Friday, January 31, 2020 8:04 PM

Defining Love

Friday, January 31, 2020 8:04 PM
Friday, January 31, 2020 8:04 PM

This is the month for romance. The stores are full of hearts, candy, balloons, and flowers all awaiting use in the middle of the month. I can’t complain. I love the influx of new movies on the Hallmark channel and clean romance novels to add to my to-read pile. I even write romantic fiction and this month is full of new inspiration.

But romance and love are not the same things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished reading a book or watching a movie and declared, “I give it six months.” Many couples involved in fictional romances simply don’t have what it takes to engage in real love.

There’s an old song from the ’80s by Steve Camp. Maybe you remember it? “Love’s Not a Feeling,” declared that there was no emotion involved in the concept. I won’t go that far, but the word is definitely a verb, characterized by action that shows the depth of commitment, whether in friendship or affection. It isn’t as some websites suggest, focused on physical attraction or defined by moments or situations that cause deepened relational connections. And, contrary to those same websites, most romantic movies, and daytime shows, it doesn’t have to include drama.

We are encouraged to love one another in order to show God’s love. We are directed to love our neighbors, particularly those who aren’t so very loveable. We are even told that if we don’t have love for others, what we do have is of very little value no matter how amazing it seems.

My longtime minister and friend passed away last year. Dennis Slaughter always told me, “People don’t care how much you know until they see how much you care.” I’ve since learned this is an old saying from someone long ago, but the truth is profound. And I’ve experienced this kind of love before:

  • Years ago, I enjoyed watching my teenage son help a mom and her large family out of a daycare and into their car.
  • Even before that, my sweet hubby used to take baby-duty at night just to let me indulge in a full eight hours of sleep.
  • My longtime friend brought my sick family a bag full of soups and applesauce.
  • After my husband had lost his job, members of our church family helped support us for one more month until his new job began.
  • And just last year, I reached the check out at a drive-thru and found the person in front of me had paid for my meal.

Have you seen love in action like that? Maybe you’ve been the one showing the Lord’s love? I’d love to hear about your experiences. You can share them with me at 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. - John 13:34 - 35

BIO: Marji Laine is the Director of Publishing Services at Give her a holler if you have a question about publishing, writing, homeschooling, raising twins, or directing a children’s choir. She might not be an expert in all those areas, but she can help you brainstorm some ideas and be your cheerleader as you go along.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020 8:22 PM

Be Intentional in 2020

Wednesday, January 1, 2020 8:22 PM
Wednesday, January 1, 2020 8:22 PM

Donna Skell and I had been studying the Original Pancake House's extensive menu as the server came to take our order. "There are too many good choices," I said.

Upon making our selections Donna told the server, "My friend and I are going to pray over our meals in a few minutes. How can we pray for you?"

The server paused for a moment, then began opening up, telling us about an issue in her life.

I thought, what a great way of starting a spiritual conversation and sharing Christ's love. Of course, I had heard of people doing this before, but it was the first time I had seen it demonstrated.

A couple of weeks later I wanted to try this on my own. I was nervous, but when the server approached, I asked her that same question about what we could pray for her about. She said, "Let me think about it." A few minutes later she came back to my table and shared some things she wanted prayer for. 

Some people may respond to this question by saying, "No, I'm good." But seldom do people get angry. It's a low risk, potentially high reward action.  The key is being intentional.

The evangelism pastor at my church shared a three-step process to be intentional about witnessing. We should do these steps EACH DAY.

1. Pray and Ask.

Ask God to prepare people's hearts and draw them to Him. Also, ask Him to prepare our hearts to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading and to give us words to say.

2Go and Look.

As we go about our daily lives, look for opportunities to be kind and share God's love. It might be as simple as saying an encouraging word to the grocery store cashier. Other times, we might strike up a conversation and ask questions that lead to a spiritual discussion. 

3. Show and Tell.

Reportedly, St. Francis of Assisi was quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” NOT TRUE. In fact, there’s been no published source located prior to the early 1990s that contains that quote. Certainly, we must show the world God’s love by reflecting Jesus through our lifestyle. However, too often we modern-day Christians use that as a cop-out for not verbally sharing our faith. Saint Francis, like the Apostle Paul, boldly proclaimed the gospel. In Romans 10, Paul says that people need to hear the gospel so that they can believe. We must show and tell.

Remember, we are not responsible for others' responses to the gospel, but we are commanded to share our testimony - what we have seen, heard, and experienced. On average, people need seven "touches" before they make a decision for Christ.

As we begin a new decade, let's be intentional about sharing the Good News with others. 

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15 (NKJV)

BIO: Dr. Sherry Ryan is a blogger, writer, and speaker. She retired in 2013 from the University of North Texas as an Associate Professor of Information Technology and Decision Sciences. Prior to earning her doctorate, she worked for IBM, teaching courses and speaking at national conferences. Sherry is the Director of Communications at Roaring Lambs and is on the Board of His Appointed Times Ministries.

Check out Sherry's blog It provides "Inspiration and Information for Overcoming Life's Challenges." 


Saturday, November 30, 2019 8:52 PM

The Christmas Doll

Saturday, November 30, 2019 8:52 PM
Saturday, November 30, 2019 8:52 PM

I’m seven and a half years old and it’s Christmas time.  My two older brothers and I live with our mom.  I like living with Mom better than Dad.  Mom can’t afford as much stuff, but she’s nicer and I don’t have to sleep with my little step-sister who still wets the bed.  I’m a big girl now so I don’t wet the bed anymore.  Well… not often anyway.  

Mom has to work hard to pay for the things we need.  Our clothes are old.  Mostly we wear what other people give to us because their kids grew out of them.  It’s not so bad because old clothes are softer than new ones.  It’s a good thing we live in California and don’t need coats because we don’t have any.  Sweaters keep us warm enough on our way to school once we’ve walked a while. 

Our big brother. who’s eleven, cooks when Mom’s working.  We eat lots of oatmeal with butter and sugar when we can’t buy milk or eggs.  At least we don’t have to eat soggy milk toast anymore. Yuck!  Sometimes we eat hotdogs and sometimes beans.  Lately, we just have tortillas for lunch and dinner with butter and sugar.  I don’t mind.  I think anything made with butter and sugar is fine cooking.

Still, when Mom says we can’t afford presents for Christmas, I believe her. I guess kids don’t grow out of toys as fast as they do their clothes.  I try not to be disappointed but I’m sad. I don’t want Mom to know how I feel because I don’t want her to feel bad, but there isn’t much I can do about tears falling on my pillow just before falling asleep at night. 

We do have a nice Christmas tree, though.  It’s kind of scrawny and it doesn’t have a lot of decorations—mostly paper ones we kids made. Of course, there are no presents under it. But it’s tall and smells good.  

The night before Christmas finally comes and I remember something.  Mom forgot about Santa!  He always comes through with something!  I have to go to bed right away so Santa can come.  

In the middle of the night, I get up to go potty.  The kitchen light is on and Mom’s sitting in a chair resting her head on her crossed arms on the table. Her eyes are closed and she’s making a kind of purring sound so I know she’s asleep.   

I wonder if Santa came.  I’ll just peek around the corner.  The kitchen light is shining on the tree in the living room.  Hey!  What’s that thing in an open box under the tree?  It’s—no, it can’t be—but it is!  It’s a doll!  A brand new baby doll!  I tiptoe in for a closer look.  I know I’m not supposed to touch presents before morning, but she’s so pretty!  Her pink dress is as soft as flower petals like it was made that way instead of having been washed a bunch of times. She’s the same size as a real baby and her blue eyes open and close like one.  Oooh! She even feels like a real live baby.  I inhale the smell of her straight yellow hair.  It smells new.  I love that smell.  I love this baby.  I’m going to name her Sally.

Sally can’t sleep in a box on the floor; she’ll get cold.  I softly sneak her to my bed and fall asleep with her cradled in my arms.  I wake up again needing to go potty.  Oh yeah!  I forgot all about it the first time.  I must not have slept very long because Mom is still sleeping in the kitchen with the light on.  As quietly as I can, I gently place Sally in her box-bed under the tree.  Goodnight sweet baby.  I’ll see you in the morning.  And Boy-oh-Boy!  Will I ever be surprised!

That Christmas morning so many years ago, I had yet to be properly introduced to God.  I knew Jesus was God’s son and Christmas was Jesus’ birthday.  What I didn’t know was how to truly love and trust Him.  

Years later I came to understand how much God loves us. "He gave His one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in Him will never perish but experience everlasting life." John 3:16 (TPT) That’s a Christmas present we can all celebrate. 

As a child, I would never just leave a gift for me under the Christmas tree.  Don’t leave God’s precious gift of salvation through Jesus unopened.

BIO: Vivien Chambers spent many of her early years in Tacoma, Washington.  She moved with her husband to Texas in 1981 and now resides in the Fort Worth area.  Vivien has served as a Stephen Minister and presently enjoys volunteering as an assistant in a Multiple Sclerosis swim class.  Vivien is currently working on her first book.  She has five grown children and six grandchildren.

Sunday, November 3, 2019 9:13 PM

Turkeys, Then and Now

Sunday, November 3, 2019 9:13 PM
Sunday, November 3, 2019 9:13 PM

The older you get, the more great memories you have that center around the marvelous American traditions of Thanksgiving.  It’s one of my favorite times of the year!

My memories include going to West Texas and passing by lots of turkey farms where the gangly birds could be seen by the hundreds.  They were so cute when little, but the bigger the bird, the more the ‘strut’.  Turkeys strut, just like some people I’ve known.

When the leaves begin to fall and the wind begins to whistle through the pines, I think of my folk’s lake home on Cedar Creek in East Texas.  We’d gather there for Thanksgiving and laugh ourselves silly.   I can still smell my mother’s huge kitchen awash in aromas of goodies.

Being a history nut, I’m keenly aware of the 400 year “First Thanksgiving” anniversary coming up in 2020.  Imagine.  Four hundred years since the Mayflower sailed from England full of saints and sailors searching for a new life.  There were 102 men, women and children on that rickety, smelly cargo hole where they were stashed for 66 days.  They got a late start from the old country and disembarked at Plymouth Rock too late to plant a thing. But they were grateful to be alive and held a prayer service before beginning the arduous task of building hasty shelters.  Half of them starved the first winter.  But God sent help, in the form of an English speaking Indian named Squanto.  The Pilgrims, and their new Indian friends celebrated their first Thanksgiving with a three-day feast in the fall of 1621. They were thankful to the God of heaven for the bountiful food, for the Indians’ help and most of all, for the Almighty’s faithfulness.  It reminds me of a song of thanks I’ve taught my grandchildren:

Psalm 92:1-2. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, Most High!  To declare Your kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night…and Your faithfulness by night.”

Many Americans in 2019 seem ambivalent to the bountiful blessings that Almighty God has heaped on us.  To some, Thanksgiving is about football and food…in that order.  But as we cram more and more mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie into our mouths, perhaps we need to pause and reflect. We would do well to remember how He saved our wretched lives from Hell and gave us new redeemed ones.  I for one, am shocked how good He has been to give me family and friends by the boatload with undeserved and unmerited favor to boot! 

The older I get, the more I realize it’s about our marvelous Savior and God’s infinite mercy in giving us beautiful people to decorate our lives.  How dull life would be without them. His people surround us like so many turkeys on a farm. Sometimes they are cute and fuzzy like the baby turkeys. Other times they drive us crazy when they “strut their stuff.” All precious, but each one just a tad different than the other. 

This Thanksgiving, agree with me to love and hug more, fuss and fume less.  As you gather with loved ones, go around the table and remember the goodness of our Father.  Good food, yes, but good memories, more.

Reflection is good for the soul.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

BIO: Bettye Petree served Magazine and Newspaper Editor for Southland Life, Texas Director and National Prayer Lead for National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, four terms as School Board Trustee for Lovejoy ISD, and Texas Life Award, PTA of Texas.  She is a graduate of Christ for the Nations and an ordained minister. Her awards include Communicator of the Year - International Association of Business Communicators and Woman of the Year Matrix Award - Women in Communications. She is married with three grown children and six grandchildren.

Sunday, September 29, 2019 7:48 PM

Grace Calling

Sunday, September 29, 2019 7:48 PM
Sunday, September 29, 2019 7:48 PM

It all began during a recent trip when my husband, Jim, and I stopped for lunch in a small-town. I excused myself to the ladies’ room. With no appropriate area to set my purse, I carefully placed it in the clean, stainless steel sink. Since it was raining when we arrived, I thought nothing of a few drops of water falling off my purse when I lifted it. Once we were seated, I reached inside my damp purse, apparently sprinkled by an automatic motion facet. You guessed it. Sadly, my phone inside was wet and unresponsive.

We visited an AT&T store at our destination where a handsome young man, Jose, met us at the door and asked, “May I help you?”

Jose and another worker checked the phone and said, “It is dead.”

With genuine regret I turned to Jim and told him, “I am so sorry about this. Please forgive me.” He responded with such grace, “That’s okay, it was an accident. You need a phone, so I’ll buy one now for your birthday.”

I answered a few questions. Then, while iCloud loaded information from my old phone into a new one, we visited with Jose and learned he was a college freshman studying business.

Jim shared with him a tract written by our son, Steve, two months before he went to Heaven. “So What Happens Next?

Jose repeated the title, and said, “I’ve always wondered about that. May I read it now?” After a few quiet moments of reading he asked, “What advice would you give a young man my age?” It was a wonderful opportunity to share verses like—"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3: 5-6 NIV).

Jim shared a testimony and I asked Jose, “Do you have a Bible?” Jose was delighted when Jim helped him download a Bible app on his phone. We left the store feeling we had a divine appointment. When I asked Jose if I could pray for him, he gave me his name and phone number. A few days later I sent a text, “Thanks for helping us! I hope you have trusted Jesus as your Savior.” He wrote back “I sure did!” and expressed gratitude for our time together.

I am overwhelmed by grace—the forgiving grace of my husband, God’s grace in providing our salvation, and the joy of Jose’s receiving God’s saving grace through Christ. To God be the glory.

BIO: Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She enjoys baking, flower arranging, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Jim. Fran is a church organist and a core group leader for Community Bible Study. She is the author of See You Later, Jeffrey and Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faith and co-author of others.  Jim and Fran are parents of two sons awaiting them in Heaven, a beautiful married daughter and son-in-law, and three fabulous grandchildren.Visit Fran at her website:



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