9/14/2015

The Christian Response to Refugees and Immigrants

Within our nation and around the world, a debate is raging about immigrants, and whether they should be invited or allowed into countries across Europe---even here. This issue isn't a new one to our country, it's been one we've been debating for years. While I certainly have my views in regard to this debate, the question is, what should our response as Christians be? The fact is, there are many refugees fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries around the world, both near and far. As a result of their very real fears and hopes for a better life, they are entering these countries both legally and illegally. One of the fears of many is that terrorists or drug cartels are getting in with the refugees, lost in a sea of humanity. Is this fear a just and valid one? Absolutely. However, due to their evil natures, they will find a way in regardless.

But in our fervor to keep these kinds of individuals out, we’re only hurting the ones who really, desperately need to enter the country for their own safety. Or for the safety of their children. For what parent wouldn't do just about anything to ensure the safety of their children? A Mexican-American pastor friend of Troy's, Alberto, recently discovered just how far two parents were willing to go for their son's safety.

On a trip with his son to the park to play soccer, pastor Alberto struck up a conversation with a talkative young boy as he watched from the sideline. After chatting about many things, the young boy suddenly said, "I need to talk to my mom!" then proceeded to get his dad’s phone from his belongings.  As he was doing so, Alberto replied to the boy, "You’ll see your mom soon. Why don't you watch your dad as he plays so that when you get home, you can tell you mom about how well he played." That started the following conversation:

    "But my mom isn't at home." 
    "Where is she?” asked Alberto, thinking that she was perhaps at the store or running some errands.
    "She is in Honduras."
    "Honduras?!  Why are you here and not with your mom?" 
    "Because she called my dad and told him he had to come and get me. She told him I was in danger because I am a boy."

Troy’s friend then asked this little guy how he’d made it to the US.  The boy shared with him of their journey which included crossing through the desert in order to make it back.  When he finished detailing their journey, he looked at Alberto and said, "I will never forget going through the desert as long as a live."  Shocked by the candor of this young boy, the fact that he knew his life was in danger just because he was a boy, and the story he told of making their way through the desert, he asked, "How old are you?"  To which the young boy replied, "I'm 4."

In order to truly understand why this mother was so terrified for her son’s safety, we need only read the Honduras Travel Warning, posted by our government online. The following is taken directly from the report:

“Crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance. The police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime or may not respond at all. Members of the Honduran National Police have been arrested, tried, and convicted for criminal activities. Many more are under investigation. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras.... Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world for the last five years.” (1)

And this snippet from an article from truth-out.org:

"Honduras is one of the most violent nations in the world. The situation in the country’s second largest city, San Pedro Sula, demonstrates the depth of the problem. For the fourth year running, San Pedro Sula has been one of the most dangerous places on the planet outside of a war zone. Its murder rate in 2014 was an astonishing 171 per 100,000. The city, which is caught in the crossfire between vicious criminal gangs, has been the largest source of the 18,000 Honduran children who have fled to the United States in recent years.... The vast majority of killings in Honduras are carried out with impunity. For example, 97 percent of the murders in San Pedro Sula go unsolved." (2)

We need to understand that the overwhelming majority of the people coming into our country illegally are not doing it to thumb their noses at our legal system. They’re not here with the express purpose of stealing our jobs and collecting as much welfare as they can. And while I understand the concern about the drain on our economy, let me gently point out that taking care of them, helping them, is not the government’s job. I believe Jesus would have this be the role of the church.

Nowhere in the Bible does it state we are only to take care of those of our own nationality. Let’s consider Luke 10:29-37. In this passage, Jesus told a parable about an Israelite man who was journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the road, he was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Two men -- his own countrymen, two religious leaders! -- passed him by and did nothing to help him. One man stopped to help him. He put him on his own donkey, took him to an inn, tended to him, then paid the inn keeper for his care, all without expecting anything in return. Who was this man? This “good Samaritan”? A literal Samaritan, considered the dogs of society by the Israelites. To the rest of the Jewish nation, this man was a mere peasant in the social structure. Yet he was the one, not the man’s own countrymen, who offered aid.

God’s message is clear: we are to help those in need. Regardless of who they are. Many are concerned about the president’s consideration to offer aid to the Syrian refugees. Is there the possibility we open a door to terrorists and drug lords when we open our doors in welcome? Yes. As I said before, however, they will find a way in regardless. And as Christians, are we really prepared to stand before God on judgment day and say, “I’m sorry we didn’t help the needy. We were afraid of what might happen,” when asked, “Why didn’t you feed My sheep? Why didn’t you clothe My children? Why didn’t you care for My lost?” I don’t know about you, but that’s one conversation I don’t want to have with God.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (ESV) Friends, we know where fear comes from. And of course the enemy doesn't want us being the hands and feet of Jesus. He doesn't want anyone to come to Christ! His design is to paralyze us with fear, preventing us from acting.

Perhaps it’s time we in the church stop pointing fingers of responsibility and boldly ask God what He would have us do. How He would have us care for these lost children, trusting Him that His perfect will shall be carried out.

(Links - (1) http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/honduras-travel-warning.html; (2) http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/29431-can-the-violence-in-honduras-be-stopped)

8/21/2015

Responding to Broken Marriages

In light of the further fall of Josh Duggar this week, many have asked what his wife, Anna, is going to do. Will she leave him or will she stay? Many of the sites I've seen and the comments made have urged her to take her kids and leave him. Regardless of the committment they made to each other when they married that divorce was not an option. Many of the individuals, upon hearing of her plans to remain and work through the gaping wound his infidelity (and other sexual sins) has rendered upon their marriage, have openly scorned her choice.

Even fellow Christians.

"The Bible gives clear recourse for divorce if a spouse is sexually unfaithful," they say. While it is one of the Biblical reasons for divorce, I think it's dangerous for us to urge other Christians to take this step. I would never encourage a fellow brother or sister in Christ to consider divorce unless their lives -- or their children's lives -- were in real danger, as in the case of abuse.

Anything else can be healed. Anything.

I'm not saying that a marriage broken through infidelity will ever be what it was. Once something has been broken, it is never the same again. But we discount God's healing grace if we believe He can't restore shattered lives. Because by encouraging our fellow Christians to divorce cheating spouses, that's exactly what we're saying. That there's nothing God can do to save the people, save the marriage, save the family.

There are many marriages that have been touched by infidelity. Marriages that, with God's grace and marital counseling, develop into a relationship that is even better, even stronger than it was before the unfaithfulness. There may have been people encouraging those women to leave their husbands, as many are doing to Anna. The biggest difference between them, however, is that she is living this heartbreak, this nightmare in front of an entire country of people waiting to cast judgment upon her, her marriage, and her family. Some say they deserve it for putting themselves in the limelight. Friends, nobody deserves that.

Our response to Anna Duggar and other women like her should be one of love. We should pray for them. Pray for the unfaithful spouse's repentance. Pray for the broken family to be restored. Pray for healing for all. Instead of ridiculing her for her commitment to her husband, or encouraging her to leave him behind, let's affirm her decision to try and repair the marriage, praying and believing with her that all things are possible in Christ Jesus.

Including the restoration of a broken marriage.

3/20/2015

Christian Fic Friday - March 20

Welcome to this week's edition of Christian Fiction Friday, a blog hop of current works in progress by Christian indie authors.

This week's snippet features a conversation between Izobel and her friends Justin and Emma Bennet (you can read their story in The Reunion) about Izzy's seemingly deceased love--and Justin's twin brother--Matt.

As always, be sure to check out the other blogs in the blog hop.

****Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post short (400-word or less) snippets from their current works in progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.*****

*******************

      During a conversational lull, Izobel decided to share what had been preoccupying her thoughts the last few days. “I dreamed about Matt the other night. In my dream, he showed up at the door during the adoption celebration. He looked so different, none of us recognized him until he spoke.”

     Justin’s expression instantly sobered. “I’m sorry, Iz.”

      She shrugged a dainty shoulder. “For a long time, I kept hoping and praying that he’d be found and come home to us. After all, ‘missing in action, presumed killed in action’ leaves that door open, does it not?”

      He nodded. “We all shared that hope. But if he was going to be found alive, surely it would’ve been long before now, don’t you think?”

      “I know,” she agreed, wrapping her hands around her mug in reflection. After several minutes, she returned it to the coffee table and raised glistening eyes to theirs. “It’s just hard to let go of the dream.”

      “So much has changed in the last six years,” Justin mused aloud. “I mean, think about it. If he really is out there somewhere and by some miracle returns to us, he’ll have to come to terms with the fact that dad’s gone and he didn’t get to say goodbye.”
   

      “Nor was he there to see his brother marry,” Emma added quietly. “Not that it’s as big a deal as losing your dad.”

      He squeezed her knee affectionately. “No, but it’s no little thing, either.”

      “You’re right, though. Six years and there’s been no word? Doesn’t seem very likely he’s still out there. In fact, I’d say it’s an impossible dream at this point. Mamá has been pushing me to move on. She thinks the reason I haven’t been dating is because of the business I’ve been trying to launch. But if she knew the truth, she’d drive all the way here from El Paso and kill me.”

      Justin nodded his head with a smirk. “Yes, I believe she would.”

      She took one final sip of her hot chocolate before rising from her chair. It was time to make the long drive back to her condo on the outskirts of Denver and leave these two newlyweds alone for the evening. “It feels good to talk about him, at any rate. Thanks, guys.”

3/13/2015

Christian Fiction Friday - Mar 13

It's that time of week once again. Sorry I missed last week -- we met up with some friends we hadn't seen in over 2 1/2 years. Then, by the time we got back, it was too late to blog. Hope you enjoy today's snippet from my work in progress, 'The Return'. It continues where the last one left off. As always, be sure to check back next week for more.

****Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post short (400-word or less) snippets from their current works in progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.******

*******************************************

         Despair filled her heart. Why couldn’t she get past this? It had been six years already! Surely by now she should’ve been able to move on with someone else.

         Iozbel was startled when gentle fingers began kneading her shoulders, soothing away some of the tension in her body. Then, catching the scent of Lynne Bennet’s favorite perfume, she smiled. Despite the fact that she’d never married into the family, Matt’s mother had continued to treat her like a favored daughter long after they’d all said goodbye to her son.

         “Are you alright, Izzy, honey?”

        “I’m fine, mama. It’s just a headache.”
  
       “You need me to get you somethin’ for it?”

       She shook her head. “I sent Noah for my bag a few minutes ago.”
  
       The kneading ceased as Lynne leaned down into her peripheral vision. “He seems awfully clingy tonight. Is there anything you want to tell me?”
  
       A deep sigh from Izobel restarted the shoulder massage. “I know this has been hard for you, honey. But I actually really like Noah. He’s been a good friend to you, he’s a hard worker, and I know he earnestly loves the Lord. Plus, I’m not gonna lie. The boy is eye candy, pure and simple.”
  
       She choked back a laugh. “Mama!”
 
      “What? I’m not sayin’ anything any other female with eyes isn’t already thinkin’.”
 
      “But what if he hears you?” she asked, completely mortified at the thought. Good grief.
  
      “So what if he does? It might just give him the gumption he needs to follow through on what any fool with a brain can see he wants to do.”
 
      “And if I don’t want to go out with him? What then?”
  
      Once more, the massage stopped. This time, Lynne stepped around the chair and sat in the spot Noah had recently vacated. Instead of the teasing expression Izobel expected to see, she looked deadly serious. “I’m gonna ask you a question I should’ve asked a long time ago. Have you prayed about this, honey? Really prayed? Because as much as I’d wish it otherwise, my baby isn’t comin’ home. It’s time for you to let him go."

2/27/2015

Christian Fiction Friday - February 27, 2015


**Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post short (400-word or less) snippets from their current works in progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.**
 
The past two weeks, I've been sharing snatches of the book I'm currently working on, a sequel to my published book The Reunion, called 'The Return'. Be sure to check back next week for more!
 
(Today's snippet is a continuation of the conversation between Izobel and her videographer friend, Noah, who is obviously interested in becoming more than a friend and colleague, found in the post from February 13.)


      Izobel gripped her fork in frustration. Her relationship with Matt and her inability to move on after his death was a topic she did not want to talk about. Especially with someone interested in her. But how to express that without being flat out rude? Of course, if anyone was being rude, it was him, pursuing so personal a topic she clearly didn’t want to discuss. “Neither of us called off the wedding. He was killed in the line of duty before we could get married.”
 
     Regret pinched Noah's features. “Ah, I see. I’m sorry I asked, Izobel. I didn’t know.”
 
     At the dismay clearly written across his face, her expression softened. “I know you didn’t. It’s okay---it was a long time ago.”
 
      She could tell by the look on his face what his next question would be. Please don’t ask it. Let it go.
 
      “So why have you never married? You’re a beautiful woman. Surely there’ve been others in your life since your fiancĂ© died.”
 
      This time, she didn’t hold back the sigh. The throbbing behind her eyes became more persistent, and she rubbed the corners of her temples in an attempt to ease the pain. 
  
     And to avoid answering the question.
 
      “Can I get you something for that headache?” Noah asked, concern deepening his voice.
  
     “I’ve got some ibuprofen in my bag. Can you please bring it to me? I think I left it the foyer.”
  
     “Sure thing. Just sit tight and I’ll be right back.”
 
     She smiled, grateful to be alone. With any luck, he’d forget the question he’d asked and leave her alone for the rest of the night. That was the one thing everyone asked her the most often. And it was the one question she honestly had no answer for. Of course there had been other men in her life after Matt’s death. She enjoyed meeting new people, and casual dating provided a unique opportunity to do so. And it wasn’t as if she didn’t want to settle down and get married. She’d always dreamed of being a wife and mother. But every time she imagined herself falling in love with a person, panic filled her heart and she couldn’t continue the relationship. It wasn’t anything against the men she dated. They’d all been charming, wonderful men--not worthy of someone as unable to commit as she was. As wonderful as they’d been, however, they’d still fallen short.
    
     They weren’t Matt.

2/20/2015

WIP Friday - February 20

It's that day of the week again -- time for another snippet from my work-in-progress, 'The Return'. Be sure to check out other indie authors' WIPs at the following website: http://www.alanaterry.com/blog/christian-fiction-friday-youth-group-van1.

Enjoy, and be sure to check back next Friday for more!


       There was no telling what would set them off. The slamming of a door. A car backfiring. The sound of gun shots. Even fireworks. But the flashbacks were always the same. And they were so horrifyingly real. The sounds, smells, sights--all of it--were so clear. So realistic that, when they passed, he was always shocked to discover he wasn’t still there.
       In his own personal hell, where he’d been trapped for the last six years.
       He was aware that nobody else could see, hear, or smell the same things he did, and that made it all the more difficult to be around people. As a result, he’d long since given up the idea of returning to a normal life.
       This time, the trigger had been something new. Someone in the motel room above him had dropped something heavy on the floor. Instantly, he’d been transported back to the days leading up to The Event. He’d been a soldier for a long time and he’d seen a lot of carnage and death in that amount of time. But nothing like that week from hell.
       With nothing but sheer force of will, he tore his mind from the darkness of those memories and back to the present. The breathing exercises he’d learned long ago helped calm his racing heart. As did one other thing.
       There were gaping holes in his memory. Some things he could see in vidid detail in his mind’s eye. Others were only clear in the flashbacks. But all of his recent memories contained more holes than a slice of swiss cheese.
       All of his memories, save one.
       The memories of her face.

2/13/2015

A Sneak Peek at my Work-in-Progress (WIP)

Each Friday, the Christian indie author group I belong to encourages us to share snippets of our works in progress. My WIP is a sequel of my published novel, The Reunion, and will be called 'The Return'.

Here's a little sample:

        Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted her videographer colleague, Noah Roberts, headed her way with two plates of food. Dread filled her heart. Uh-oh--she knew that look. Over the last couple weeks, he’d hinted that he’d like their working relationship to become something more personal. He was a nice guy, even what other women would consider handsome. But she just wasn’t interested. She’d managed to turn aside each subtle hint he’d thrown her way---so far. Who knew, however, when he’d strike up the nerve to ask her out? And what she dreaded more than anything was that their working relationship would be ruined when she turned him down. Because she would turn him down.
       He handed her one of the plates of food he carried and sat down on the couch across from her, making her happy that she’d chosen to sit in the chair and not on the couch. “Thank you, Noah. That was very sweet of you,” she added, her smile not quite reaching her eyes.
       “You’re welcome, Izobel. You looked a little tired, so I thought I’d spare you the wait in line.”
       She frowned, disappointed in his obvious intent to stay and strike up a conversation with her. A dull ache was beginning to form behind her eyes and she’d almost reached her noise limit for one day. All she wanted at the moment was to sit quietly and enjoy the delicious food that Emma had catered in for the party.
       “So, how do you know the Bennets?” he asked around a mouthful of food.
        Izobel stifled a sigh. Clearly, he wasn’t going anywhere. “I was engaged to Justin’s twin brother.”
       His eyes shot to her finger, then back to hers. “Since I already knew you are single, and you happened to mention that you were engaged to be married, who called off the wedding? I know it’s none of my business, but c’mon--you can’t leave a guy hanging after a statement like that.”







That's it for now! Be sure to check back periodically for more. In the mean time, you can meet Izobel and some of her friends in The Reunion, available in paperback and for the Kindle.