Fiction review: Death the Halls

Death the Halls is one of the Christmas thriller-suspense novellas in the Mistletoe and Murder collection.

Wow! Adam Blumer’s Christmas novella grabbed me from the very first sentence: “Lauren Henry had fantasized about romance during this Christmas break, but she never dreamed she’d end up in the arms of a killer.” It takes off, quite literally, as Lauren is riding on a snowmobile, kidnapped by the man behind her.

The next chapter explains how she knows he is a killer and what happens to her in this just-before-Christmas story. Lauren’s boyfriend, James, is about to meet the family, including Grandma. But, there’s someone already in the house—actually two someones with guns and ski masks. In only a few minutes, one person is dead and another is on the floor, covered in blood. One of the men kidnaps Lauren, while the other guy watches out for her dad and boyfriend.

The action keeps going throughout this murder mystery suspense novel. For me, not only was the story and the pace captivating but also the little details, like the garage of old muscle cars, the woman on oxygen, and a scene at the bank. Who is behind the kidnapping? Why kidnap Lauren?

On Christmas Eve, we find James and Lauren together—at gunpoint. What else happens? You’ll have to read it for yourself.

And as you savor the satisfying ending, you might want to sit next to a fire with a cup of hot chocolate.

This is a wonderful short book, fast-paced, and the ending is perfect. Adam Blumer writes very well. I would definitely recommend Death the Halls. Five stars.

Also, I have read some of the other authors and can hardly wait to read their contributions to Mistletoe and Murder.

Hate mornings? Encouragement for everyone

I am not a morning person. That doesn’t mean I don’t get up and get with it. I do. But, give me a cup of coffee first, and let me stumble around a minute or two before I’m actually functional.

Other people love mornings. They hit the floor ready to roll. Good for them.

Whatever kind of morning person you are, God has some promises and challenges for you.

Let’s begin with the challenges:

  • Communicate with the Lord first thing. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up (Psalm 5:3). I think of David, Daniel, and Jesus Himself, who sought the Lord each morning. Even if mornings aren’t your best time of day, you can pray before crawling out of bed, dedicating the day to the Lord and asking for His guidance. You can breathe a prayer while you slurp your tea or coffee. Meet Him first.
  • Remember God’s Word in the morning. The Bible is ultimate truth, so it is helpful to refresh our minds in it each morning. I prevented (got up before) the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word (Psalm 119:147).
  • Love the Lord more than you want to see another day. Priorities are so important. God first. The psalmist said, My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning (Psalm 130:6). Jesus admonished His disciples, But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).

Now, for the promises:

  • But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble (Psalm 59:16). I love that we can praise God for His power, mercy, and his ability to defend and even be a shelter for us.
  • To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night (Psalm 92:2). The context is to praise God in the morning and night for His lovingkindness and faithfulness.
  • If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me (Psalm 139:9-10). This might be a reference to Jonah, but it is so beautiful about how the Lord sees us, wherever we are, and he leads us and holds us.
  • Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee (Psalm 143:8). This prayer for guidance during the day should be our prayer, too.
  • The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned (Isaiah 50:4). Of course, this testimony is given by a prophet, inspired by God, but I love how God will open our ears to hear wisdom and give us words to say. He will do this every day, if we trust in Him.
  • It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23). This one is perhaps my favorite.

God’s faithfulness is constant. His mercies and compassions are new every single morning … even if I haven’t yet drunk my coffee.

May your mornings be blessed.

Scary enough?

Has 2020 been scary enough for you?

Someone even suggested canceling Halloween, since the horror is so real. They have a point.

Covid, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, landslides, flooding … it’s been one of those years. Nobody wants more horrors.

The mainstream media tries to keep us in fear. I have no idea what is true and what isn’t. Is anyone telling the truth? Who knows?

It has been a difficult year. In January, we were looking forward to blessings. Instead, we got shut down at the beginning of March.

That’s one way to look at it.

Thankfully, there’s another way to see 2020 (the pun just happened).

  • God never changes. For I am the LORD, I change not (Malachi 3:6a).
  • He is faithful. Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God (Deuteronomy 7:9a).
  • The Lord is active in the affairs of His people. The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men (Psalm 11:4).
  • God rules the world. He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah (Psalm 66:7).

This doesn’t mean that Christians won’t go through some lean years. These have always happened, and they always will—until the milennium, which will be amazing. (See Revelation 20:2-6.)

Until then, Christians need to trust the Lord. I am preaching to myself, too.

Our family has seen so many answers to prayer since this all started that it’s impossible to ignore the Lord’s hand in our lives. We praise Him.

A friend shared this verse, which seems especially appropriate in this scary year, 2020: In the fear of (respect for) the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge (Proverbs 14:26).

Are you God’s child? But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).

If you have received Jesus as your personal Savior from sin, you have this place of refuge. Be encouraged today.

If you would like to read more about the good news of salvation, you might enjoy this post.

Alone: when you can’t visit Grandma

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a huge problem in nursing homes and retirement homes because of the corona virus measures. People cannot visit their loved ones, and when they do, sometimes they are separated by Plexiglas partitions. No hugs, no touching.

Those with Alzheimer’s and dementia are especially affected by these measures. They can’t understand what is going on. They even forget who their family members are.

And, they are dying. Alone.

Charles Caleb Colton said, “Sometimes a hug is worth a thousand words.” The meme I saw shows two Teddy bears hugging. How much more than a thousand words is a hug for someone who feels abandoned.

I read recently about a husband and wife who are only allowed to see each other something like once a week, and then, they have to be at a distance with a staff member sitting between them.

Something is terribly wrong.

People need their families. They need visits. Elderly people need caring and touching and love.

So do the rest of us, for that matter.

I understand that older people are more vulnerable to Covid19 than the young. They often have underlying health issues, and they’re physically weaker. It would be awful for them to get the virus.

But, it isn’t right for homes for the elderly to be closed off to visitors. It also isn’t right for people not to have any visitors in the hospital.

Social distancing—and I understand the logic behind it—isn’t normal, either.

Jesus physically touched lepers, blind, crippled, and the dumb. He reached out to them. He took the dead by the hand when He raised them. They felt His caring through His touch.

In the early church, people greeted each other with a holy kiss, just as we used to in our church in Spain. Hugs between brethren are normal. Pats on the back or touching an arm are good for us. They are encouraging, warm, and connecting (pardon the pun).

Please understand I am not advocating throwing out all health rules during a pandemic. But, there is a real problem—possibly even worse than the disease—when we can’t visit family, especially our elders.

I don’t know what solutions to advise either. Masks can be very confusing to a confused person. Probably a clear face shield would be better. Wash hands and surfaces. Make sure the staff is healthy. Do everything to keep our elderly people well. But, let them see their families. A huge part of geriatric health is mental health, feeling loved, and the warmth of family.

Someone suggested she would rather die and be with her spouse than to be separated and lonely.

Many people who had Covid and were in the hospital said the hardest part was the loneliness, going weeks without visitors. Several of my personal friends couldn’t visit their handicapped children for months. This is clearly not right.

I think that part of honoring our father and mother is visiting them in their old age.

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:32).

What do you think?

Any ideas on how to best handle this problem?

Have you or a loved one experienced this? Please feel free to share.

A contentious person–and how I almost became one

How glad I am for God’s Word and prayer.

I recently read something controversial that I felt I needed to answer right away. When I prayed about answering, this verse came to mind: But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God (1 Corinthians 11:16). The context of this verse is the controversy about headcoverings and long hair for men and women. It’s not worth arguing about.

Another verse about being contentious says, It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman (Proverbs 21:19). An additional Proverb says, A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike (Proverbs 27:15).

I don’t want to be a person no one wants to live with or a source of water torture. Quickly, I put my plan to respond to this person to rest.

The Bible uses another colorful illustration about being contentious: As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife (Proverbs 26:21).

No one wants to add fuel to a problem.

You may have thought about times when we’re supposed to contend. Contend means “to strive against.” We’re to contend for the faith (truth, pure doctrine). Defend it.

But, being contentious means arguing for the sake of argument, stirring up strife, nagging, and adding fuel to the fire. In short, it’s being a real pain.

This never helps the cause of Christ.

Jesus gave us this example: He held His peace.

As I get older and—I hope—more mature, I am learning that most controversies don’t require an answer. People have already made up their minds. It is totally useless to argue.

Many of the subjects are silly, too. Who cares if the sky is actually blue or if it is a reflection of certain bands of light and only perceived as blue? We could argue all day. Is it blue? Yes. But, who cares whether it is actually blue or the perception of blue?

We’re supposed to defend the gospel and sound doctrine. But, most battles don’t call for our participation.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9).

Let’s be peacemakers instead of contentious.

I’m glad I prayed first.