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Lending to God

By Tonya Jewel Blessing from the Bible study, Soothing Rain

My husband and I used to live on a rutted, dirt road east of Denver. Our home rested on the south side of the road. During springtime, the black and white cattle with their yearlings grazed on the north side.

One morning late in May, a woman from the city decided to go for a ride in the peaceful, quiet country. When a semi-truck hauling grain passed her compact car on the narrow road, she panicked, oversteered, and rolled her vehicle into the grassy field across the street from our home.

The heifers and calves gathered round to stare at their mutual predicament.

We decided to become a little more welcoming than the heifers and calves. A glass of water, a gentle embrace, and kind words provided the environment for her to share her struggles with divorce, depression, loneliness, finances, and health concerns.

The Bible says in Proverbs 19:17 (NIV) that when we show kindness to the poor we are lending to God.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”

We weren’t lending to our friend.  We were lending to the Lord.

Our new friend wasn’t “poor” in the physical sense, but she was certainly poor in spirit. God has a heart for those living in poverty – whether they are struggling for physical or spiritual nutrition. The Bible defines the poor as people who are weak, deprived, needy, empty, and withered. In the original text of this verse showing kindness meant bending down, or stooping over; sitting face to face with someone in need; looking them in the eyes with the love of Christ; offering friendship; uniting our lives with their lives for the purpose of easing
their burden. In fact, the word “lending” means to weave together.

When we “lend” our kindness to others, the LORD becomes involved in our efforts. He aids us in our service to those in need. The Bible says that He even rewards us. He brings restoration, peace, and safety to our lives. He gives us strength to finish our spiritual race.

May the LORD continue to use us both as individuals and collectively, to lend to those in need both physically and spiritually.

Learn more on Goodreads about Soothing Rain.

Find also, a Goodreads review of Tonya Blessing’s Melody of the Mulberries.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2967511185 

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Quiet Influence

By Tonya Jewel Blessing from the Bible study, Soothing Rain

I’ve been wearing the same perfume for over 30 years.

Every once in a while, I briefly try something new, but so far I’ve always reverted back to the familiar. The scent seems to fit me. It leaves its mark, but yet isn’t overpowering. It’s a soft blend of earthly tones that I think compliments me.

Influence is like a fragrance. It lingers. The scent is a reminder of something spoken or shared.

I’m not an “I am woman, hear me roar…” kind of gal. I prefer to live my life with grace and beauty – gently walking and touching the lives of others with more of a purr than a roar.

The Bible encourages women in 1 Peter 3:4 to cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. In living for Christ, I want to leave my mark, footprints that show me walking beside someone else in his or her journey. I don’t want to go a single day without influencing someone for Jesus.

I pray this prayer, “I will follow You with a pure heart. Show me the people you want me to impact with biblical principles, a listening ear, and  encouragement for the journey of life.”

Every woman’s fragrance is different – even if the perfume is the same, once mixed with an individual’s body chemistry the scent changes.

Some fragrances are subtle, others a little more pronounced. The same is true of the inner beauty referred to in 1 Peter 3:4. Gentleness and graciousness look different on different women.

May our fragrance linger and be a reminder of God’s amazing love and grace – as a “quiet influence”.

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The Movie Credit: “Compassionate Woman”

Compassionate Teacher Helper A Perfect Tree
A Compassionate Teacher is a Helper in A Perfect Tree Christmas storybook

Chris and I recently enjoyed a date night. As part of our special evening, we went to a movie. The credits at the end of the feature included a character identified as compassionate woman. Her small act of kindness in the movie did not merit her having a name.

“And some have compassion, making a difference.”
(Jude 22)

The same can be true of real life. Small acts of compassion and kindness are often not given merit, except by the recipient. People value and remember when others show them kindness. Noticing someone is like giving them a gift.

Acts of compassion include benevolence, empathy, grace, kindness, mercy, sympathy, tenderness, charity, clemency, commiseration, condolence, consideration, and softheartedness. True compassion focuses first and foremost on the revelation of God’s great love demonstrated through His Son Jesus Christ.

Earlier today, I read an article written by Bette Owens on compassion. “When I think of a compassionate woman, I think of a godly woman.”

Bette Owens also describes the characteristics of a compassionate woman:

  • A compassionate Christian woman has a hunger for God.
  • A compassionate Christian woman lives for eternity.
  • A compassionate Christian woman avoids sin.
  • A compassionate Christian woman loves others.

In my first novel, The Whispering of the Willows, the Ashby children have endeared themselves to a single woman living across Big Creek from them. They escape to her and call her their “love aunt” for good reason. In many ways, her hospitality shows through, by her taking the time to listen to the children, and taking action on their behalf when called for. She hides a child in safety and she calls the sheriff when an investigation is warranted. My own sweet aunt is the prototype of the loving aunt in my story.

What is Your Next Must-Read?

Recently, I enjoyed reading a story featuring another compassionate woman.  This woman is the teacher of a child who has been wronged at Christmastime. She has put away extra gifts for such a time as the story presents. I highly recommend A Perfect Tree by Denise Dunham for your younger kiddos this season. Disappointments abound in life, but compassionate women can make a difference.

“A compassionate Christian woman will make a difference in the lives of all who meet her. Her life is truly one that makes a difference. We can all be a compassionate Christian woman and make a difference if we would love and serve the One who makes a difference.” (Bette Owens)

Author Tonya Jewel Blessing is working on her third novel in the Big Creek series.  Don’t miss out on her first two installments, they have been highly recommended by many readers!

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A Perfect Tree – scene with compassionate teacher-p19 by Denise Dunham
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LIVING WELL

By Tonya Jewel Blessing

Proverbs 15:31 is aimed like an arrow right to my heart. Receiving good advice is an important aspect of spiritual maturity.

King David was an amazing man – not perfect, but a man after the essence of God. He desired to serve the Lord and His people wisely and justly. According to Psalms, he recognized the need to be both skillful and heartfelt.

In 2 Samuel, David decides to take a census that angers the Lord. Theologians have long debated why the census was wrong:

  • David was numbering the men under the age of 20 for military service.
  • The census had no direct order from God.
  • David was going to use the census to tax the people.
  • David was not trusting God’s promise to Abraham to make the people innumerable.
  • Pride and power were possible motivations.

There is also the possibility that once the census was taken that King David neglected the portion of God’s command that required a ransom be given. This ransom was the requirement given by Israel’s meek leader, Moses.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD when you number them so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.”

(Exodus 30:11-12) https://gentlereformation.com/2020/03/02/why-davids-census-was-wrong/

Before David took the census, he neglected to listen to the good advice he received from his trusted friend and mighty man Joab (2 Samuel 24:3).

Had the king listened to great trouble and dire consequences could have been avoided. The Lord’s punishment was severe. A plague fell over the land for three days. David suffered and those he served experienced devasting circumstances.

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ISBN 13: 9780997897630 ASIN: B074F2C8SV
Soothing Rain is a humorous and provoking look at a variety of events in a woman’s life, and what might be done in the moment. Soothing Rain is a women’s crowd breaking system of stories and discussion questions (a global interchange). https://www.amazon.com/Soothing-Rain-Living-Water-Refresh-ebook/dp/B074F2C8SV/
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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