Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: mystery

For Every Action

Actions have consequences. It sounds like a “no duh” statement, but think about how much time we spend trying to convince ourselves they don’t. Hard lives and hours in the sun leave us wrinkled, but there’s always Botox. We like to eat what we want, when we want it, but we don’t like being fat. Enter the next miracle weight loss pill requiring no changes in diet or exercise. Maybe you’ll even have some liposuction. Got a quickie wedding when you were too wasted to realize what was going on? Get a quickie annulment and make it go away.  Break the law? Get yourself an expensive lawyer and get off scot-free.

Even our children are subjected to the mindset that says I can do what I want and not have to pay the price. Some young athletes don’t put the effort into their education that’s necessary to stay eligible to play. But if you’re a good enough athlete, that’s okay. You’ll miraculously pass anyway. A child misbehaves in class, and we let it slide because discipline is taboo. Instead, we reward behavior that should be seen as fundamentally right and then wonder why things go south when the rewards are cut off. Parents buy their children out of trouble instead of letting them feel the pain of their actions. We’ve even divorced them from damage to their reputations due to their choices. A person who cheats on things isn’t a cheater. The habit of lying doesn’t make you a liar, and a life of stealing doesn’t make you a thief. Those are just things we do. They don’t make us who we are, and it’s wrong to insinuate otherwise. We’re teaching them what we’ve been taught; what you do doesn’t matter because there are no lasting consequences.

Only there are consequences.  And those consequences can be far reaching. Psychologist Taylor Martin, the main character from Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley understands this well. Taylor not only teaches psychology, she puts it into practice as she helps law enforcement solve crimes through profiling. Taylor looks at the cause and effect relationship to determine how victims and perpetrators are related. What actions spurred on which reactions which in turn led to the crimes committed? Taylor puts the pieces together to find the unknown criminal.

The process becomes a matter of life and death for Taylor when a stalker’s obsession turns violent. Unmasking the criminal and making sense of how everything weaves into the history of her family is made harder when suspects’ actions muddy the waters. Scott, a former student, seems harmless enough, but early life choices led to alcoholism which in turn left him in vulnerable positions. He soon finds himself suspect number one in not only Taylor’s stalking case but murder as well.  Is Taylor’s gut reaction true or is it a set up? And if it is a set up where is the true danger hiding and why? Taylor struggles with lining up the correct actions and consequences in time to catch a killer and keep from becoming the victim of a murder herself.

A failure to correlate our actions to our consequences may not invite a murderer into our circle of acquaintances like it did for Taylor, but it can take us into places we don’t want to be both physically and spiritually. The Psalms and Proverbs are packed with warnings to make godly choices, and neither book shies away from the idea that choices have consequences. In fact, many times, David and Solomon were very firm and descriptive in their explanations of the results that follow poor choices.

One of results is the damage of our witness. We become associated with the choices we make.  In kindergarten at my children’s school, they had to memorize a verse that I hope has stuck with them as much as it has me. Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” It’s a truth even children can understand, but we can use it as a tool to measure our own grasp of actions and consequences. It’s as simple as asking ourselves one question. What did my actions today say about who I am?

By the Book: Think about some of the choices you’ve made in life. What were the consequences of those choices? What do your daily choices say about you? Is this what you want the world to see when they look at you?

Main Character Monday 11 Plus Giveaway

Main ChaGuilt by Association FB sizeracter Monday is a little different than my regular blog posts, but interviewing the characters of the books I review is a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy them too!

If you stopped by yesterday and read the Guilt By Association book review, you’ll be happy to hear today’s guest is none other than Tess Spencer  from  Guilt by Association by Heather Day Gilbert. And in addition to a great interview, Tess (and her author, Heather) are giving away an e-book copy of Guilt By Association to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is comment below. 

Thank you for joining me, Tess.

 

 

Is there a person from the Bible that you most relate to?

I’d probably have to say Ruth, because I live right next to my mother-in-law, and I hope I never move away from her. Nikki Jo Spencer is one of a kind, and she’s been more of a mother to me than my own mom. Bad mother-in-law jokes actually make me cringe.

That sounds like a great mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship and a great blessing for you. Thinking back what has been the most difficult lesson God has taught you?

I think one lesson God has to keep teaching me is to consult Him before I charge into things alone. I’ve always been the one to take care of myself in life (until I got married), and it’s my tendency to rush to people’s rescue, whether I’m fully prepared to do it or not. I know God gave me this protective personality, but I won’t help anyone unless I have the power of the Lord on my side before I’m face to face with evil.

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Is there one of these characteristics you find easier to show than the others?

I don’t know—that feels kind of like bragging, and I don’t like braggarts. 🙂 But I am very faithful to those I love, I will say that.

Okay, let’s look at it from the other direction. Which one is the most challenging for you?

I’m sure my beloved husband, Thomas, would say it’s self-control. When we first married, I had more of a temper (ask him about the red velvet cupcake incident), and I’ve had to work on that. But I still have trouble reining myself in when mysterious things start happening to my friends or when people act like bullies.

I definitely need to find out more about that cupcake incident sometime. However, we are getting close to wrapping things up. If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Don’t be afraid to stand up for the weak and for what’s right. Things might not work out the way you’d hoped, but we know “The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Milk, because added sugar is always fun.

Beach or Mountains? Mountains, because I live in the mountains and they comfort me.

Sweet Tea or Lemonade? Sweet tea, although Nikki Jo’s lemonade is amazing.

How would you describe Heather Day Gilbert in three words?

What a funny question! I kind of know that gal…let’s see. How about protective, genuine, and relentless? She doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would back down…kind of like me in that way, I suppose.

Thank you Tess for joining me tonight. I’m sure readers will want to find out more about you and your mystery solving adventures. All three books in the A Murder in the Mountains series can be purchased from Amazon. HeatherDayGilbert smaller

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes contemporary mystery/suspense and Viking historicals. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Find out more at heatherdaygilbert.com.

Main Character Monday #5

dead brokeWelcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

 

Today’s Guest is Andrea “Andy” Warren from DEAD BROKE by Linda Fulkerson. Thank you for joining me.

A life verse is a scripture that has spoken to you deeply, impacted the way you live your life, or become like a theme verse for your life. What would you say is your life verse?

Life verse? You know I’m mad at God, right? I mean, he let my dad get killed. I kind of quit speaking to Him after that.

Is that a pouty face? Seriously?

Oh, all right. I’ll answer your question.

I was stuck at my brother Tommy’s cottage – that’s a long story – anyway, I saw Dad’s Bible sitting on the kitchen counter, and I picked it up. Don’t over think that. I didn’t pick it up because it was a Bible – I picked it up because it was my dad’s, okay?

The book was worn from use. I flipped through the yellowed, dog-eared pages, noticing notes scrawled in many of the margins. Then I remembered this verse my dad used to quote to me when I was a kid. “So, we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6). I always thought that was kind of cool. I mean, I know God’s not exactly a super hero, but He’s got a lot on mere mortals.

I had a lot of people after me at the time, so the thought of them being “mere mortals” and realizing that God was on my side was pretty comforting. I mean, at least I was hoping He was on my side. I sure needed some help.

What person from scripture do you most relate to?

Oh, probably Peter. He’s always putting his foot in his mouth. I’m right there with him. Good thing I have a big mouth, because I have BIG feet!

The New Testament says that all the law and prophets can be summed up in two commands: love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Which of these two commands do you feel you have the most trouble following?

Well, it’s not exactly that I don’t love God, but I sure do get irritated at Him sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. I’m sure the feeling is mutual. I have no problem loving my neighbor. But my mother – now that’s a different story! That woman . . . oh, never mind!

Solomon asked God for wisdom. If God gave you the same opportunity, what would you ask Him for?

Ha! Wisdom! I could sure use some of that. But no way am I gonna ask for it.

Seriously, though, if I got some sort of genie lamp from God where I could get anything I wanted, there’s no doubt what I’d ask for – I’d ask for my dad back.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Hang in there. God’s not so scary as you might think. When I got locked up in the county jail, I actually prayed. Don’t look so surprised. It even felt good.

Preacher Paul helped me a lot. He was kind of like that Clarence guy, who hung out with Jimmy Stewart’s character in that movie – what’s it called? Oh, yeah – “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Anyway, I got tired of Preacher Paul at times, but he helped me get out of more than one tight spot.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Milk Chocolate. Why? Because my mother likes dark.

Autumn or Spring? Autumn – it matches my hair. Well, sort of.

Coffee or Hot Cocoa? What kind of question is that? Coffee. Duh! And I prefer White Chocolate Mocha, but there isn’t a barista within 30 miles of this podunk town I’m stuck in. Unless someone opens up a nice coffee shop in the next book, I guess I’ll keep drinking mine black. *heavy sigh*

If you could describe Linda Fulkerson in three words, what would those words be? SLOW TO WRITE.

Come on, Linda. Book One came out over a year ago, and I’ve been hanging out, stuck in Crooner’s Corner, waiting to find out what you’ve got planned for the rest of my life. Start typing, girl!

Thank you Linda Fulkerson for introducing us to Andy Warren. If you’ve enjoyed getting to know Andy be sure to head over to Amazon to get your copy of Dead Broke and find out more about her story. 

Forgiving Isn't Easy

“Say you’re sorry and give each other a hug.”
Growing up, it’s likely we all heard this phrase. After the heartfelt “sorry” mumbled under the offender’s breath, the adult would turn to the offended. The new mandate became, “Now tell him you forgive him.” The offended would then mutter an equally heartfelt “I forgive you”.
The idea is good. Teach children to accept their wrongful actions or attitudes, while simultaneously giving them a lesson in forgiving wrongs done to them. Now, I’m not knocking the use of this tactic. I’m sure I even used it with my own children. Looking back, however, I can see some problems with the method.
Think about it. Was their ever a time when you followed your parent’s request with sincerity? Probably not. More than likely, you were still heated about whatever got you riled up enough to do whatever you did that you shouldn’t have done. Your apology, even asking them to forgive you, was empty of real feeling just like the hug that followed. The offended didn’t want your hug anyway. They definitely didn’t want to forgive you. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out from the glares and hateful mutterings that took place when parents weren’t watching.  The plea for forgiveness and the giving of it were meaningless, except to get you out of hot water with the adults. Besides, this method also teaches children that to extend forgiveness, forgiveness must be sought after by the offender. What happens when they run into people who hurt them without regret? Will they simply hold onto the wrong done to them?
I understand why adults try to instill the idea of seeking out and giving forgiveness. Children don’t realize how crucial these practices are to having healthy relationships, not just with others but with God. I’d wager a lot of adults don’t get it either. But harboring a grudge, not forgiving wrongs done to us, puts us in a dangerous place.
The residents of Hades, Mississippi found this out for themselves in Whitewashed, by Amy C. Blake. As she returns to her grandparents’ home to begin her journey into adulthood as a student at the local college, Patience believes everything is working out perfectly for her. It doesn’t take long for her path to become rocky. Verity College isn’t all she expects. Built out of an old plantation, the school is more run-down than she remembers. Add to that the sordid past of the plantation and undercurrents of distrust and dislike among the small town’s residents, and Patience soon finds herself tangled in a web of deceit and facing a mystery that could end up costing the lives of those she loves.
As the plantation’s past and Patience’s present are woven together, Patience has to work to find the truth before it’s too late. Patience’s quest for understanding is muddied by those who haven’t allowed themselves to forgive past wrongs. The grudges they carry make them all seem guilty, and Patience can’t see past that to find truth. In some, the hatred and lack of forgiveness has left them bitter and susceptible to rash actions. In one, it’s led to a broken mind and a sick plan to bring vengeance down on those who are seen as committing the wrongs. Finding truth would have been much easier for Patience if the people of Hades had practiced forgiveness.
While it takes a very broken person to let an unforgiving spirit lead them to a place of psychotic action, it doesn’t mean harboring an unforgiving spirit is safe for any of us. Forgiveness works to accomplish several things. For the one who offended, forgiveness can show the love of God. It can start the people involved on a path of healing for their relationship. It can help the offender more clearly relate his or her actions to the consequences of those actions for the one they hurt. Seeing first-hand the pain or hurt they caused can help keep them from practicing those behaviors again.
But what if the person doesn’t want or seek forgiveness? There are still benefits to forgiveness. First, scripture tells us that we are to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:31-32, Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13). That means we are to forgive freely, often, and before forgiveness is even sought. It’s not an option. When we withhold forgiveness, we sin. Our sin puts up walls between us and God. Forgiving others helps keep our relationship with God strong. Another positive effect of forgiving is that it frees our emotions from being controlled by what the other person has done. As long as we harbor a grudge against someone, we give them a measure of control in our lives. Because we are called to forgive as Christ forgives us, doing so helps us have a greater understanding of what Christ has done and continues to do for us.
Just because God asks us to forgive doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are some hurts so deep that giving up the right to hold those hurts against the offender is a definite struggle. Our temptation is to pick the pain back up each day, holding it close as a protective shield to keep from getting hurt again or fuel to keep our anger burning. This is especially true when the hurt comes from a betrayal or when the sin has hurt someone we love. In times like these, forgiveness may have to be a daily decision. But the good news is that forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice, and it is a choice that will make a huge difference in your life.
By the Book: Is there someone you are withholding forgiveness from? Consider how God has forgiven you. Ask Him to help you learn to extend that forgiveness to others.
Side note: It’s important to remember there is a difference between forgiving and putting yourself back into a bad situation. God requires forgiveness, but forgiveness does not always require a relationship to continue. Pray for God’s leading if you feel remaining in a situation may not be God’s best for you.

Forgiving Isn’t Easy

“Say you’re sorry and give each other a hug.”

Growing up, it’s likely we all heard this phrase. After the heartfelt “sorry” mumbled under the offender’s breath, the adult would turn to the offended. The new mandate became, “Now tell him you forgive him.” The offended would then mutter an equally heartfelt “I forgive you”.

The idea is good. Teach children to accept their wrongful actions or attitudes, while simultaneously giving them a lesson in forgiving wrongs done to them. Now, I’m not knocking the use of this tactic. I’m sure I even used it with my own children. Looking back, however, I can see some problems with the method.

Think about it. Was their ever a time when you followed your parent’s request with sincerity? Probably not. More than likely, you were still heated about whatever got you riled up enough to do whatever you did that you shouldn’t have done. Your apology, even asking them to forgive you, was empty of real feeling just like the hug that followed. The offended didn’t want your hug anyway. They definitely didn’t want to forgive you. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out from the glares and hateful mutterings that took place when parents weren’t watching.  The plea for forgiveness and the giving of it were meaningless, except to get you out of hot water with the adults. Besides, this method also teaches children that to extend forgiveness, forgiveness must be sought after by the offender. What happens when they run into people who hurt them without regret? Will they simply hold onto the wrong done to them?

I understand why adults try to instill the idea of seeking out and giving forgiveness. Children don’t realize how crucial these practices are to having healthy relationships, not just with others but with God. I’d wager a lot of adults don’t get it either. But harboring a grudge, not forgiving wrongs done to us, puts us in a dangerous place.

The residents of Hades, Mississippi found this out for themselves in Whitewashed, by Amy C. Blake. As she returns to her grandparents’ home to begin her journey into adulthood as a student at the local college, Patience believes everything is working out perfectly for her. It doesn’t take long for her path to become rocky. Verity College isn’t all she expects. Built out of an old plantation, the school is more run-down than she remembers. Add to that the sordid past of the plantation and undercurrents of distrust and dislike among the small town’s residents, and Patience soon finds herself tangled in a web of deceit and facing a mystery that could end up costing the lives of those she loves.

As the plantation’s past and Patience’s present are woven together, Patience has to work to find the truth before it’s too late. Patience’s quest for understanding is muddied by those who haven’t allowed themselves to forgive past wrongs. The grudges they carry make them all seem guilty, and Patience can’t see past that to find truth. In some, the hatred and lack of forgiveness has left them bitter and susceptible to rash actions. In one, it’s led to a broken mind and a sick plan to bring vengeance down on those who are seen as committing the wrongs. Finding truth would have been much easier for Patience if the people of Hades had practiced forgiveness.

While it takes a very broken person to let an unforgiving spirit lead them to a place of psychotic action, it doesn’t mean harboring an unforgiving spirit is safe for any of us. Forgiveness works to accomplish several things. For the one who offended, forgiveness can show the love of God. It can start the people involved on a path of healing for their relationship. It can help the offender more clearly relate his or her actions to the consequences of those actions for the one they hurt. Seeing first-hand the pain or hurt they caused can help keep them from practicing those behaviors again.

But what if the person doesn’t want or seek forgiveness? There are still benefits to forgiveness. First, scripture tells us that we are to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:31-32, Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13). That means we are to forgive freely, often, and before forgiveness is even sought. It’s not an option. When we withhold forgiveness, we sin. Our sin puts up walls between us and God. Forgiving others helps keep our relationship with God strong. Another positive effect of forgiving is that it frees our emotions from being controlled by what the other person has done. As long as we harbor a grudge against someone, we give them a measure of control in our lives. Because we are called to forgive as Christ forgives us, doing so helps us have a greater understanding of what Christ has done and continues to do for us.

Just because God asks us to forgive doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are some hurts so deep that giving up the right to hold those hurts against the offender is a definite struggle. Our temptation is to pick the pain back up each day, holding it close as a protective shield to keep from getting hurt again or fuel to keep our anger burning. This is especially true when the hurt comes from a betrayal or when the sin has hurt someone we love. In times like these, forgiveness may have to be a daily decision. But the good news is that forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice, and it is a choice that will make a huge difference in your life.

By the Book: Is there someone you are withholding forgiveness from? Consider how God has forgiven you. Ask Him to help you learn to extend that forgiveness to others.

Side note: It’s important to remember there is a difference between forgiving and putting yourself back into a bad situation. God requires forgiveness, but forgiveness does not always require a relationship to continue. Pray for God’s leading if you feel remaining in a situation may not be God’s best for you.

It's a Mystery

It was a winding, narrow gravel road like any other country road. It led to Grandma Stearns’ farm. But there was a single stretch of that road lined with trees on both sides, as deep as you could see. Their limbs reached across the road creating a canopy overhead. This nature made tunnel was dark and cool. Sounds peaceful, right?
It might have been, if it weren’t for my older brothers. They informed me, while I was a young child, this stretch of road was called Sleepy Hollow. Now, I hadn’t read the book, and I didn’t know the story that well. What I did know was that a headless horseman terrorized and killed people in Sleepy Hollow.
Suddenly, that small piece of road became an endless tunnel of certain death. The shade became sinister, and evil lurked in the trees. I hated driving down that road. It made me anxious. Even today, as a logical adult, that old childhood anxiety sometimes tries to creep in. I blame my brothers.
Is it a trend for older brothers to traumatize their younger sisters? I can honestly say this isn’t the only time it happened in my childhood.  And experiences like this one taught me that I don’t like feeling anxious or afraid.
I believe it’s part of the reason I’ve never gravitated to reading mysteries. The unknown, especially when there is a sinister plotline, isn’t fun for me. It keeps me up at night and fuels bad dreams. My two favorite authors have challenged this dislike at times, and because of them, I’m branching out. I’m learning that just because something is a mystery doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.
Linda Fulkerson proved this with her mystery, Dead Broke. I chose it to introduce myself to a new author, but I wasn’t quite sure I would like it. It’s a mystery. A mystery with the word dead in the title. But I tried to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did. The mystery begins in the very first chapter for Andy Warren, a sports photographer. And as Andy goes back to her hometown, the mystery continues to grow, becoming more complex and dangerous for Andy. It doesn’t help that her hometown is the typical southern small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It gives Andy plenty of suspects and just as many doubts about each one. Every time she thinks she has it all figured out, Andy finds out something new that sends her back to the drawing board.
It’s these twists and turns that keep readers guessing, but they cause a lot of frustration for Andy. It’s a feeling most of us can probably relate to. There are lots of things scripture tells us about life. We know sin separates us from God. We know that God sent His Son to die so we could be forgiven. We know that when we accept God’s forgiveness, we come into relationship with Him and will one day spend eternity in heaven with Him. We know that the battle has already been won, and good wins over evil once and for all.
Knowing these things is great. They bring hope and peace into our lives. It’s the things we don’t know that sometimes cause us frustration. Life is messy. It’s full of twists and turns. We seek to live the way God wants us to live. We want to do His will. We trust that God has plans for us, just as it says in Jeremiah 29. But those plans aren’t usually spelled out for us in black and white. And even when we do know what God wants for us, unexpected situations come up and seem to throw everything out of whack. People hurt us, disaster strikes, jobs are lost, or people get sick.
Whatever the situation, we don’t expect it. We think we have it all figured out, and then something comes along to send us back to the drawing board. Sometimes, we’re still on the right path, but the path looks different than we imagined. Other times, the situations force us into a completely different direction. Whatever the case, the mystery, the not knowing, can cause anxiety, fear, and doubt. The things that cause people to love a good mystery novel don’t feel so fun when they become part of our daily lives. But even in the middle of the chaos and unexpected circumstances, we have something to hold onto that will calm our frayed emotions. We have the promises of God.
Scripture never says bad things won’t happen. The book of Job is a good reminder of that. What it tells us is that no matter how bad the situation is, God will use it to bring something good into our lives when we love Him (Romans 8:28). He also promises us strength when we feel weak. (Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We don’t have to worry about being alone because God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And these are just a few promises to help us through the circumstances we don’t understand.
You may think it seems too easy, but there’s nothing easy about it. When you’re going through the most difficult times in your life, easy doesn’t exist. The pain still cuts. But because of God’s promises, you can know peace in the pain and confusion. You can rest in His strength and look forward to what He will accomplish in your life through the circumstances. You can let go of your fear of the unknown, understanding that to God, your circumstances are not a mystery.
By the Book: What mysteries threaten your peace or bring you pain? Look up the verses above and search out other promises of God. Ask God to help you experience these promises in your life. Write them in a notebook or journal to meditate on when the unknown threatens your peace.

It’s a Mystery

It was a winding, narrow gravel road like any other country road. It led to Grandma Stearns’ farm. But there was a single stretch of that road lined with trees on both sides, as deep as you could see. Their limbs reached across the road creating a canopy overhead. This nature made tunnel was dark and cool. Sounds peaceful, right?

It might have been, if it weren’t for my older brothers. They informed me, while I was a young child, this stretch of road was called Sleepy Hollow. Now, I hadn’t read the book, and I didn’t know the story that well. What I did know was that a headless horseman terrorized and killed people in Sleepy Hollow.

Suddenly, that small piece of road became an endless tunnel of certain death. The shade became sinister, and evil lurked in the trees. I hated driving down that road. It made me anxious. Even today, as a logical adult, that old childhood anxiety sometimes tries to creep in. I blame my brothers.

Is it a trend for older brothers to traumatize their younger sisters? I can honestly say this isn’t the only time it happened in my childhood.  And experiences like this one taught me that I don’t like feeling anxious or afraid.

I believe it’s part of the reason I’ve never gravitated to reading mysteries. The unknown, especially when there is a sinister plotline, isn’t fun for me. It keeps me up at night and fuels bad dreams. My two favorite authors have challenged this dislike at times, and because of them, I’m branching out. I’m learning that just because something is a mystery doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.

Linda Fulkerson proved this with her mystery, Dead Broke. I chose it to introduce myself to a new author, but I wasn’t quite sure I would like it. It’s a mystery. A mystery with the word dead in the title. But I tried to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did. The mystery begins in the very first chapter for Andy Warren, a sports photographer. And as Andy goes back to her hometown, the mystery continues to grow, becoming more complex and dangerous for Andy. It doesn’t help that her hometown is the typical southern small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It gives Andy plenty of suspects and just as many doubts about each one. Every time she thinks she has it all figured out, Andy finds out something new that sends her back to the drawing board.

It’s these twists and turns that keep readers guessing, but they cause a lot of frustration for Andy. It’s a feeling most of us can probably relate to. There are lots of things scripture tells us about life. We know sin separates us from God. We know that God sent His Son to die so we could be forgiven. We know that when we accept God’s forgiveness, we come into relationship with Him and will one day spend eternity in heaven with Him. We know that the battle has already been won, and good wins over evil once and for all.

Knowing these things is great. They bring hope and peace into our lives. It’s the things we don’t know that sometimes cause us frustration. Life is messy. It’s full of twists and turns. We seek to live the way God wants us to live. We want to do His will. We trust that God has plans for us, just as it says in Jeremiah 29. But those plans aren’t usually spelled out for us in black and white. And even when we do know what God wants for us, unexpected situations come up and seem to throw everything out of whack. People hurt us, disaster strikes, jobs are lost, or people get sick.

Whatever the situation, we don’t expect it. We think we have it all figured out, and then something comes along to send us back to the drawing board. Sometimes, we’re still on the right path, but the path looks different than we imagined. Other times, the situations force us into a completely different direction. Whatever the case, the mystery, the not knowing, can cause anxiety, fear, and doubt. The things that cause people to love a good mystery novel don’t feel so fun when they become part of our daily lives. But even in the middle of the chaos and unexpected circumstances, we have something to hold onto that will calm our frayed emotions. We have the promises of God.

Scripture never says bad things won’t happen. The book of Job is a good reminder of that. What it tells us is that no matter how bad the situation is, God will use it to bring something good into our lives when we love Him (Romans 8:28). He also promises us strength when we feel weak. (Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We don’t have to worry about being alone because God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And these are just a few promises to help us through the circumstances we don’t understand.

You may think it seems too easy, but there’s nothing easy about it. When you’re going through the most difficult times in your life, easy doesn’t exist. The pain still cuts. But because of God’s promises, you can know peace in the pain and confusion. You can rest in His strength and look forward to what He will accomplish in your life through the circumstances. You can let go of your fear of the unknown, understanding that to God, your circumstances are not a mystery.

By the Book: What mysteries threaten your peace or bring you pain? Look up the verses above and search out other promises of God. Ask God to help you experience these promises in your life. Write them in a notebook or journal to meditate on when the unknown threatens your peace.

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