Featured

Finishing Strong

My husband and I attend church on the island near our home. At last, we are attending church in person once again! It is such a gift to gather with other Christians for praise and worship. During the service, it is customary to offer prayers together for those who are sick or suffering as well as for those with thanks and praise reports. This is a time to listen to what is going on with our fellow Christians. It is also a time that causes me to think about our journey on this road we call life. As years go by, people we used to see in church, in our neighborhood, or even on the golf course, are now moving on further down the road of life. Prayers are said for neighbors recovering from surgeries or treatments and for those who remain in hospitals. Others have recently lost their siblings or best friends. And so we travel together on this road of life to the finish line.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, 1 Corinthians 9:24

When I ran marathons, there was a time of hitting “the wall” when you feel as if you cannot continue to put one foot in front of the other. A common mantra at this time in the race is to “finish strong.” It was the mantra that motivated me, when I wanted to give up, to continue with the struggle and finally get my foot across the finish line.

Recently, I retired from working full time as a professor. Unexpectedly, I received a call from a publisher who informed me that a book I had written more than thirty years ago was going into a new edition. To update my publisher about my new Christian writing projects and interests, I sent him a link of my recent release, Both Sides of the Border. He emailed back with a short note, “You are finishing strong.” His remark gave me pause because I believe I have a long way to go. I am still in “training” so to speak, for my faith. There is more to learn, more to write, and there is always a need to strengthen my faith. But his comment caused me to smile. I’m not finished yet, but I am going to finish strong.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:14

Paul instructed the congregations in Philippi and Corinth, and also to Timothy whom he mentored, to stay strong. He reminded followers of Jesus to approach faith as athletes approach training for a race. Stay consistent, stay focused, and finish strong so that our faith endures until we reach the final prize. And in Hebrews, we are reminded once again to continue with our fight and to not become weary or fainthearted.

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted, Hebrews 12:3

No matter where you might be on your life journey, whether you are just starting a marriage, a career, a family, strengthening faith can parallel your journey in this world. There is always more to learn about the Word of God. And at times, when we are weary from our journey on this road, when we strengthen our faith, it will strengthen us for the final leg of the race. At last, like Paul, may we be able to say we kept our faith, finished the race, and made it to our final prize.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7

Featured

Storms Ahead

Photo by Frank Cone on Pexels.com

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6.

We may not have advanced warnings of storms. Tornados develop quickly and may go undetected until it is too late to move from their path. Hurricanes provide more warning but may take unexpected turns, intensify, and catch us off guard.

Storms in our lives are often unannounced. A sudden medical diagnosis or health event finds us hearing test results we never thought would be about us. A family member tells us their marriage failed or a wayward relative finds trouble around every corner. The sudden death of a family member rocks our world to the core. An unexpected, a health crisis may not even seem rational to us. But life happens according to God’s plan and calendar. Not ours.

It is clear that storms in our lives can make us hold on more tightly to our faith. When things are looking down, Christians look up and ask God for help with a marriage, support for challenging relationships, or talented surgical hands for a loved one’s surgery.

But the verse above from Deuteronomy is not speaking of an unexpected storm. This verse takes place as Moses is nearing the end of his life. God told him he would not cross the Jordan, but Joshua would be the one to take the Israelites to the promised land. God knew the times ahead would be difficult. Joshua would have wars with nations and for many years the wars continued. God foretold of these storms. He knew trouble was ahead. It was part of the bigger picture. God knew that on the other side, after the struggles and the wars, the Israelites would be better because of the struggles. They would claim their promised land.

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of troubles; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7

For over a year now, the world has dealt with an unexpected storm. No one saw it coming. No one knew our lives would be shut down and changed dramatically. But as the verse above states, we were not forsaken by God. He stood with us as a nation and slowly we are getting our lives back. Of course God could see the bigger picture.

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” Psalm 33:11.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Much has been written about the time of this pandemic. Interestingly, a common theme among Christian’s writing or speaking about the pandemic is one of a great revival in our country. The pandemic is viewed as a time when Christians, and for the first time perhaps, many non Christians took refuge in God and asked for strength and protection.

The pandemic caught us off guard. We were not prepared. But is there another storm ahead that we should pray about? Is there a coming storm in our country? Can we see it in the road up ahead?

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” James 1:19.

Are we prepared for the large numbers of helpless people who are streaming into our country with medical issues and no economic support? Can we address this coming storm with Christian hearts and be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger? Are we praying that our nation can be kept secure? Are we praying that no harm would come to the people entering the country and no harm would come to our country? Have we prayed for our own neighbors, who might be placed in harm’s way?

“From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth-he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do,” Psalm 33:13-15.

God knows our hearts. He knows our feelings about the events of our times. Unfortunately, all issues in today’s world are politicized. Once again we must think about how Christian’s are to live. We are commanded to love our neighbors and that includes all of our neighbors. This means protecting each other and individuals who cannot protect themselves. These issues are complex. People within our country and those streaming across the border have real reasons to be concerned. We all should be. Solutions will come to those who are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Let’s begin by praying and then, with God’s guidance, talking to each other.

If you are concerned about these events, consider all of the issues and resources available. Let’s not turn off our ears to viewpoints that are different than our own. No solution will come from that. Rather, let us be attuned to our faith in God and in mankind. As a people, we can do better. We can listen more intently and speak more respectfully.

***

Please share the link to this blog with others.

My new release explores the situation on the border through the lives of two women, one in the United States and one traveling across Mexico with the hope of entering the United States. When they ultimately meet, their lives are changed forever. Below is the trailer for the book followed by the link to the book on Amazon.

Click the follow button to receive the blog in your mailbox or to leave comments.

Featured

Start the Dialogue

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:7.

These flowers are considered by some to be wild and by others to be weeds. Perhaps they interfere with the growth of our own plants. They may intrude on our carefully landscaped flower beds or gardens. They may sprout up into and between the blades of grass of our beautifully sodded yard. Our clean lines between grass and shrubs or flower beds may look ragged when these wild growing plants find their way into our yard.

To change our human perspective of these common plants, we should take a look with a different lens. These were created by God for a purpose. These plants provide nourishment for other creatures. They weave the ecosystem together in different climates. They are, in many cases, stronger against the harshest of weather than our carefully planted seeds and bulbs. These are to be appreciated as His creations.

This year, my parents’ yard surprisingly had a large row of bluebonnets show up for the first time. These wildflowers perfectly lined their circular driveway. My dad’s interpretation of this event was, “These had to be planted by God.” He was right.

Humans are the same way. We are created for a purpose. We must survive on our planet and live our lives as God desires. This means all humans, even those we don’t understand or those we feel don’t belong in certain situations, should be shown kindness. The verse above from 1 Samuel is one in which we find Samuel looking for the new king. Samuel looked at each of Jesse’s older sons, thinking surely it would be this one. To Samuel’s surprise, God selected the youngest son, David, not yet a man. God told Samuel that He saw David differently than Samuel did. God’s view was through His lens that looked inside the heart of David and knew his potential. We too must look at each other with a different lens.

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with the inscription ‘To an unknown God.’ So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you now,” Acts 17:23.

This verse is another wonderful example of using a different lens. This comes from the story of Paul when he was in Athens. The people of Athens believed in false gods and had statues of false gods which they worshiped. Knowing the beliefs of the Athenians were extremely different than Paul’s belief in God, Paul did not begin talking with the Athenians by accusing them of being bad people because they did not understand God. He did not lecture or try to force his words upon them. Rather, Paul found a common ground and began to ask questions about their depiction of an unknown god. He used this as a starting point. Because he carefully began the conversation they were receptive to learn more about God.

When we are with others with whom we disagree, perhaps we are tempted to force our own beliefs upon them. People should believe the way we believe. If not, and we don’t find a common ground, we give up, shrug our shoulders, and maybe even walk away.

How can we find common ground with people who believe things we don’t? How do we look at others through a different lens? How can we appreciate all people, believers and nonbelievers, and have meaningful discussions to promote a better understanding of our world? How can we be examples of God’s love? The media is jammed packed with people who disagree, yell, and even commit violent acts toward those who are on the other side of a viewpoint, political belief, or faith. As people who believe the command given to us by Jesus to love others, don’t we need to follow Paul’s example and start a conversation?

*****

Please click on the video below and take a look at the trailer for my new release. After viewing, please share the video with others. Let’s start a different conversation.

Featured

Friendships in Hard Times

group of friends form in circle while lying on the grass while hands on top
Photo by @thiszun (follow me on IG, FB) on Pexels.com

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Last winter, before the CoVid quarantine, we took a trip south to escape the cold, wet weather. We traveled for ten hours and returned to our previous home city to visit with friends. It was as if we’d never left. We were greeted with open arms in the homes of our friends and our church. We were invited to dinners and lunches, and a couple of rounds of golf. We attended our former Bible Study and were absorbed into the warmth of our church friends.

Friendship is something that lives within your heart. And in the past, we talked to our friends each day face-to-face, not realizing what a gift it was to be able to do so.. Nowadays, we are visiting through FaceTime, telephone, zoom, chat, or messaging. We’ve had friends offer to pick up grocery items for us, friends who dropped of gifts “just because”, and friends who made face masks for us. We’ve had driveway visits from friends who pull up, emerge from their vehicles, and stand out in the drive for lengthy periods just because we miss seeing each other.

Friends spend their time together talking, laughing, listening, and supporting each other. True friendships have an additional characteristic of feeling like you are “at home” or anchored and secure in the world. Scripture reminds us that friendships serve a purpose of lifting each other up and supporting each other through rough patches. The verse below, from a letter to the Romans written by Paul, reminds us of the importance of loving and showing honor to others.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

photo of girls wearing dress while holding hands
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

The love we have from our Father and His Son is the greatest love we will ever know. It is placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This love dwells there, waiting to serve, to comfort, and to guide us in our everyday lives. The friendship with our Father is the ultimate. There will be no greater friend and no greater love. And, as an added blessing, God places worldly friends in our lives, too. I am so thankful.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever Hebrews 13:8

https://www.amazon.com/DEVOTIONAL-CAREGIVERS-Finding-Strength-Through/dp/1945757930/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=Terry+overton&qid=1562865063&s=gateway&sr=8-2
https://www.amazon.com/DEVOTIONAL-YOUTHS-Growing-Up-Christ/dp/1945757906/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=Terry+overton&qid=1562865063&s=gateway&sr=8-3
https://www.amazon.com/DEVOTIONAL-THOSE-COPING-TRAGEDY-Journey/dp/1945757922/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=Terry+overton&qid=1562864827&s=gateway&sr=8-6

All Things Are Possible Through Him

Let’s Ask Different Questions

Photo by Vera Arsic on Pexels.com

Our world has been a different place in the past months for many reasons. We have experienced a great pandemic. We had politics, and more politics, and even more politics. People are divided by opinions and fears. Politicians and even journalists have differing options about what is happening in our world. We are reminded, as Christians, to examine the world through a Christian worldview.

A crisis is brewing at the border of our great nation. Thousands of people want to live where we in the United States are blessed to live. It is difficult to imagine a world so tragic that, no matter what the cost or risk, a person decides to leave that country for the unknown.

We find ourselves even more divided as Christians. When Moses led the people from Egypt to their promised land, he conveyed many regulations and laws about how the early Jewish people were to act. Among the many included in the Old Testament, we find the following:

Exodus 22:21 You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

This seems pretty simple. But is it? Are we asking the right questions? Our divisions are focused on two main themes: helping the unfortunate and defending our own security. But it is more complex than this.

Mark 12:31 “The second is this”Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We know Jesus commanded us in Mark 12:31 to love our neighbors as ourselves. Does that include loving the thousands of helpless and hungry people who travel across countries just to reach our border? Yes. But it is still not that simple. Because loving your neighbor means loving those in our country, too. We have our own hungry population and helpless individuals in very impoverished areas of the country. And doesn’t loving your neighbor include protecting others from harm as much as we possibly can? Protecting individuals in our country from violence, drugs, gangs? Taking care of our children, elderly, and individuals who live their lives in a responsible way? Isn’t that also part of loving your neighbor?

Yes. You see it is a very complex problem with no easy answers. Before we can find the answers, we must be asking the right questions. Instead of digging in our heels for one side or the other, we should be talking to each other and asking thoughtful and respectful questions. Not “Should we have security?” but how. Not “Should we help?” but how. We cannot possibly help every single person, but God can. We can pray for those who are wandering for a better life. We can contribute to charitable organizations for the hungry. We can use our Christian voices to talk to people from both sides of the border.

We cannot complete this task all at once. Solving this crisis will take time and of course funds. It will require intelligent and thoughtful solutions from both sides of the border and political spectrum.

Last week, my new book, Both Sides of the Border, was released through Ambassador International Publisher. In this novel, the lives of two women, one from each side of the border, are followed. One young woman travels across Central America and Mexico to Texas. Another woman travels from Texas through Mexico. From different cultures and beliefs, we examine their own worlds. It is a story that was written in the hope of starting conversations. It is a story of testing strength and faith.

Here is a link to the official trailer of the book, Both Sides of the Border. It is now available through Amazon and other bookstores.

Available at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1649600585/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_image_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Those Who Challenge Us

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

People come in all varieties. Not just in appearance, but in personalities. God asks us to love and care for others. All others. It can feel impossible and of course we should never put ourselves in the position of attempting to interact with those who might put us in danger. But, for all others, loving and caring for the rest, well, it can be such a challenge. You might find yourself asking, “You mean everyone? But what about so and so? They are …” and the rest of the description you provide from past experience. They were bossy, they were overbearing, they were rude, they were… and the list goes on. It is hard to truly embrace the phrase, “love and care for everyone.”

But of all of the people you encounter, those friends closest to you may, at times, be the most difficult. It can be very challenging when a close friend or loved one says something that causes you to react with an, “Ouch, that hurt,” or, “I can’t believe he/she said that,” or, “am I really like that?” The verse below says it is easier to have an enemy bother you than a friend.

“For it is not an enemy who taunts me-then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me-then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend” Psalm 55:12-13

If an enemy or someone you don’t trust says something hurtful it is somehow easier to accept.  You could even choose to avoid the person. But people you see each day may serve to help us become better people. They may hold a mirror up for us to see something that needs our attention.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another Proverbs 27:17

When these comments come our way, even if they feel like daggers to our spirit, we should step back and take a look. Is there something I can learn here? Maybe what I said came out the wrong way or perhaps I did not clearly say what I meant to convey. We should therefore be thankful that we have people in our lives to sharpen us, like iron sharpens iron. They are blessings, too.

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com