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    • By ksquaker in GOD SQUAD
      My first deployment was to Iraq in 2006. It made several things clear. Before Iraq, my faith was comfortable. It had been tried, tested, and proven, but in a very clean and simple way. My faith was comfortable in seminary, at home, at work, and in the church. But that all changed in Iraq. I saw what it was like to constantly be under attack and understood what it was like to be under the threat of death. Iraq gave me something that most Americans do not experience. Iraq also gave me something that most Christians in the western world do not experience. Iraq changed me, but it also changed my faith for the better.
      One of the major discoveries from my time in Iraq was truly learning the power and importance of prayer. While seminary gave me the tools and the knowledge regarding a solid prayer life, Iraq was the furnace that forged my prayer life into a solid existence.
      Here are four lessons on prayer that helped me down range.
      Share your heart. Be transparent with God. Big or small, lift your prayers to the Lord. The night before flying into the combat zone, I spent two and a half hours in prayer. This was the longest span of time I had ever spoken to God in one setting. I had a lot of ground to cover if this was potentially my last night on earth. Cry out no matter what the concern may be. Philippians 4:6 reminds each of us “. . . in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
      Pray now, not later. Be immediate with prayer. Time is precious, especially in a war zone. If someone shared a prayer request, my new practice was to stop and immediately pray with the person. The location may be on the sidewalk, in the parking lot, at the chow hall, or in the office. There was no reason to wait and the soldier had a need that deserved to be addressed. Hebrews 4:16 shares, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
      Keep it simple. There is no need to be fancy. Wordsmiths have their place, but not on the battlefield. I felt God calling me to pray for aircraft, well the crews and passengers on board. I crafted a simple three point prayer to say every time I heard a helicopter or aircraft departing the base. Jesus reminds us not to have babbling prayers in Matthew 6:7. Prayers are not heard for the sake of many words.
      Have a consistent pattern. My routine was very disjointed in Iraq. The start and end of every day lacked consistency. Unit operations had to happen 24 hours a day and the war didn’t stop. The best time to pray was right before I went to sleep. I could make time to pray once my boots came off. It took a while to find that right recipe, but once I found it the routine stuck. Find a time or habit that can help you make space for prayer. Colossians 4:2 encourages us to, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
      There are many lessons a veteran will find down range. Theses lessons can benefit our Christian walk. The trials of yesterday make us stronger for tomorrow. May God grant us the calling of Romans 12:12, to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.”
    • By David Ettinger in David Ettinger's Blog
      All About God
      On Thursday, December 1, 2016, I became a grandfather for first time. Zachary David Ettinger made his world debut weighing in at a whopping 9 pounds, 9 ounces. The parents, my son Aaron and his wonderful wife Kati, were beaming.
      For me, the birth of Zachary was all about God, His glory and grace on full display, His faithfulness and goodness well attested to. With a thankful heart I call to mind these soaring words from Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”
      Recalling the Dark Days
      This blessed event is so special because of what has come before, during the darkest days of my life. Aaron, who would be my only child, was born in November of 1983. I was thrilled to be a father and threw myself into it with everything I had. I loved Aaron foremost above all things, and he meant everything to me.
      Sadly, I was far less the husband than I was the father, and Barb and I divorced when Aaron was 2½ years old. The trauma of the divorce led me to Christ, but I nonetheless found myself in a precarious position. Almost from the outset, I was beset by friends and family telling me that I better find a good lawyer as soon as possible in order to protect my custodial rights. They buttressed their warnings with dire stories of ex-husbands whose wives had remarried and taken the kids to another state. The same would happen to me, they declared, if I did not act fast.
      Such tales affected me deeply as I spent many sleepless nights agonizing over the possibility of losing the son I so deeply loved. Three things worked against me. First, as a sportswriter in a small city, I did not make a lot of money and simply could not afford an attorney. Second, Barb was an excellent mom and courts in such cases overwhelmingly rule favorably for the mother. Third, Barb remarried two years later, and her husband made a very good salary. If a custody battle ever ensued, I wouldn’t stand a chance.
      As a counter-balance was the fact that Barb and I had a very civil divorce and were on very civil terms. Also, Barb’s new husband, Jim, was (and is) a good man who was sympathetic to my situation and was certainly not looking to cause harm. However – and this is what scared me – Jim was the city planner of our city, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and was very good at what he did. Being relatively young, he was an excellent candidate for similar positions in bigger cities, and I knew it would be difficult for him to turn down lucrative offers if they arose. If the right offer came his way and he accepted, he, Barb, and Aaron would be moving, and there would be nothing I could do to stop them.
      Crying Out to God
      Being totally helpless, I cried out to God for His grace and protection. “Lord,” I prayed, “there are so many awful fathers who could care less about their kids, yet they still get to live in the same home as them. I, on the other hand, would die for my son, and yet I must live with the constant threat of losing him. I plead with you, don’t let me lose Aaron. Give Barb and Jim so much happiness and satisfaction that they never want to leave. And if I must lose Aaron, then give me at least five years with him.”
      Those prayers proved my greatest comfort, and they were effective. As weeks, months, and years passed, I felt the Lord assuring me when I needed it most that there was no way He was going to allow me to lose Aaron. He indeed began blessing Barb and Jim. First, Jim got promoted from city planner to city manager, and soon after Barb got pregnant with her son Chris. Also, relations between the three of us were exceptionally good, and Barb never brought up the issue of she and Jim moving. In June of 1991, on the five-year anniversary of our divorce, I praised God for the five years he had given me with Aaron. However, Aaron was only 7 years old, and the five years were not enough. I asked God for five more.
      A Faithful God
      In His faithfulness, God determined that my “five more years” prayer was insufficient, and increased it. He also took away my fear. Furthermore, Barb and Jim had one more child, Emily, and they allowed me to have a special place in their children’s lives.
      Just before Aaron’s senior year in high school, Barb and I decided it was time for me to accept a job offer made 11 years previous in Orlando (yes, it was still in effect). We both knew that Aaron would excel more in Orlando than in a small city. I would leave during Aaron’s senior year in order to establish residency so that Aaron could receive in-state college tuition. At the end of 2002, following Aaron’s graduation, Barb, Jim, Chris, and Emily loaded up their van for an Orlando vacation – and to transport Aaron to his new home.
      Aaron lived with me for four years, then branched out on his own (here in Orlando). He met his future wife Kati in 2010, and the two married in 2014. In March of 2016, Aaron called me with the joyous news that Kati was pregnant.
      As I held little Zachary for the first time, I was filled with gratitude to the Lord for giving me such a blessing I could not have dreamed of all those years ago. And as I drove home from the hospital that evening, I thought back to those dark days when I feared losing Aaron. I asked God for five years, and He delivered so much more; He has so far given me (at the time of this writing) 31 years, a daughter-in-law, and a grandson!
      The words of Ephesians 3:20 indeed ring true, and let’s add verse 21: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
      Amen indeed!
      Note: In the photos below, the two older ones are of Aaron and me when he, obviously, was a little one.
      Read more posts by David Ettinger: https://ettingerwriting.wordpress.com/

    • By c taylor in cm taylor
      “We get mad at God because we don’t get our way… We get mad at God because we know that He can do something about a certain situation and He doesn’t.
      “If the Lord Jesus Christ were to appear to you right now and He would answer any question you may have about your situation – the whys, the why nots – when He was finished, you’d say, ‘Thank You, thank You, Lord. You’re right.’ And there wouldn’t be any correction or anything you could say when He was finished because God is perfect - He doesn’t make mistakes. ‘There is no counsel against the Lord.’”
      These are the wise words of the leader of a church’s divorce ministry in the movie *Me & You, Us Forever*. A man, dealing with the bitter taste in his mouth as the result of a wife who left him for another man, embarks on a journey to the past to find the woman he saw as the “perfect girl” for him in high school, but dropped her to pursue other girls.
      He takes a colleague’s advice to attend a group for divorced folks but believes there’s nothing there for him. But it led to this wise counsel from the group leader and a blossoming friendship with someone who was there to pray for him and help him stay spiritually grounded.
      Against all the wisdom from those who cared about him and wanted God’s best for him, he travels to see the woman, who was possibly still married. But he wanted what he wanted and he was on a mission. When he sees her, they talk and it wasn’t quite what he expected. He walks away, lesson learned. We get a hint of the fact that the relationship was either never meant to be or was no longer an option. He did take the advice of his business partner and offered her the gift of Christ as her Savior, to which she did not respond.
      It is sometimes hard to understand the thoughts and ways of God. And when we feel our expectations have been betrayed, it can be painful. And, yes, we may become angry with God. But as we remember Who God is – perfect – and how much He loves and cares for us and that His intent is *never* to hurt us or harm us but to form Christ in us and bring us to that place of “happily ever after,” the day will inevitably come -either here and now or in heaven and later - when we will say, “Thank You, Lord. Thank You!”
      “There is no counsel against the Lord.” Proverbs 21:30
    • By AuthorIrisChacon in AuthorIrisChacon's Blog
      Have you ever acquired a book you're eager to read, only to discover halfway through that the content is sleazy, salacious, and, let's call a spade a spade, just plain filthy? I'm not talking about books that clearly present themselves as "sexy" or "steamy" or "deviant" (yes, I've seen them advertised). I'm talking about books that I call "stealth porn," because from the cover, the blurbs, the ads, and the first few chapters, the reader can't tell that raucous, explicit sex is about to explode and consume most of the book's remaining pages.  If I have not obligated myself to publish an objective review for the publisher, I'll stop reading right there and simply delete the whore-in-nun's-clothing from my e-reader. Sometimes, however, in order to honor a commitment -- and to alert other readers who may be ambushed by the innocuous-looking novel -- I will finish reading the book (skimming quickly past the Kama Sutra pages) and try to write a fair review.  I'm not a prude, not perfect, not young and innocent, but I have personal moral standards that many of my fellow readers -- Christians and non-Christians alike -- share.
      The following is a review I was obligated to write for a publisher, and I did not wish to do harm to the author's career with my review, but I had to be honest.  I'm beginning to be extremely wary of the "romance" genre. There is now a separate genre called "clean romance" and sometimes "sweet romance," and the number of titles listed in that genre is relatively small.  I now surmise that, while I wasn't looking, the definition of "romance novel" in the publishing industry has come to mean "soft-core pornography," and sometimes even "hard-core pornography." (An additional symbol to readers who know the code is the shirtless, muscled man on the cover.)  While we Christians strive to be "in the world, but not of it" and "wise as serpents, but harmless as doves," we need to be aware of this trend. Be discerning, reader friends. Examine the cover and random interior pages before purchasing that book that appears to be about falling in love, but is really about promiscuity and recreational, athletic sexual escapades.  
      Here is my review of Willing Target, by Kathleen Mix.
      "Review:   WILLING TARGET, by Kathleen Mix
      Rated 3 out of 5 stars by Iris Chacon.
      "I do not disparage the author's skill or competence in the least, but this was simply one of those novels that I had to force myself to finish. I couldn't stop putting down out of boredom or disinterest with the characters and the plot. Perhaps my expectations of the genre are wrong, but this seemed too slow to be a suspense novel, the characters too dull for an espionage novel, and the explicit sex too prevalent for a "romance" novel. Is "romance" the new literary code for "soft core porn"? This book may be just the thing many readers are looking for, and I wish them happy reading. It just didn't work for me.
      "I would be willing to try another novel by Kathleen Mix someday, in hope that my own life situation or incorrect expectations were the cause of my ennui.
      "The writer received an ARC in exchange for an honest and objective review."

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