Classic Book Read- Rebecca

01 RebeccaLast night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. -the second Mrs. de Winter

I found this book very good and well written. Though it is the first person narrative of the unknown “second Mrs. de Winter,” it felt more like the “universal omniscient POV” (where the author, knowing everything, gives the perspective).

With its famous opening line, (see above) is became an epic classic of romance and suspense that changes the way people thought of novels for years to come.

Daphne Du Maurier wrote several novels, short stories, and even biographies, but she will most be known for Rebecca, a classic that has been subject of controversy, accused of plagiarism, and even considered “non-intellectual” by the critics of her day. However, the book continues to be, along with Jamaica Inn, one of the most remembered books of her career.

 

Top 11 Villains Who Became Heroes

top11 villains turned heroicThis is a mash-up of some my favorite villains who became heroes. Now, I am not talking about how they were wishy-washy as a villain or were gray and slowly became a hero. I am talking about villains who needed a real redemption story and rose up to become a champion of what is right.

11. Plastic Man- Patrick “Eel” O’Brien was a petty crook, that is until a robbery at a chemical factory gave him elongated powers. Though originally a villain, he decided to use his powers for good and eventually went on to become a proud member of the Justice League of America.

10. The Creeper- In The New Adventures of Batman & Robin, a reporter gets dowsed with laughing gas and chemicals to become a rampaging lunatic. However, he is seen fighting along other heroes in the spin-off Justice League Unlimited. Please note, this version is different from his comic book counterpart.

9. Scott Lang aka Ant-Man II- Though originally a thief, Scott stole the Ant-Man suit and a container of Pym particulars to rescue his daughter from some blackmailers. Since that time, he has been a member of both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

8. Namor- The Sub-Mariner, former king of Atlantis, was a villain of both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four before Captain America convinced him to put aside his evil ways. Since then, he has been a member of the Avengers, Defenders, and even the X-Men. 

7. Gru- Featured in Despicable Me, the villain became a full fledged hero in the sequel while caring for his three adopted daughters and his Minions. Since he is voiced by Steve Carrell, he just had to make it on this list.

6. Rogue- The famous member of the X-Men was once a member of Mystique’s Brotherhood of Mutants before becoming a hero. While the film trilogy ignores this storyline, it stays a part of her character in the comic books.

5. Hawkeye- Believe it or not, Clint Barton was a villain, even working for HYDRA, before joining SHIELD and the Avengers later. While not a founding Avenger, he served on the second incarnation of the team, Avengers West Coast and later became a recurring character.

4. Red Hood- Jason Todd was the second Robin when Batman failed to save him from the Joker. However, he returned as the villainous Red Hood and later became the leader of the Outlaws, and eventually partially restored himself to the Batman Family.

3. The Winter Soldier- Bucky Barnes was Captain America’s sidekick, until he was captured by a band of villains who turned him evil. He would later remember his past life and become an Avenger, and later, when Steve Roger became Director of SHIELD, he would become the next Captain America.

2. Black Widow- Yes it is true. Like Clint Barton, she was a villain until being rescued by Hawkeye. She would later join SHIELD as a double-agent and eventually become a member (later a leader) of the Avengers West Coast.

1. Vegeta- Yes, Dragon Ball Z fans, Vegeta made the top of the list. He was quite literally a mass murderer corrupted by the evil villain Lord Frieza. However, after witnessing Goku become a Super Saiyan, he slowly changed his ways to a gray character, to neutral, and then in the Buu Saga, he redeemed himself as a true hero.

 

Music Review- Tessah Dunn Acoustic Cover of Disclosure’s Omen ft. Sam Smith

01 Tessah Dunn OmenMy friend Tessah Dunn is truly gifted. I was a friend of hers during my school days in California, so my review might be slightly biased.

I am not a huge fan of the song itself, Disclosure’s Omen featuring Sam Smith, but Tessah’s performance does it justice with her acoustic cover. She strums along very beautifully as she plays her guitar. Her voice is just amazing as she sings the lyrics to the song.

You can check it out by clicking on the picture above.

Michelle Griep’s Stages of Writing a Book

From her Writer Off The Leash blog, author Michelle Griep created this satirical diagram of how the author feels during certain moments of his or her writing a book. It was almost so accurate, I had trouble laughing. She said that it was available to “steal” so I’m posting it here, but I give full credit to her because she is an amazing author!

The+Stages+of+Writing+a+Book-+How+an+Author+Feels

Author Resource: Before You Quit Writing, Read This

01 before you quit writingIf you are a writer who is at their wits end and do not want to go on any further, than check out Before You Quit Writing, Read This! It is an excellent book full of stories from authors across the board. Some of their stories are tearjerkers, some funny, some are thinkers, but they are all inspiring and show you the importance of never giving up on your book manuscript, poem, short story, novella, or whatever it is.

Who Is Creative?

Who is creativeCreativity seems out of reach for so many people. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone tell me, “It is easy for you. You are a writer and an artist, but I can’t do anything creative. It’s just not in my system.”

It can seem like this is true. A person sets out to paint, and their parents would not even put it on the fridge. They wrote a poem, but no one would listen. They sang a song, but the dogs started to howl. They sewed a sweater, but it did not fit. They kept trying and trying until they eventually just gave up.

Creativity, to many, appears to be a talent that you are born with. It is a part of your brain that either develops or does not. Some live in agony and keep on trying and trying at things they continually fail at while a few come to accept this and move onto the mundane while simultaneously mourning the masterpieces that could have been. 

I believe, however, that every person is creative in some way or the other. If they have failed at being creative in one expression, I believe they should try another.

For instance, at one time, I loved painting animals. My mother still has some of my old notebooks and it is filled with less-than-perfect renderings of all kinds of mammals, of which eighty percent are wolves. All growing up, I did my best to create animal based masterpieces, but I was never very good at it, though I later pursued abstract art. I was on my way to give up, but one day, someone mentioned to me that I was good at telling stories and maybe I should try my hand at that. I soon wrote songs, which became poems, that led me to write fanfiction, and then onto other writing endeavors including ghostwriting and article writing.

From this, I began to realize that many people are creative, but have given up. Besides fine art mediums like painting, drawing, writing, music, film, sculpting, fashion, and even make-up artists, I see creativity in other things. When architects design a building, they are being creative. When inventors design something innovative, they are being creative. When computer programmers write new codes, they are being creative. When business owners raise their business from the ground up with no outside help, they are being creative.

There is no such thing as “creative people.” People are creative. Some say, “what is creativity anyway?” Creativity is the ability to think outside the box mixed with the boldness to color outside the lines. Accept constructive criticism, but do not listen to people who are critical. Create because it is in you, no matter what anyone says.

Who is creative? The answer is simple: everyone. You may try something that does not work, so be it, keep moving on until you find what drives you. Do not stop filing your ideas until you find what works for you. Everyone has something that they can do. Do not stop looking for it and never give up. Just keep creating.

Music Review- TobyMac: Eye’M All Mixed Up (Mega Remix/Medley)

tobymac eyem all mixed upTobyMac did a remix album and featured on there was this combo song: Eye’M All Mixed Up (Mega Remix/Medley).

It has some of your favorite songs mixed in, including: Speak Life, Eye On It, Unstoppable, and a whole host of some of his greats! Check it out by clicking on the picture to link to his official YouTube channel. You will not be disappointed.

Music Review- TobyMac’s Feel It featuring Mr. Talkbox

Tobymac Feel itTobyMac is a lyrical genius. His music mixes and rhymes are a tribute to what a great singer and songwriter he is.

His newest album, This Is Not A Test is proving to once again be a great album. I hope to get the chance to review the whole thing, but for now, Feel It will have to do.

Feel It features a staple of TobyMac, Mr. Talkbox, who sings right along with Toby as they bring us a great song that combines R&B with orchestra. It’s got synthesizers, stringed instruments, and horned instruments. It truly shows why TobyMac is a staple in the music industry.

Click on the picture for a link to the office YouTube video.

Music Review- Anthem Lights: Best of 2014 Pop Medley

2014 best of pop medleyBringing you the combined lyrics of several 2014 hit songs, Anthem Lights does it again! This band is impressive in their talent and this video shows it.

The medley features an amalgamation from the best of lyrics of songs like: “Problem” “Blank Space” “All About That Bass” and “Boom Clap.” All of these great songs bring you one awesome combo.

Click on the picture to go to their official YouTube page.

Movie Review- Jurassic World

01 jurassic worldThis is the fourth film based on the books by novelist Michael Crichton. It is set twenty-two years after the events of the first film, Jurassic Park, the park is now open under the new title Jurassic World. You would think that the staff at InGen would have stopped trying to play God, but alas, no, that is not the case. For not only are they still cloning dangerous predatory dinosaurs like Velociraptors and T-Rexes, they are gene splicing to create the new more deadly Indominus Rex. Now, there is nothing they can do once it escapes in a park filled with thousands of tourists.

I am a huge Jurassic Park movie fan and have been for many years. Despite The Lost World: Jurassic Park being a rip of a plot written by novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (yes, the creator of Sherlock Holmes), I was a fan of the whole trilogy.

Thus, I came to the theater with high expectations and I was not let down. Though it is a similar premise to both the first and third film Jurassic Park III, it was very entertaining, action packed, and full of Dinosaur action. I enjoyed it a great deal. I did have the same thought as my wife, who told me beforehand, “Haven’t these people learned their lesson?”

This did not deter me from the film, however, and I found it enjoyable with a great story, action, special effects, and dialogue. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas-Howard stole the film from the other actors. While some of the science and assumptions made are shaky at best, it was still a great thrill ride.

Favorite Quote: I was train in the Navy, not the Navajo.

PARENTAL CONCERNS: Language, action-violence, terror throughout, suggestive themes

  • CAST:
  • Chris Pratt as Owen Grady
  • Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing
  • Vincent D’Onofrio as Vic Hoskins
  • Ty Simpkins as Gray Mitchell
  • Omar Sy as Barry
  • B. D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu
  • Irrfan Khan as Simon Masrani
  • Jake Johnson as Lowery Cruthers
  • Lauren Lapkus as Vivian
  • Brian Tee as Katashi Hamada
  • Katie McGrath as Zara
  • Judy Greer as Karen Mitchell
  • Andy Buckley as Scott Mitchell
  • Eric Edelstein as Nick
  • Jimmy Fallon as himself
  • Jimmy Buffett as himself
  • Colin Trevorrow as the voice of Mr. DNA
  • Brad Bird makes a cameo as the voice of the park’s monorail announcer

Great Romance/Fantasy Read- Gallimore

01 Gallimore

I’m not usually into romantic novels, but Michelle Griep’s Gallimore pulled me in right away. It is a romance mixed with historical fiction and fantasy. It has a great story filled with time travel, evil barons, heroic knights, damsels, and faith being restored.

I highly recommend it for your summer reading. It is a definite page turner!

No Success Without the GRIND

lonestarjake88:

This is a great article from Kristen Lamb! Check it out!

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike. Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

What do you want? How badly do you want it? What are you willing to sacrifice? These are the questions we must ask not once, but daily. There is no success without the GRIND.

Or perhaps, the G.R.I.N.D.

Give

Every day we have something to give that will keep propelling us forward. I love, love, love the movie Rocky. This is among my favorite quotes:

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and…

View original 1,558 more words

Top 100 Movie Villains 50-41

100 villains

These are the stuff of our nightmares. They made us laugh, cry, shout in rage, and sent shivers down our spines These are the baddest of the bad and the most evil of the evil. This is who I see as the:

41. Galvatron (Transformers The Movie)

42. Darth Maul (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)

43. Jack Napier aka The Joker (Batman, 1989)

44. Fernand Mondego (The Count of Monte Cristo)

45. King Ghidorah (Godzilla VS King Ghidora)

46. Tony Montana (Scarface)

47. Garlic, Jr. (Dragon Ball Z: The Movie aka The Dead Zone)

48. Lady Tremaine (Cinderella, 1950)

49. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

50. Hans Gruber (Die Hard)

 

A Leader Isn’t Just The Person In Charge, They Empower

leader isnt just the person in chargeIf your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. -John Quincy Adams

For a while, I thought that being a leader was the person who was just in charge. They made sure there was no chaos among the employees and went about giving orders even when they did not know exactly what they were doing.

This belief came from one of my first jobs. It was as a shift leader at a local fast food taco-style joint. I took the job as a favor from a friend who was the district manager over several of the sames restaurants in the area. I was all set to learn from the store’s manager who I will call Johnny. Let me just tell you, Johnny was not the teaching kind.

He was constantly late, hung over, and very mad at the world. He would yell for no reason, especially at me because I was friends with his superior. Needless to say, he did not inspire confidence as a leader. He got in trouble once and had the audacity to ask me to be a witness on his behalf. I did it only because I knew it would be trouble if I did not. After a grueling hot summer, I left that job at the earliest opportunity.

Later I had a leader named Theresa who was the polar opposite. She was not just the person in charge, she empowered us. She took time with everyone on her team. She got to know all of our strengths, but our weaknesses as well. She would try to help us grow in our weaknesses and learn from our mistakes. When she confronted me about a mistake, I never felt judged or hurt, I felt a desire to do better. That time was all too brief.

From these experiences and others, I learned a few things about what makes a good leader. 

Here is a summary of a few things I learned:

  • A leader has a listening ear when it comes to their subordinates. They genuinely hear their concerns and take the time to acknowledge them, even taking time to follow-up if it is necessary.
  • A leader validates their people. They compliment them and the work they are doing. They do not take credit for others work, but acknowledges the hard work the individual or the team did. 
  • A leader creates confidence. Even if you think it is a bad decision, they inspire you to follow them wherever they are going because you know you can trust them to do the right thing even it blows up in everyone’s face.
  • A leader has both knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is what you have learned and wisdom is how you apply it. They can solve problems. Whether it is a dispute or an issue, they can take it and fix it.
  • A leader can inspire. They inspire not only to do your job, but to be the best person you can be. They are someone to trust and look up to. They challenge you to be grow and strive to be better.

When I had the opportunity to lead, I took these lessons and applied them to myself. I remembered the good, the bad, and sometimes ugly moments of the leaders in my life and put it to good use. I found the people I did lead were loyal and willing to work. I did not just declare myself as the person in charge, I drove myself to empower my team.

What are some pieces of wisdom you have learned from leaders you have served under?

In Defense of Christian Music

01 Christian musicThis article is to confront the notion that Christian music is suffering and no longer relevant. I say it is relevant. I will agree, Christian music had a lot of growing to do, but that does not excuse Christians using that as an excuse to dishonor them and, even worse, use it as an excuse to listen to secular music that not only talks about living a sinner’s life, but defames God and Jesus in the very lyrics.

I do not think it is a sin to listen to secular music, but let Holy Spirit guide you when listening to it. I enjoy rock and roll, country, pop, alternative, and yes, I’ll even dance to them, in the privacy of my home. Not because I think dancing is evil, but because I do not know how to dance.

That being said, some Christians take the few bad sounding Christians bands as an excuse not to listen to any Christian music, but even worse, they use it as an excuse to find understanding and “prophetic” meaning in secular which is not Biblical. Yes, God can speak through secular things including music, but finding spiritual and prophetic messages in secular things is not the rule or the exception. If God speaks to you with a rock song, great, but do not assume that means that there is a hidden meaning in every song the band or label puts out.

When I hear Christians brag on the talent of Mumford & Sons and One Direction, or even worse, Justin Bieber, but then viciously attack the music from Christian bands with a similar sound, I find that very insulting. If anything, it provides clean music for people to listen to so they don’t listen to trash.

Let me give you a testimony. I had a friend in my youth group who listened to music that was perverted and disturbing. Believe me, I am not exaggerating. It songs about sex, drugs, gang violence, and everything in between. His mother would try to get him to listen to anything, but he would refuse. He made a deal with his mother that if she could find something better, he would throw away everything and only listen to Christian music. When I heard this, I took a chance and gave him a CD packet full of Audio Adrenaline, RED, newsboys, Falling Up, and a whole host of others. Holy Spirit convicted his heart and as he listened to every single CD. He tossed out his secular music and started listening to music, while not exclusively Christian, was at least more healthy.

Now for my own story. While growing up, I was not allowed to listen to secular music when I was a kid and so I listened to such bands as newsboys, TobyMac, etc. I found their music did speak to my heart and helped me find perspective in some situations in my life. As I got older, I did discover the world of rock music and I never looked back. However, I did not get on the bandwagon (pardon the pun) where I was criticizing Christian music left and right. Granted, there are Christian bands that are not talented, but we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have great Christian musicians like Corey Asbury, Jesus Culture, Kim Walker-Smith, The Afters, Mandisa, and so many more!

Let us support Christian music and as we do, more talented people will come to forefront and bring us music that touches our heart and spirit.

This article is an updated and revised version of the article Opinion on Christian Music published on May 5th, 2013.

Painting- Speckled

01 SpeckledI did this painting just for fun. However, when I showed it, I had a buyer right away. I was so surprised. I think it was the coffee colors. It’s just various shades of browns, tans, and blacks on a small canvas. The paint is acrylic.

Movie Review- Ant-Man

Ant-Man poster.jpg

After seeing his shrinking technology as a potential threat in 1989, Hank Pym, a SHIELD Agent codenamed Ant-Man, vows to suppress the technology and keep it from getting into SHIELD’s or anyone else’s hands.

Fast forward to present day, Scott Lang is getting out of prison after stealing from his former employers. His digital burglary was not for selfish means, but to steal back innocent people’s funds that his company had scammed. He is divorced, his ex-wife is dating a cop, and they do not want him to see daughter.

Meanwhile, Hank Pym and his estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne see that current Pym Technologies’ CEO Darren Cross (Pym’s former protege) is attempting recreate the Pym Particles that allow something or someone to shrink. They know they must stop him or the formula will fall into the wrong hands.

Hank recruits Scott to become the new Ant-Man so they can stop Darren Cross and his Project: Yellowjacket before HYDRA can get their hands on it.

I will admit, I came into this film with low expectations. I was not sure what to expect from a film about a founding Avenger, but still a minor hero in the Marvel Comics line. However, I was pleasantly surprised. While the reference to HYDRA should have gone to Iron Man 3‘s AIM, I found the film very entertaining, action-packed, and just a fun ride. It has several references to upcoming Marvel films including Captain America: Civil War, season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil, and even a subtle reference to Spider-Man.

However, it stands alone as a great movie with great one-liners and slapstick comedy. Paul Rudd’s performance is particularly great in this newest installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Check it out!

Favorite Quote: Hi, my name is Scott.

PARENTAL CONCERNS: Language, violence, disturbing images

CAST:

  • Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / the new Ant-Man
  • Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
  • Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne
  • Corey Stoll as Darren Cross / Yellowjacket
  • Bobby Cannavale as Paxton
  • Michael Peña as Luis
  • Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave
  • Wood Harris as Gale
  • Judy Greer as Maggie
  • David Dastmalchian as Kurt
  • Anthony Mackie as Falcon
  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers

7 Qualities I Look For In My Heroes and Heroines

7 Qualities- linkedin

I have several heroes and heroines. Some are living, like Golden Globe winning actor Robert Downey Jr., some are dead, like author Mary Shelley, and some I have met personally, like leadership guru John Maxwell.  Besides the ones I just listed, I have a diverse group of people I admire. There are American presidents, scientists, politicians, inventors, public speakers, activists, and many others. Some on my list are controversial figures, while others can be found on anyone’s list.

When it comes to picking your heroes and heroines, I found that it does not have to be someone who is so far out there that you could only catch a glimpse, it can be someone as close as a relative, teacher, minister, coach, and even a boss.

Throughout my life, even among my diverse list, I have found that they all have converging qualities that help make them who they are. Some of them are expressed differently, but these qualities can be seen in their daily lives and in their various endeavors.

Here are the 7 qualities I look for in my heroes:

Leadership- These men and women were are leaders in their fields and captains of industry. Some have led movements and others have came up with incredible ideas. They are people we respect who have led the charge in their chosen trades and beliefs.

Creativity- I love to see someone who can think outside the box. They can produce the unique and color outside the lines. They take conformity and burn it to the ground, writing incredible books, performing amazing scripts, singing or playing wonderful music, but most importantly they take the mundane and make it beautiful.

Pride- I am not speaking of the arrogant kind of pride. I am speaking of the kind of pride where you are proud of your work. These people are proud of their work and do not take critics too seriously. While they are open to improvement, they still believe in what they do and all that they have accomplished.

Grace- How they handle adversity is important to me. Did they whine their way through it, or did they handle it with grace? Did they act entitled, or did they handle it with poise? When I see someone who is graceful as they handle life’s hardships, I see someone who I want to learn from. I know I can glean from what they have.

Courage- Did they back away and cower, or did they take a stand? Was there stand unpopular, but they still moved forward? I look for someone to admire who is brave and is not afraid about what others think. Peter Marshall once said, “Unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” I want my heroes and heroines to live courageously.

Integrity- Are they a man or woman of integrity? They do not have to perfect, but I want them to be who they say they are. Men and women who do not play a game, but who live out what they say and believe. They are honest and when they make a mistake, they admit it and move on, ready for the next challenge.

Passion- This quality is very important to me. I want to hear people talk about why they love what they do and how I can do what I am passionate about. Whatever their cause is, they can make you feel a part of it and that you want to join with them on their cause.

Tell me, what are qualities you look for in men and women who inspire you? Do your heroes and heroines have similar traits, or do you have a different list. I would love to hear it!

What’s In A Style?

style guidesWhen publishing a magazine or periodical, it seems that there are so many things to consider. There is subject, peer review type, audience, staffing, online or not, and so much more, but not in the least is the type of style guide you will use.

The choice of style appears to be a minute detail compared to the other decisions editors and publishers have to make, but a concrete style guide determines the format an article and even how you make citations and references.

Medical and psychological periodicals have it somewhat easier than other disciplines. They can just slap on AMA Style or APA Style respectively, and many, rightly so, do. Journalism has it even easier. There are exactly three press styles that folks take seriously in that field. A few other industries can find solace in the fact that others have created guides for them. For instance, Web Style Guide for publishing online, Harvard’s Bluebook Guide for legal research, and Gregg Reference Manual for business.

For other types of journals it can be difficult. There are so many different styles to choose from. It can feel like a literal jungle. You want British English? You got Oxford Guide to Style. You want American English? You got Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. No, you say. You want Canadian English? We even got that covered with The Canadian Style and I have not even gotten to non-English style guides created by international standards organizations.

With the market of styles flooded, some publications have begun to use an “in-house” style that they have either developed independently or have made from an amalgam of several different styles. For example, while the research paper format may follow MLA Handbook, but citations might be done in the style of Index Medicus. Personally, I find the “mix and match” styles very confusing. 

When I was in college, most of my teachers did not care about the style with two exceptions. My journalism adjunct professor wanted us to use the Associated Press Style Guide and my Sociology professor let us choose between The Chicago Manual of Style and MLA Handbook. Of course, I also knew of APA Style.

It was not until I got into the publishing industry that I discovered the maze of guide styles that were floating around in the atmosphere. While examining various periodicals, I would look in the “About” tab and find the randomness that was there. Now to be fair, most used a pretty well-known style guide, but I would still find ones that were so rare that I had not even heard mentioned.

Like I said earlier, choosing a style guide can be considered a minute problem compared to such issues like peer review or staffing, but I disagree. Choosing an acceptable, easy to follow style will make your periodical, magazine, or journal seem more attractive to readers, editors, and even your readers.

For more information, I have a list of the top three styles respected by the writing and journalistic community:

  • Chicago Manual of Style
  • MLA Handbook
  • APA Style Guide

Painting- Red, White, and Blue to celebrate Independence Day!

42 Red White Blue

Happy Independence Day!

I did this one for July 4th. It is on a smaller canvas. It is red, white, and blue to celebrate my United States of America. I’m a proud patriot.

Though the United States is going through some rough times, I still believe America is the greatest country in the whole world. It is a symbol of freedom and hope. It’s true that times are changing, but I still believe in the American Dream and what all citizens of the country, whether red, yellow, brown, black, white, can accomplish anything in life with hard work and a good work ethic.

I hope my fellow Americans will join me in saying, I believe in the USA!

Painting- Hidden Cross: My open letter to fellow believers

01 Hidden Cross

To all of my fellow believers,

I painted the cross into a sea of bronze and gold. Can you find it? I hid it intentionally, but it is there. It is muted. It is a part of the painting, but not even necessarily the main part. Why is that? Shouldn’t our faith be easy to see and easy to find?

It seems like today, Christians are hiding their beliefs if the world disagree with it. These Christians will deny that the Bible says something or argue with you about interpretation because they want to appear tolerant.

That is because these Christians have bought into this big lie:

The World has changed. Tolerance means I just have to accept what the world says about something and we will all get along.

That is not what tolerance is. Tolerance is agreeing to disagree and not allowing each other to trample on the others rights or being disrespectful. I agree that certain Christians are not respectful, but most are kindhearted, not the ones we are forced to endure on television or cable news.

This past week, I was almost embarrassed at how many Christians took a stand against what the Word of God says, and even things that Jesus Christ said all in the name of so-called tolerance. This is called being a coward.

We cannot let our generation of Christians ignore what is going on around them. While Christians of past generations backed incredible causes like the civil rights movement and women’s suffrage, the one immediately following would not take a stand for public prayer or their beliefs and chased after meaningless things like the music industry. The result was a ban on Christianity in our public schools and today those who hate us are stealing our rights away, even the ones guaranteed as natural rights. We cannot allow this to happen. We must stand up for the Word of God. We must take a stand for our religious liberty, not just in the United States, but all over the world.

We’re witnessing terrorists behead Christians live on the internet. Those fellow brothers and sisters have amazing courage in the face of danger, as they do not even flinch as they are being killed. We see this, but we will not even stand up for our beliefs here in America, where we supposedly have religious liberty.

I pray that we have that Holy Spirit brings courage in the United States of America. I pray that as Christians we will unite together against the blow-back of popular cultural and take a stand. I pray we will not be cowards, but we will be warriors, not of violence, but of prayer.  I pray our cross is not hidden, but that everyone can see it.

As our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ prayed,

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. John 17:20-23

The Word is our Sword by April Coon

Holy Bible

The Word is Our Sword

As Christians, reading and meditating on God’s Word is vital to our spiritual walk. The Bible is our road map to Godly living. It helps us find purpose and direction for our lives. Many people think that the Bible is just old manuscripts that is irrelevant today. They believe it’s about history rather than present time. The truth is, Scripture is still relevant today. Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is in the same yesterday, today and forever.” According to Scripture, Jesus never changes. His power is still the same today as it was 2,000 years ago.

The Bible has 66 books that tells about love, grace, mercy, heartache, and sacrifice. It shows us how to live godly by reading about men and women who followed after God whole-heartedly. The New Testament shows us how to live a godly life through Jesus. The Bible is full of adventures, miracles, and the unexpected.

The Bible is a sacred book that is God-breathed. Second Timothy 3:16 declares that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (NIV). The Message version says Scripture “show[s] us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.”

Scripture is for everyday life. It is not just something we read and apply to our lives when life is difficult. We read the Bible in the good times and the bad. The Bible continues to build our faith and trust in God so when hardships come, we have the strength and courage to fight on the battlefield — the battlefield of life. We put on our full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and trust God with our circumstances. Ephesians 6:17 says the Word is our sword. The Bible prepares us to face our situations on the front-line. There are many battles in the Bible that God intervened and did the impossible. The battles were won by those we least expected. God does the same for us. God intervenes and does the unexpected. On the battlefield, as long as we allow God to fight our battles with us, we will always have the victory.

On the battlefield, we will need encouragement so we do not grow weary. There are many Books of the Bible that can encourage us and strengthen us in the midst of chaos. The Book of Psalm is full of hope and faith that will keep us strong in the Lord. Psalm is known for being poetic and filled with prayers. The Books of Proverbs and James teaches us how to live godly and walk out our Christian faith. The Old Testament has great godly people to read about and live by such as Abraham, Moses, David, Job, and Joseph. They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things. The Book of Song of Solomon is known for it’s passion describing a love between a husband and his wife. This book beautifully portrays a love so deep that nothing can quench it. If you need to know how much God loves you, I encourage you to read this book. The Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – is the life of Jesus. If you want to know who God is on a deeper level, read the Gospels. Jesus came to earth for one purpose – to spread God’s love with others. His messages to the people are relatable to us today. The parables spoken by Jesus in the New Testament are simplified and easy to understand. The parables spoke about morals and faith in God. These are all great books, and many more not mentioned, that we can apply to our lives.

As we fight through our circumstances, there will be times when we need to rest in God’s presence. There will be chaos and confusion during the battle. On the battlefield, it requires us to get on our knees and pray to God for strength and endurance. Psalm 46:10 tells us to be still in God’s presence. During prayer, God leads us to Scripture that speaks life into our circumstances. Before God can lead us to Scripture, we must know the Word and believe it is truth over our lives. Through prayer and godly living, we apply Scripture to our lives. As we sit quietly in God’s presence to hear His voice, we must let Him guide us through our situations. God will use Scripture to bring us hope and encouragement. God will use the Holy Spirit to place specific Scriptures into our hearts. It reminds us of who God is when we are surrounded my chaos.

Sometimes God gives us a specific word. For example, God may give us the word hope. We can use resources to look up the word to find encouragement. We can use study Bibles, commentaries, promise books, and references to help guide us through the Bible. In this instance, God is giving us many Scriptures to apply to our lives on a specific topic. Each Scripture will build up our strength and courage to continue fighting the battle of life and grow in our faith.

There are many ways God speaks to us through our circumstances. In each situation, God speaks to us differently. The outcomes will never be same. The key for God speaking into our lives is spending time in His presence and in His Word. The more we read the Word, seek understanding, and apply it, the closer we are to God. Our relationship with Christ will grow stronger each time we open the Bible and intentionally read Scripture. We must have purpose and a desire to know God more each and every day to grow in our faith.

The Word is to encourage us when the world tells us we have no hope. The Bible is our GPS to a new life that is filled with renewed faith, daily blessings, and explainable joy. It shows us how to get through a hard time with courage and strength. The Bible reminds us who God is in the darkest nights and promises us that we will see daylight again. 1 John 1:5 declares that “God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in Him” (MSG). John 1:5 says “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NIV). God has defeated satan, and He is the light that shines through our circumstances to rescue us.

Application

Below is a chart of our emotions and, through God and Scripture, we can conquer anything. Philippians 4:13 states that we “can do all [things] through Him who gives [us] strength” (NIV). As long as we believe God will come through for us, we will continue to stay strong in our faith.

The Scriptures below will encourage you through life circumstances. All these Scriptures declare who God is and who God is in you.
Emotions                               God Is:                                         Scripture
Heavy Burdened                    My burden is Light                     Matthew 11:28-30
Struggle                                  Mercy/God of all Comfort        2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Hopelessness                         Hope                                            Psalm 119:49
Weakness                               Strength                                      Romans 7:26-28
Helplessness                          Our Refuge                                  Psalm 91:1-2
Fear                                        Comfort                                        Psalm 23:4
Unloved                                  Steadfast Love                             Psalm 119:76
Alone                                      Always There                               Hebrews 13:5-6
Mercilessness                         Mercy/Compassion                       Psalm 23:6; Isaiah 49:13
Unworthy                                Life                                                Psalm 119:50
Sadness                                 Joy                                                John 16:22
Brokenhearted                        Healer                                            Psalm 147:3
Mourning                                Comfort                                           Matthew 5:4
Shame/Guilt                           Grace                                             2 Corinthians 12:7-10
As you read the Bible, I pray that the words empower you to speak life into your circumstances. When you are on the battlefield fighting satan’s schemes, believe that God’s Word is truth and your sword. God has equipped you to win the battle with Him on your side!

Author’s Biography

It is an honor and a privilege to be a guest writer on the Lone Star Inspirations blog. I have been a Christian for fifteen years. One of my greatest passions is to write about God. My writings began with prayer journals three years ago and, in November 2014, I started my first blog. It has been a humbling and exciting experience to see people reading my blogs and be encouraged.

If you would like to visit my page, it is https://aprilcoon.wordpress.com/. It is called Faith.Hope.Love. The blog is designated for readers to be encouraged every week with an uplifting Christian message. For a quick encouragement, check out my blog, https://upliftingquotesandscriptures.wordpress.com/.