicly owned banks. She claims that the government should be the employer of last resort. For energy and environment issues, she proposes that the US transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030. She supports a national ban on fracking and opposes nuclear energy. She has called climate change as a “national emergency.” Dr. Stein proposes to override the Paris Climate Agreement as she claims it is inadequate. Dr. Stein believes we are in a major extinction event (the sixth great extinction). She believes that half of the world’s life forms will disappear this century. For education, she has argued for “free higher public education” and favors canceling all student loan debt. According to Stein, the Federal Reserve could buy up the student loans and agree not to collect the debt, thereby canceling it. She has said that is essentially what happened with the Wall Street bailout in 2008. She opposes charter schools and is critical of the Common Core Standards. In terms of foreign and defense policies, Dr. Stein, proposes to close all US military bases overseas and “restore the National Guard as the centerpiece of our defense.” She is also in favor of bringing in “far more” than 10,000 Syrian refugees that Obama had pledged. She also regards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. For health issues, she favors replacing Obamacare with a “Medicare-for-all” system. She has been back and forth on the safety of vaccinations. She has expressed concerns on how Wi-Fi signals in schools are effecting children’s brains.

My reasons to vote for Dr. Stein are: first, she has virtually no political experience especially at the state or national level. Like Trump, she is political outsider, although she has experience in political campaigning. Second, I like the idea of canceling student loan debt, as the loans have become too much of a burden on college graduates; however, how feasible it is, I seriously doubt. Third, I like her support for the Standing Rock Sioux and the opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline. My reasons not to vote for Dr. Stein are first, she seems to be back and forth on the subject of vaccinations. She says there are safe, then she says they aren’t. Although, I agree with her opposition to mandatory vaccinations. As I believe in many of the vaccinations, there are some that I question and refuse for my family. Second, fourteen years to be 100% on renewable energy seems like a tall order. In my research, I haven’t seen how she plans to implement changes in order to achieve this goal. It seems to me to be more of a wish list of ideas than an actual plan. Third, overall, I just don’t get a good feeling about her. With so many issues, she has been back and forth and not really clear where she truly stands. The making of a true politician.

Overall, my thoughts about Dr. Stein are mixed. I like many of her ideas; however, like most ideas, I have doubts how they would be implemented and work in the long run. Renewable energy and green jobs seem to be the future but those jobs and technologies are still somewhat in their infancy and haven’t proved to be sustainable. For instance, solar panels industry has been sustained with tax breaks and subsidies under Obama and has not yet seen any real promise. For many homeowners who have transited to solar panels, with the promise that it would lower their electric bill, have seen their bills skyrocket or, at the very least, stayed the same. I have read reports that homeowners have met resistance from their cities about even turning on the solar panels. So, right now, the benefits don’t outweigh the costs and headaches for many Americans. Dr. Jill Stein has been a great activist for social change focusing on environmental issues which affect our health and is not afraid to speak her mind against the status quo. She is another voice against a political system which has failed us for the last time. I see the growing support for political parties other than Republican or Democrat will help shape future elections. We may even see the first president elected from a third party. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Forgotten Woman:a story about an overlooked piece of history

Forgotten Women by Freda Lightfoot is the story of the brave women of the International Brigade of the Spanish Civil War. It opens in Scotland, summer 1986, when an art gallery opens an exhibit featuring Spanish artist Ramón Peña Barros. Jo is the young curator when she is confronted with someone claiming that one of the paintings is a forgery. Anton Quintana Mendez has come to Scotland in the search of friends his grandmother knew during the Civil War and wants to see again before she dies. She learns that her grandmother, Libby, was a Scottish member of the International Brigade and when she confronts her grandmother with Anton’s claim, Libby refuses to speak about it. Jo is intrigued about the painting and her grandmother’s connection to the Spanish Civil War that she joins Anton in Spain to see his grandmother, Rosita. As Rosita tells her story, Jo and Anton learn about the horrific beginnings of the Civil War, the International Brigade who fought against the rising power of General Francisco Franco and fascism in Spain. The prison conditions, the daily reading of names who were facing the firing squad, and the fight for freedom. Will Jo learn who the painter Barros was? Will she learn her grandmother’s role in the war? Will there be parts of herself, of her family that she will uncover?

Forgotten Women is an interesting story about a part of history many do not learn about. The Spanish Civil War began July 17, 1936 and ended April 1, 1939 with General Franco in power of the Spanish government. The story was filled with suspense and little clues as to the identity of the artist Barros and the roles that these brave women accomplished during a turbulent time in Spanish history. The ending was surprising and enjoyable. I highly recommend Forgotten Women.

Forgotten Women
is available on Amazon in paperback and on the Kindle

at Barnes and Noble in paperback

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Presidential Candidate Review: Gary Johnson

As part of my political review for this election year, I will be review each of the presidential candidate. I will present a brief bio followed by reasons why I would and would not vote for each candidate. Today I will be reviewing Gary Johnson:

Gary Earl Johnson was born January 1, 1953 in Minot, North Dakota. The son of Earl and Lorraine (nee Bostow) Johnson. His father was a public school teacher and his mother worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Mr. Johnson earned his Bachelors of Science degree in political science from the University of New Mexico in 1975. He started his own business, Big J Enterprises, in 1976 and grew it into a multimillion dollar corporation with over 1,000 employees. When he sold the company in 1999, it was one of New Mexico’s leading construction companies. Mr. Johnson served as governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003. As governor, he followed a strict small government approach. He stood with 20 other Republican governors and called on Republican leadership to stand firm against President Bill Clinton during the November 1995 federal government shutdown in budget negotiations. He was praised for his leadership during the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000. In 2009, he showed interest in running for president. On May 29, 2016, he received the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party. He is a practicing Lutheran. Divorced with two adult children. He is currently engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Kelly Prusack. Mr. Johnson is considered to be a fiscally conservative and socially liberal. He follows the philosophy of limited government.

On the issues, Mr. Johnson supports repeal of Obamacare and favors simplifying and reducing taxes. He has acknowledged that man is partially responsible for climate change, Johnson rejects government action to try to control or limit it. He has referred to the Social Security Administration as a pyramid scheme. Mr. Johnson feels that government needs to stay out of personal concerns like abortions and feels that Planned Parenthood does a lot of good. He has spoken against the massive natural debt. He favors gay rights. He favors cutting military budget and is against foreign wars. Mr. Johnson supports drug decriminalization with some exceptions. He opposes censorship and regulations of the internet. He also opposes federal and state gun control as counterproductive. He opposes the Common Core standards and supports state and local control on education. He opposes mandatory vaccinations. He believes that parents should decide not the government.

The reasons I would not vote for Gary Johnson are first, he opposes paid leave and family leave. As a single income family, this concerns me a great deal. Even for families with two incomes, this should be concerning. If one income suddenly disappears due to illness or injury, families would falter in their daily living. Second, I disagree with him on military and foreign matters. While I do believe that we need to not always be the “world police,” we can’t simply ignore what is going on in the world around us. The reasons I would vote for him are first, he supports accurate food labeling for allergies, GMS and to better define “natural” and “organic.” Second, Mr. Johnson has both executive government and business experience. Unlike Clinton who has government experience but not business and Trump who has business experience but not government. Third, I agree that many issues of daily life are personal decisions and the government should have no say in the matters.

I believe Gary Johnson is a good candidate for president. Many have criticized him for not knowing what Aleppo was. However, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us didn’t know either. While I disagree with him on many issues, I like his honesty about the issues. He has been constant with his support and opposition on the issues; however, I wouldn’t fault him for changing his opinion. Even if he barely registers with the voting numbers this election, I think that people talking about him is enough to open the door for future party candidates to be considered seriously. I also don’t understand the reluctance of the Democrat and Republican parties to not allow Mr. Johnson or Ms. Stein (whom I will discuss next), to be a part of the presidential debates. I remember Ross Perot being a part of the debates during the 1992 presidential election.

Overall, I believe that considering the other party candidates is a good thing for this country. For many people, voting for a third party is a “throw away vote” because the person couldn’t possibly win. For me, though, voting for a candidate other than the Democrat or Republican is sending a message that I am fed up with the two parties. It has been an “us versus them” mentality for too long. Third party officials would be a possible deciding factor to break the chains of inactions in government. Gary Johnson is a man who has proven that he is a man of action. Would he do well on a national scale? I think so but we will never really know unless we look more closely at the other candidates. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

First and Second Chronicles: the power of prayer

First and Second Chronicles are a brief retelling of the events which occur in 1 and 2 Kings. First Chronicles serves as a commentary on the events of 2 Samuel and emphasizes the religious history of Judah and Israel. Second Chronicles serves as the commentary for 1 and 2 Kings and highlights the importance of the temple and the religious revivals in Judah while the kingdom of Israel in ignored. As I read through these books, one thing stood out: prayer. In particular three prayers which are examples of how God can work in our lives if we ask him. With an honorable man named Jabez, we see the power of a simple prayer. With King David, we see a formula in which to pray. With King Asa, we see asking for the impossible in prayer can allow it to become possible.

Jabez is a man who is remembered for a simple prayer with a big impact. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.” By asking God to bless him, Jabez was acknowledging God as the true center of his life and his work. When we pray for God’s blessings, as Jabez did, we need to pray that He take his rightful place as Lord of our homes, our workplace and our lives. The protection Jabez was asking for wasn’t just from the outside world which is full of evil and pain but also internally. The evil and pain which starts from within us in our motives, desires, thoughts and actions. This simple prayer is an example of what can happen when we recognize that God provides all. He provides the means for success, protection from harm and guidance in our lives. If we just ask him to.

David was known as a man of prayer. His prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:10-19 is an example of how we can pray. First, he opens his prayer with praise. In verse 10, he says, “Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.” Second, he recognizes God’s power and glory. He recognizes the God is powerful, majestic and splendor (verse 11). He acknowledges that everything comes from the Lord from their wealth to their honor (verse 12). Third, he prays for the people. In verse 18, David prays that God would “keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever” and “keep their hearts loyal” to Him. He also prays for his son, Solomon, the next king of Israel in verse 19, “And give my son, Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees.”  Wholehearted devotion is complete dedication to God. To serve God above all else. David’s prayer follows a simple formula: praise to God, recognize God’s power, and make our requests. When we praise God and recognize his power before we make our request, we acknowledge that God has the authority to grant our requests and everything we have comes from him.

Asa was a king up against the Cushite army. Knowing that his army had no chance against this army without the power of God, he calls out to Him. His prayer in 2 Chronicles 14:11 says, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, in your name, we have come against this vast army. O Lord, you are our God, do not let man prevail against you.” The Lord provided the victory (verse 12). Asa uses a similar formula as King David. He praised God and acknowledged His power. Then he made his request. King Asa is an example of when facing battles that seem impossible, don’t give up. To paraphrase a common saying, when the going gets tough, the tough get praying. Asa knew he could not do it on his own. He need the power and glory of God behind every swing of his army’s swords. The secret of victory is first to admit the futility of unaided human effort and to trust God to do the rest. God’s power works best though those who recognize their limitations. It is those who think they are able do anything without God are the ones in the greatest danger.

In conclusion, it may seem too simple, prayer. Just ask and you can receive. However, prayer is the most powerful tool a believer has. Prayer is a direct connection to God. When we pray, we have the ear of the Creator of Heaven and Earth. We have the attention of the Father of Lights. When we pray, we have the power to do the impossible. Jabez asked for God’s blessings and protection in his life. And he received it. David asked for hearts of Israel to remain with God forever and that his son would be completely dedicated to serving Him. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen quite like that. Asa asked for God’s help with an unbeatable enemy and he got it. You may say, wait a minute. Two prayers were answered and one wasn’t. Well, that’s another post for another day. The point is all three men humbled themselves before the Lord and made their requests. They knew that only God had the power to fulfill their request and they left it all in God’s hands. Imagine what we could do we did the same.