Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Scripture

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness, James Tissot, 1886-1894,
Brooklyn Museum. [PD-US]

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, 
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."
Mark 1:12-15

If you have prayer needs, please mention them in the comments section so we can join you in prayer. You do not need to include specific names or situations of a private nature, just say that you have a prayer request. The Lord knows your heart and the needs you have. It is a privilege and honor to pray with you and for you.

Friday, February 16, 2018


Reunions can provide wonderful opportunities to reconnect with classmates, old friends, or distant family members.  

Last September, my husband and I traveled to Branson, Missouri, for a reunion of the Johnson first cousins. Of the twenty-one cousins still living (two have passed away), nineteen (plus several spouses) came from all across the US to attend, so you can imagine the lively conversations that took place! Since we now range in age from 50s to 80s, countless hours were spent reminiscing about “the good old days,” paging through photo albums dating back to the cousins’ youth, and catching up on what’s happened in each other’s lives since the last time any of us were together. 

The Johnson Cousins
(group photo taken at the Dixie Stampede)
For some of us, though, reunions may be a source of discomfort, if not outright dread. What kind of impression will we make? Will the same old rivalries be in play? Will we spend the entire event comparing ourselves to others’ success? It often takes the passage of time to smooth the rough edges of old relationships and allow us to recast them in a more mature and forgiving light.

Time didn’t prove much help for former college sweethearts Tripp and Diana, the hero and heroine of Hill Country Reunion, my latest from Love Inspired. Twelve years after their painful breakup, Diana is stunned when Tripp arrives in town as the new veterinarian, and their unexpected reunion is laced with tension, blame, and regret. It’s a diffucult journey toward a new start, but as they form a shaky alliance and learn to respect and admire each other for the people they’ve become, romance is rekindled. 

What are your experiences with reunions? Do you look forward to them? Avoid them? Is there someone in particular you’d especially like to catch up with? What’s stopping you?

I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful good-bye, and I look forward to a joy-packed reunion.” (2 Timothy 1:4, The Message)

About the book: When veterinarian Tripp Willoughby accepts a partnership in his former girlfriend’s hometown of Juniper Bluff, Texas, he knows he has no right to ask for forgiveness for their breakup. He thought keeping his Crohn’s disease a secret from Diana Matthews was the right thing to do—but he ended up breaking her heart. Now Diana has a new life running a doughnut shop and working with animals. Reluctantly, she accepts his help with her pet therapy program. As the furry animals bring them together, Tripp remembers how things used to be with Diana—and is convinced he must find a way to reveal the truth and win her back.

About Myra: Award-winning author Myra Johnson writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Myra is a two-time finalist for the prestigious ACFW Carol Awards, winner of Christian Retailing’s Best for historical fiction, and winner in the Inspirational category of the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards. Originally from Texas but now residing in the beautiful Carolinas, Myra and her husband love the climate and scenery, but they may never get used to the pulled pork Carolinians call “barbecue”! The Johnsons share their home with a very pampered rescue doggy who doesn’t always understand the meaning of “Mom’s trying to write.” They have also inherited the cute little cat (complete with attitude) their daughter and family had to leave behind when they recently moved overseas.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Daring Escapes

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I love research. My favorite bit of research thus far came with the writing of Credible Threat.  I enrolled in our town's Public Safety Academy. In my neck of the woods, not only does this mean citizen police academy but also fire academy!

While neither my heroine or hero work for police or fire, I needed to know how they would get out of certain dangerous situations. The firemen were the most helpful for this research so I followed them around, asking questions in between demonstrations.

After we went through a smoke-filled simulation trying to find and rescue a dummy hidden in their training facility, I was able to ask my what-if questions.  
(Side Note: You really can’t see your own hand in front of your face in a smoke-filled room. Check those batteries in smoke detectors and replace them every ten years.)

“What if my heroine did such and such?” I asked, citing a method I’d seen on television.

“Then guys like me would roll our eyes at you,” he answered. He offered some suggestions of how she would escape safely.

“But Myth Busters said—”

“Still TV.”

Sigh. So the fireman and I agreed on a controversial but effective method of escape for my hero and heroine and then finished taking this car apart before moving on to the fire hose demonstration.

The experience is one I’ll never forget, and I highly recommend you take advantage of any public safety classes your city or county offers. I’ll leave you with this: Everyone should have a vehicle escape tool inside the car, though I hope you never have to use it.

P.S. If you ever get the chance to drive a fire truck, do not use your left foot to brace yourself while steering. The truck’s horn will be heard for a mile radius, and you’ll have no idea that the button for the horn is actually underneath your foot until the captain seated beside you stops laughing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Love At the Candy Heart Cafe Chp 13 by Mary Alford

Love at the Candy Heart Cafe
Chapter Thirteen - The Conclusion
By Mary Alford

Candy stared wide-eyed up at him, her heart melting like cotton candy. There had been so many misunderstandings in their relationship. She couldn’t afford to be wrong again.

“You mean you want to be my business partner?” she asked, holding her breath while her legs shook like a bowel full of her grandmother’s favorite strawberry Jell-O.
Chad’s face crumpled. “No, I’m saying I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I’m saying I want you to marry me, Candy.”
Candy’s mouth dropped open. “You want to…marry me?”
He drew in a breath. “More than anything, I want you to be my wife. I thought I’d lost the chance when I left town, but I never stopped loving you. Wishing things had turned out differently.” The heartbreak in his eyes accented those words and she put her arms around his waist and drew him close.
“I never stopped loving you either, Chad. You’re the only man I’ll ever love.” She looked into his eyes because she wanted him to see the love she had for him there.
Tugging her closer, he tipped her chin and kissed her with his heart in his touch. “I love you  so much,” he whispered against her lips and watched as tears slipped from her eyes.
“I’m happy we found each other again, and so sorry that I believed the story about you and Ginger.”
Chad brushed his thumbs across her cheeks, taking away her tears. “No, this wasn’t your fault. Taffy was foolish for listening to Bruce. She’s always had a blind spot for him and couldn’t see that he was only after his own interests.”
Nothing that Bruce tried to do to keep them apart mattered anymore. They had found each other again and she was determined that nothing would ever keep them apart. “We should go tell Taffy. She’s going to be thrilled for us.” She smiled up at him, her eyes shining with happiness.
 Candy turned away, but he caught her hand and held her there. “Hang on a second.” His solemn expression face froze her in place. Was he having second thoughts already?
“What is it?” she asked, her heart hammering in her chest.
“Your grandmother called me shortly after you came home again to look after her,” he admitted and she had no idea how to respond.
“She did? What did she want?” But Candy believed she knew the answer already.
“She told me that you would do everything in your power to keep the Candy Heart Cafe running, even if it meant you had to give up on your dreams.” He shook his head, recalling the conversation. “Your grandmother said that you still loved me and she believed I felt the same way about you. That's the reason I came home. She begged me not to let you give up on your dreams, and I won’t. You deserve to have all your dreams come true.”
Candy clutched his hand tight. Even when she was dying, her grandmother was worried about her. 
“That was just like her,” she said, her voice thick with emotion. “Sweet as a chocolate truffle on the inside, and tough as a jawbreaker on the outside.”

He chuckled at her description. “Yes, that was her. I have to believe she’s smiling down at us right now. Happy that we finally got it right.”
She framed his face with her hands. “Me too. I love you, Chad. I can’t wait to open Sweet Vows with you. And I have the perfect person to help us out. Taffy.”
Candy told him about leaving Taffy to run the café.
“She must be as excited as a kid in a candy shop right now. Taffy always loved working at the café with you and your grandmother.”
“Yes, she did.” Candy and Taffy had spent many happy hours together in high school working at the Candy Heart Café. “Come on, let’s go tell her the good news together.” As she stared up at his handsome face, she could tell there was something more he wanted to say.
“Chad?” Their love was still so fragile. She was terrified something would come along and take it all away.
He took a tiny box from his pocket, and then still holding Candy’s hand, he knelt in front of her. Looking up at her with love in his eyes, he opened the tiny box that contained a beautiful princess-cut engagement ring.
“Will you marry me, Candy?” he asked, uncertainty in his tone.

With tears falling freely, she knelt beside him and hugged him close. “Yes, I will marry you,” she managed through the tears. “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you as--” her words died away the moment his lips claimed hers again, but it didn’t matter. They both knew that no matter what life threw at them in the future, they’d face it together, in each other’s arms. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Love At the Candy Heart Cafe Chp 12 by Jolene Navarro


                            Love at the Candy Heart Cafe

                           Chapter 12  by Jolene Navarro

Her lemon drop scarf danced in the wind. A bright spot in another wise dreary day. 

   Chad opened his mouth to say something, anything. It was as if it was stuffed with tootsie rolls.
     “Chad?” The heavy cloud of doubt filled her eyes.
      He managed to shake his head, but his brain wasn’t connected to his vocals. The candy-striped lighthouse towered over them. Offering hope or a warning of the dangerous waters ahead?
     Her lemon drop scarf danced in the wind. A bright spot in another wise dreary day. There was so much stupid between them. It was like they never grew-up, acting like clueless teenagers. Well, they were the first time they broke up, but now. They had no excuse.

     Candy stepped closer putting her delicate hand right over his heart. “Chad. Please, don’t tell me it’s too late for us.” She completely closed the space between them. Her fingers touch his face. Her warmth soothed him like a mug of marshmallow filled hot chocolate on a cold day. “We’ve cleared up all the misunderstandings.  We can start over now.”
     He should pull back, move away, but he stayed right where he was. “I don’t---”
     Standing on her toes, she pressed her lips to his and cut off his words.

     Pop Rocks explode in his mouth, his gut. He needed to pull away, but like taffy, the bond was too strong. Ever since he left town, he felt trapped in a world of flax seed and kale. Now all the sweetness of Candy and their love poured over him like sugar. His arms slid around her and he pulled her close. Taking his time, he moved from her lips to the sensitive spot at her ear. Chad explored all the treats that were his Candy.

Chapter 12  Love at the Candy Heart Cafe - by Jolene Navarro

     No. Placing his hand on her shoulder he pushed himself back, away from her warmth. It would be too easy to slip back into a world of gumdrops and rainbows, but that wasn’t reality.
     History had shown that one small storm and it dissolved. “We can’t keep doing this. It’s like we never left high school. I don’t know what we should do from here, but it has to be built on trust and truth.”
     She wrapped her arms around her middle. His girl looked lost and alone and it was all his fault.
     Large eyes met his gaze. “Please, Chad. I’ll do whatever you want. Whatever you need, I’ll do it. Let me make this right.”

 And that was the sticky mess in the middle of all their issues. “That.. right there is the problem. Candy, you always give so much to others that you never live your own dreams.”
      “That’s not true.”
      “Look how easy we gave up on each other.” How did he explain this to her when he wasn’t even sure if he could explain it to himself?
      “Are you talking about the day you asked me to leave with you? I thought you had been using me. Your sister lied to me.”
 He raked his fingers through his hair. Turning on his heel, he looked out to the sea. “That was just an excuse to tell me no. You were afraid to leave this town. That was you, hiding from life.”
      “No.” Anger was sprinkled over her sweet voice. “It wasn’t just Ginger or..or my fears. I couldn’t leave my grandmother. She was alone. I was her only family, all she had.” 
     She stood in front of him, fire flashed in her eyes as she poked his chest. “You left me. You took my heart. You walked away from us. Then and now. How in the world could you think I would have anything to do with Bruce? I need a loan to make the Café what it should be. I needed help and he had the only solution.”

  “He wasn’t the one you should have turned too. That’s what I was trying to do. If I bought the café, you could take the money and start the wedding business you always dreamed of. Then I saw us merging the two business and have the whole thing. Sweet Vows. One stop wedding and event store.”
     Her jaw dropped. “What? Why didn’t you tell me this? Why did you act like there was a client trying to take my grandmother's business?”

 “Because I wanted to surprise you and ride back into town and be your hero.”

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Love at the Candy Heart Cafe - Chapter Eleven by Belle Calhoune

                                         Love at the Candy Heart Cafe
                             Chapter Eleven by Belle Calhoune


It was time for Candy to be completely honest with herself.  Her feelings were bubbling over like a chocolate fountain at a wedding reception.  The letter from Honey Sweet had sealed the deal! Chad Hershey was the only man she’d ever loved.  And, judging by the way her heart burned like cinnamon red hots for him, that love had never dissipated.  Not for a single moment.  She’d been holding it inside of her all this time.

Life was too short to not grab for the brass ring!

For the first time since Chad had come charging back into her life, Candy felt hopeful.  Taffy’s words meant the world to her.  It felt as if she had her best friend back, as well as a shot at happily ever after with the man of her dreams.  But, in order to fix things with Chad, she needed to go after him and tell him how she felt about him.  She wanted to tell him she had no intention of marrying Bruce Tart. He was about as appealing to her as an apple pie with a worm in it.

It was a huge leap of faith for her to lay her heart bare to Chad after he’d disappointed her by trying to get her to sell the café. But she knew Chad’s heart was as beautiful as a plate full of chocolate eclairs.  She just knew there had to be a reasonable explanation for his actions.

“Can you cover for me, Taffy?” she asked her friend as her heart thundered in her chest.  “I need to find Chad.”

“Of course I can.”  Taffy winked at Candy.  “Go get him!”

Candy ripped off her red heart apron and handed it over to Taffy.  She rushed toward the door, pushed it open and took a deep breath of the briny sea air.  She raced over to her licorice red convertible and hopped inside.  While she revved the engine she tried to formulate a plan to find the man she loved.  She flipped on the radio, tapping her fingers against the steering wheel as a romantic love song wafted through the speakers.

Where was Chad?  She was racking her brain trying to figure it out. He had left the Candy Heart Café as if his feet had been on fire. His eyes had shimmered with betrayal and disillusionment moments before he took off.  He’d been as upset as she had ever seen him. 

All of a sudden, Candy had a hunch she knew exactly where he’d gone. 

Their lighthouse.  It was the place where they had always gone to seek tranquility and solace.  The red and white peppermint lighthouse had special meaning for the two of them.  It had always been a sweet harbor from the storms of life.  They had enjoyed their first date there - a summer picnic followed by stargazing - and made promises to one another about spending their future together.  Tears misted her eyes as tender memories washed over her.  Her relationship with Chad had always been as sweet as the filling in a Key lime pie. 

Could they somehow find their way back to that blissful place in time?

A few minutes later, Candy had arrived at her destination.  She stepped out of her car and walked down the boardwalk toward the lighthouse.  It glistened in the distance like red candy apples.  

Candy looked up at the structure, shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun with her hand. Was he inside?  Hope propelled her forward as she mounted the steps leading up to the top of the lighthouse.  When she reached the top, Chad was standing on the balcony looking out toward the water, his profile as strong as granite. She was suddenly seized by nerves.  Could she really put into words the way she felt about him without getting tongue-tied? 

“Chad,” she said in a raised voice, wanting to be heard above the sound of the roaring ocean.

He turned around to face her, a look of surprise etched on his handsome features.  There was a hard edge to his mouth.  He scowled at her.  “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be celebrating your engagement?”

Suddenly, she felt as if a gumball was lodged in her throat.  How could she tell him everything resting on her heart?

“I came here to find you, Chad.  You left the café before I could explain about Bruce.  I’m not marrying him.  Not now or ever!”

Surprise radiated from Chad’s face.  His features softened. “You’re not?” 

“No, Chad,” she said with a shake of her head. “I wouldn’t marry Bruce Tart for anything in this world.  Not even to save my business."

Chad took a few steps closer toward her, easily swallowing up the distance between them.  "I'm sorry for storming off.  I should have known you would never get engaged to the likes of Bruce Tart."  He reached out and swept his palm across her cheek.

"No, I wouldn't," Candy said, her lips trembling.  "How could I, Chad?  There's only one man who holds my heart...and that's you."