breath of joy, Faith, featureed, ingenuity, Kathy Joy, rethink, Sequestered at home

Cracked Leather, Split Soles, Tattered Laces

By Kathy Joy, author of the Breath of Joy Seasonal Coffee Table Books

“Good Shoes Take You To Good Places” Seo Min Hyun

One thing we’re not using much of these days is shoes. I don’t know about you, but I’m mostly going barefoot around the house. 

Shoe wear is optional while we remain sequestered at home.

A comfy pair of sneakers park themselves at my door for the occasional walk to the mailbox, or happily, a walk around the block; other than that, my work shoes lie dormant in the hall closet, grumpy about neglect and murmuring obscenities in the dark, behind the closet door.

There’s an artist in Fort Myers, Florida, who is busy painting sandals with messages of love and hope, decorating them with jewelry and then stringing them onto a line. Her name is Annette Brown, and her message is simple: “I think everybody needs to reach inside themselves and create something because we are all artists in whatever form.”

Annette’s neighbors are stepping up, decorating sneakers and pumps and sandals, creating visual reminders of creativity and survival. 

It has become an outdoor gallery of curated shoe art. People are out walking, and they are looking up.

Dangling Shoes
Shoes on the telephone line

Life-giving messages are written, painted and glued onto the shoes to spread cheer for all passers-by.

Shoes are a pretty accurate reflection of our personalities – much like each our own handwritten signature, they are seals of style, a unique identifier for “you”, “me”, fashionable “us”.

On a walk recently I came across an old, worn-out pair of men’s work boots on a neighbor’s front porch. The leather was cracked, their soles were split and their laces tattered. Even so, they looked amazing. 

Because inside of them, some creative person had planted a bright bunch of impatiens.
The flowers nodded in the breeze as if to say, “Look! We can bloom here and re-purpose even this ratty pair of boots!”

New life inside of worn-out containers.

No longer serviceable for feet, yet perfectly whimsical to hold a cluster of perennials.
We’re kind of like that: our bodies feel worn out at times, like a pair of old shoes.
Tired, achy, holding the shape of a hug from six feet away. But, infuse laughter, spring flowers, a hug of safety, some repurposing, and our souls fill up these bodies with sudden vitality.

If we think of our weary souls as conduits for beauty, then maybe we can feel a new infusion of love, peace, kindness and growth. With good soil, water, sunshine and God’s provision, a worn-out soul can be rejuvenated.

We, like that shabby pair of work shoes, are quietly being re-purposed for the future.
Strange soil is spilling into the holes. Unnecessary things are being shed. New and hybrid Seeds are being planted inside our worn leather, things that will sprout in due time and declare our resilience in new fruit and sweet blossoms. These things will delight our private days as well as our days when we are all back together.

Wiggle your toes and step into that.

“How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news!” Romans 10:15

Jodi Jensen, watercolor artist

This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com, and Capture Books Publishing Group, timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see my seasonal books, the “Breath of Joy! series. Breath of Joy! Singing Spring is a favorite this time of year.

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breath of joy, Coronavirus, Faith, featureed, Kathy Joy, spring books, spring season

Surprise on Beach 1, Lake Erie Pennsylvania

By Kathy Joy

Capture Books

Breath of Joy Seasonal Gift Books

I went to Beach 1 over the weekend for a mental excursion. Keeping a healthy distance from other humans, I watched from my perch on a picnic table. Above the thundering of the waves beating the shoreline, I heard a sound I hadn’t heard in some time: laughter.

A woman, bent down to scour the sand for beach glass, was suddenly drenched in cold lake water; she’d gotten a little too close to the waves. Her response was a wail of surprised laughter. Through the wind, over the water, like a rescue rope to all our drifting souls, her laughter caught us and pulled us to safety.

I laughed along with her and noticed others looking up from their nature walks, their feet, their buried thoughts and dreams. They joined in the sudden ripple of laughter.

It was music.

picnic tables on beach near waves
Picnic Tables on Beach 1, Lake Erie Pennsylvania

It was a sacred pause on a windswept beach, lasting only a moment.

I pocketed that moment like rare blue beach glass, and carried it home with me to be sustained and reminded: shared laughter was our Sunday communion; our imperfect song; our rescue.

May you be surprised and soul-fed by a swell of pure joy today. I hope it bumps into you from unexpected places and knocks you down and jiggles out a sound you need to hear: the release of your own shut-in laughter, finally finding a way out.

Kathy Joy is the author of Singing Spring, and pursuant to the request of her employer, writes Lunchtime Jabs for her co-workers in Erie, Pennsylvania while they are working from home during the quarantine. Her Breath of Joy books are a series of seasonal pick-me-up styled coffee table books featuring glorious images of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. On these images, her wordsmithing talents soar and dive and dig into the human experience.

daisies and sky breath of joy
peroxcide-alchohol-bleach-lavender
Coronavirus, dying well, Faith, featureed, L.L. Larkins, op-ed, Psalm 4, Psalm Hymns, Replete

Raise Up the Scientists & Raise Up the Faithful!

By L. L. Larkins, author of the Psalm Hymns

Have you been thoroughly confused by tuning in and hearing paradoxes like this in the news?

  • “Rest and be good to yourself.”
    • “Keep busy. Excercise. Be productive.”
  • “Post cartoons on social media for the depressed. Laughter helps people cope.”
    • “We’ll go down in history as the nation who died laughing, singing, and eating-with rolls of toilet paper stored in our shower stalls.”
  • “Together, we will get through this.”
    • “The only way to get through this is to shut our borders and take care of ourselves.”
  • “The President let the wrong people go. Losing these valuable assets put us in jeopardy of personnel, policies, and programs”
    • “No-one could possibly be prepared for a once in a generation pandemic of unknown origins.”

If you are like me (and I know I am) these soundbites provide me an inspiration to humble myself, to pray, and to research. When I find a line on an answer, I like to enter the fray with the new understanding.  There are others who have history, many facts, and a great understanding who prefer to keep their own counsel.

Yet, a Great Leveling Factor is Occurring

A leveling factor is occurring in our midst and among the nations of the world. Can we consider a few of these?

  • The smart ones are deprived of answers bringing them low. 
  • The defenseless and poor are watching their organic gardens and farms and ranches provide feasts to eat in safety.
  • The military cannot see the enemy.
  • The wealth of the rich does not help them survive.

The real question is, while world administrators gain access to humanity by following and listening in, and as they start to implement long-lasting laws and social regulations, will believers offer the hand of their Creator-Sustainer to others who need to know or will they capitulate to empty soundbites and dead-end platitudes?

Science has now shown that Covid-19 is a protein, rather than a virus. Thus, vinegar does not kill it. Hand-washing and other cleaners are still the best defense. Also, do not shake out plastic bags, paper bags, or clothing because the proteins can enter and live in the air for up to three hours.

We can only Give what we Know. 

Here’s the funnel. People can only give what we possess and know to be true. We can only know what we have submitted to learn.  We can only learn what we’ve been taught.  We can only be taught if we have teachers.

But, even scientists disagree.

  • “The mystery protein properties of the virus DNA is bad news.”
  • “There’s a patent on the virus.  Only man-made things can be patented.”
  • “There could be a resurgence.”
  • “Don’t take the anti-virus vaccine.”
  • “We’ve got to follow the science.”
  • “Alcohol is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Peroxide is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Bleach is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Bleach was invented to kill American troops in WWII.”
  • “Vinegar and lavender are the best sanitizers.”
  • “The virus is the Evangelical’s fault because they don’t believe in science.” 
  • “It’s China’s fault.”

Sometimes in our home, we pray for those we love.  Sometimes we pray for just ourselves. Sometimes we pray for the world.  Today, we prayed that the research would increase and scientific answers would be found. We also prayed for faith to increase. And, yet we continue to hear about wild ends of the spectrum.

  • “They should open every political meeting with prayer.”
  • “A third of the world could perish.”
  • “My loved one went to heaven this morning.”
  •  “Those who praise the Lord will be spared.”
  • “Christians have a greater rate of illness because they run to help and they aren’t afraid of death.”
  •  “Isolate and protect your elderly.”
  • “Anyone over 80 will not get standard medical care.”

So, we know that life will change soon.  It has already changed. Look around. Make a list. It is changing moment by moment like it did on 9/11. Like it did with the Spanish Flu (sic) and the Black Plague and is doing in Africa with the plague of locusts. How could a global pandemic not change the world as we know it? 

We are being humbled.  But, as we are being humbled, why do only a few look up from our shoes and stand in confidence?

An expert criticized the current administration in America today: We are not looking into the distance. We are only looking at the two feet in front of us in the headlights.

Maybe we are only looking at our own wallets and our own stockpiles.

But, how about this form of modern Palm Sunday church service announced on the news?

“A church provided their community paper bags of stuffed Easter eggs for the children with no human interaction.” Some say, “Resurrection Day is not Easter. Easter is a celebration of the goddess of fertility.” Others ask, “What harm is there in sugary treats and celebrating Easter egg hunts?” It is easy to throw up your hands!

There is no-one good like God.  We can only hope to be faithful in a time of trouble because of the faithfulness shown to us by someone gone before. Has someone offered compassion and wisdom to you? Practice it. Offer these gifts to someone else who needs them.

Have you only known bad examples and poor models of nurture in your life? Do the opposite. Do what your heart is wooing you to do. Maybe it isn’t even about serving others first.

The Biggest Answer to this Life has Been-Always Will Be-Walking with God.

There is a fountain of living water from which you can drink. The water originates from the Source of Life!

When we accept the age-old story that there is a Power in the highest heaven, seated on His throne Who searched throughout the world for righteousness, and seeing none, He sent kindness and healing for us by His Son’s death to take upon Himself our lawful punishment of death. After the crucifixion, Christ descended into hell and freed the captives there, and then He ascended into heaven to mediate for us and offer continuing salvation and eternal life for anyone who believes in this substitution for the forgiveness of their sins. 

When the Judge Himself provides a Substitute for a Convicted Man’s Sentence

Yes, we should sit up and listen, but we should also be humbled when the judge allows for an innocent substitute to receive the forty lashes we deserve. Why would we care? Because the substitute-volunteer of the judge’s own son.  I personally, cannot imagine any judge or father allowing such a thing unless the judge had made the law, underscored the punishment, and had the power over life and death in order to raise up his son from the grave.

Psalm 4 Try singing to the tune: DAY BY DAY and with Each Passing Moment 

Yes, the Lord has set apart the faithful,
For Himself, the Lord will hear my call.    

Oh my soul, you tremble, but be careful;

Chill your anger, be direct and still.
On your bed, reflect on your condition;        

Offer up your righteous sacrifice!
Trust the Lord, entrust to Him the outcome,

Trust the journey for He holds your life.

Many doubt and savor speculation:

“Who can show us any lasting good?”
Now, look on with favor, Lord, and save us,

Evidence of this residing joy.

My own heart knows deep resilient laughter,

Introduced by Your creative play.
This is joy much better than their feasting,

That their grain and harvest wines convey.

I will rest and I will dream reclining,

Peacefully, in sleep, I am restored;
For I know that You alone are faithful,

You’re without exception, Lord of Lords.

This sweet safety isn’t circumstantial,

For Your care is night and day supreme;

Making me, Your servant, live in safety,

You renew my life, increasing peace.

(David’s lament for evening worship with strings, verses 2-4)

adaption, Book Blurbs, Coronavirus, Faith, family caregiving, featureed, G.K. Johnson, Replete, spring season, The Zealots

Unclean?

By G.K. Johnson

Unclean. The opposite of being clean. In our current times, people are doing everything they can to avoid this descriptor. We wash our hands. When we leave our homes, we wear gloves and masks and try to keep at least six feet between ourselves and others.

There are those for whom the word is an unavoidable description of their current condition. They are sequestered in their homes or other isolated places to wait out the virus, their bodies fighting their invisible attackers as best they can. The sickness has spread through their body, out of their control…they are unclean.

Mankind is no stranger to disease and sickness.

Thousands of years ago those with life-altering illnesses and disease had even less hope for healing. Medical knowledge was extremely limited in comparison to what it is now. Those who found themselves with incurable diseases were often sequestered in isolated places with others suffering the same fate. One of these terrible diseases was leprosy. Not only were there terrible physical ramifications from the disease, but it was also believed that those infected with leprosy earned the condition through their sin.

Imagine the heaviness of this diagnosis: the shame, fear, and loneliness that the inflicted person would feel.

“Unclean!”

“Get away!”

“Don’t infect us, scum!”

Shim’on pushed into the crowd trying to see the subject of the disruption.

People backed up and parted to reveal a man swathed head to toe in dirty white linens. The only uncovered parts of his body were his fingertips and a gap in the head covering where his eyes peered out.

Looking at his hands, Shim’on flinched. Instead of healthy pink skin, he saw white deformed stubs. The man had leprosy. Instinctively, Shim’on, Andreas, and the other two disciples stepped back.

Instead of moving away from the leper, however, Shim’on watched the rabbi walk toward him! What was the man doing? Leprosy was extremely contagious. Lepers were not permitted in populated towns; but only in leper colonies outside the village.

The disease attacked the nerve functioning of those it infected and caused sores to develop all over the body. If ever a leper were to come in proximity to a ‘clean’ person, one not tainted by the disease, he was required to shout “unclean!” to warn others of his condition. The life of a leper was lonely and filled with shame.

This rabbi was taking a gamble by approaching the leper, and Shim’on couldn’t decide if he were completely crazy or extremely brave.

Jesus continued walking toward the man until he stood directly in front of him, only a foot or so away. The crowd, which had grown increasingly large, quieted, holding their breath to see what the rabbi was going to do.

Suddenly Jesus reached out his hand and set it on the man’s shoulder. Gasps and whispers crossed over the crowd.

“Be healed,” Jesus spoke quietly, looking into the man’s eyes.

The man began to cry, tears wetting the dirty cloths wrapped around his face. He reached up a hand, and it was then that Shim’on saw that what had been decaying tissue was now healthy skin. The man continued staring at his fingers and then began unwrapping the cloth, revealing a hand, then an arm. The flesh was perfectly healthy; the leprosy completely gone!

Murmurs spread, growing in volume, through the crowd. Everyone was amazed.

“Who is this man?”

“He healed the leper with a word!”

Jesus spoke to the man quietly.

Tears poured down the man’s face and he knelt before Jesus. “Thank you, Rabbi!”

He stood in amazement and Jesus clapped him on the shoulder, grinning. The man laughed in gulps of wonder and then, he departed.*

The Zealots, author G.K. Johnson. publishing September 2020, by Capture Books.

Our Lord touches even those whom the authorities in this world say are untouchable, unclean.

Our God enters into the dirtiest, most shame-filled places of our lives and speaks life!

And it brings Him joy to do it.

The book of Mark, chapter 2, records a dinner where Jesus attends to a tax collector’s needs at the tax collector’s home. The Hebrews despised tax collectors.

These tax collectors were Hebrews who had turned on their people and accepted Roman jobs because of the financial benefits. They extorted their own people and helped to support the Roman occupation at the same time. So when Jesus invites a tax collector to follow him, imagine the outrage many of the Hebrews would feel. Can’t Jesus identify the scum in our community? Is Jesus intentionally circumventing our social bias and the rules we use to keep this kind of traitor down? The disciple, Mark, reflects that some religious Pharisees grumbled to the disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

Jesus replies, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Isn’t this beautiful? It’s the very core of the gospel. I am unclean. You are unclean. We are all physically, socially, and spiritually sick with sin. And it’s only when we can acknowledge that truth to Jesus, the Great Physician, in a seed of faith for His help, that He can administer His miracles of life and spiritual birth. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times it’s a healing of our hearts.

Let’s be careful and wash our hands and follow other medical wisdom to not spread sickness. Yes, let’s also be mindful of the unclean around us…the obviously sick and those who may not show physical symptoms.

But, let’s also ask, How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus? Perhaps it’s letting His word soak into our own hearts while resting so that we have some good news to spread in a fresh way. Perhaps, it is sending a card or letter, singing hope to our neighbors from our backyard, offering to help with shopping or giving out medical gloves for commercial transactions, or maybe simply making a phone call.

Most of all, remember, dear unclean one…Jesus came to help you.

References: Matthew 8 (New Living Translation of the Bible)

To pre-order your copy of The Zealots, contact us today.

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“Oh, I Need That!” Clickbait

Media Alert!

0September 4, 2019 Reprinted with editions

By permission of Capture Books co-author, Sue Summers

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:2 (The Message)

“Oh, I need that!”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Advertising is ubiquitous! Indeed, it’s everywhere! The average American sees 3000-5000 ads per day. Think about it! That doesn’t mean just TV commercials… it counts every form, including signs as you are driving down the street, pop-up ads on the computer, brand names on clothing, notices on buses, upcoming event reminders in bathroom stalls, etc. Every day we’re bombarded with messages that intend to direct our buying, thinking, and actions.

And so are our children and teens.

Our culture today is overrun with ever more invasive means of getting messages to us. In September of 2015, BBC reporter, Ben Frampton introduced the Changing Face of Journalism as clickbait from the outset of any news article. Technology is being utilized in new ways that impact our daily lives and attract our eyeballs to messages. Perhaps you have been a  “victim” of clickbait.

“Clickbait consists of attention-grabbing headlines used for Web content to lure readers into clicking on normally uninteresting content. Many websites use clickbait as a mechanism to gain popularity via higher click-through rates. Clickbait is characterized by a highly enticing headline with a hyperlink that, when clicked, reveals a website that has content that is not nearly as interesting as the headline. Clickbait is therefore considered to be a strategy to increase the number of views to a particular Web page.” (Techopedia.com)

Photo by Hope Aye on Pexels.com

Have you read clickbait headlines such as,

“Lose 20 pounds in 20 days! New miracle pill!”

“Which Hollywood couple is giving away millions?”

“Seniors: stop paying property tax! Learn this easy strategy now!”

Sometimes these headlines immediately redirect a reader to a different domain. They are simply fishing hooks.

Buzzfeed alone regularly attracts more than 10 million unique users in a single day. 

Buzzfeed can bring strong returns for careful users, but it has also created expensive traps for the unsuspecting.

Bloggers often use clickbait to earn their influencer income through affiliate marketing. However, promoting affiliate products can easily distract not only a blogger’s readership, but also the hopeful content blogger from the central purpose of his or her blog.

Products are not the only thing being sold through clickbait.

Personal information is transferred through every click made to the collectors and analyzers of these products and services. This fact can be used positively when you are able to grow a base of contacts to use for legitimate business and kingdom purposes.

A darker morass of reasons others may use clickbait.

When a woman clicks on a piece of clothing or sleepwear, she may find herself next inundated with new ads for women of her age and size in sultry and lewd poses. When a boy or girl clicks on an ad, it is not unusual to discover advertisements for games, adventures, political ads, pornography, phishing sites to military operations, sign up sheets, edgy books and other age-monetized bait popping up on tomorrow’s online screens.

Because religious advertisements are considered a hate-speech liability to fan bases, it is not a Christian ad we can count on seeing unless the advertiser has taken pains to identify only easily recognized Christian buyers acceptable to the marketing host.

Our children need to be introduced to this marketing strategy so they are aware of the intentionality and purpose of these alluring headlines.

And then there’s location-based marketing.

Have you received a text message from a store just as you were driving near it?

Location-based marketing (LBM) typically takes advantage of the geolocation of a customer (usually via a GPS-enabled device) and uses these techniques… to send personalized and relevant messages at the right place, at the right time to the right person.” (www.martechadvisor.com/articles/geolocation/how-location-based-marketing-will-disrupt-marketing-in-2019)

Does this CEO’s statement bother you? “Augmenting location with data about user behavior patterns enables a brand to create more timely, customized user engagement.” (Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, CEO, Connecthings)

More technology, more knowledge about each person’s consumer habits and personal preferences, more desire to sway your thinking, buying, and actions, and lo and behold! GPS-based marketing!

We all need to raise our awareness of “Peeping Tom” marketers and interfering corporations. If you recently looked at e-bikes on Amazon for a possible purchase, and then you were suddenly accosted by pop-up ads for e-bikes on Facebook, websites, and online games… it wasn’t a coincidence!

Advertising has come a long way, baby! No doubt there are more intrusive techniques being created right now, with the ultimate goal of saturating your life with appealing hard-to-ignore ads.

God has told us to be ever vigilant. We need to be dealing with life with “eyes wide open”.

So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?

Photo by Kjell Kuehn on Pexels.com
  • Discussion is crucial. Talk with them about why advertising is part of our daily lives. Ask, “Where do you see ads?”
  • Discuss both the benefits and the downside of advertising. Ask, “Why do you think advertising works?”
  • Ask, “Is the accumulation of possessions enough as the purpose of a life?”
  • Ask, “What resources are available to create useful click ads for kingdom purposes? Do you have a service or a product for which you would like to design a click ad to help others?”

The world says you are what you own. Our treasures (material possessions) can own us. Matthew 6:21 states: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV)

Philippians 3:14 is a bold statement: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

Stay on top of this situation, be creative, and help young people keep their eyes on the prize!

//

Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!

Her website is: www.MediaAlert.org

Sue can be reached at: Sue@MediaAlert.org