Guard the Fortress


There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and storms have broken out all at once. Not to mention sudden, crazy weather patterns of intense heat followed by September snow.

We shouldn’t be surprised.

Jesus told us that all this would happen.

“Jesus answered, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nations will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:4-8

As the world becomes more desperate, I pray we will turn to Jesus. While the enemy attempts to destroy us and our belief in a good God who loves us, Jesus longs for us to run to him in our pain, fear, hopelessness. He will comfort and strengthen us and give us peace.

His word also gives instruction to help us in this time of crisis.

Recently, I read some encouraging instruction in the book of Nahum. In the second chapter, and the first two verses, this prophet warns the people to be alert when their enemy is advancing on them. While those words were meant for that time in a practical war sense, all of God’s word is relevant to us in some way even today. This is what I took from the passage that I believe can be helpful today.

  1. “Guard the fortress.” As believers in Jesus, our bodies are God’s “temple” where the Holy Spirit resides. I believe that God would have us guard our bodies and hearts against unhealthy living and the lies of the enemy. Fear is a spirit that is stirring up the world. Let’s guard ourselves against it, rather than letting it penetrate our bodies and minds.
  2. “Watch the road.” Our mind is what lets in thoughts and images like a road into our fortress. If we’re not careful about what we expose ourselves to, we may find that what we let in is infiltrating us in a destructive, poisonous way.
  3. “Brace yourself.” God’s word is the most powerful weapon we have. It is the “sword of the spirit” which is truth. The Bible is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…” (Heb. 4:12) When we declare it, pray it, and speak it, we are bracing ourselves for battle.
  4. “Marshall all your strength.” Our only true strength comes from the Lord. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” In order to gain that strength, I must be in God’s presence. Worship, talking to him, and asking for his wisdom in every area will make me strong. It’s Jesus who strengthens us. (Phil. 4:13)

Battles aren’t without injuries or destruction, but the Lord will restore to us anything that is lost in battle. He makes us beautiful and splendid no matter what might be destroyed. Even in this era of the world going crazy, let us look to the Lord, God Almighty who is our only true refuge in times of trouble.

Praying for you as you consider where your help comes from. My help comes from the Lord God, maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-3)

My Date with Jesus


A blogger friend’s recent post (thank you MamaLava!) showed some wonderful snow people and gave us a reminder that when we’re in our heads, it may not always be the best place for speaking truth and love to ourselves. It’s a great post what will make you smile!

But it also reminded me of a special date I had with Jesus on Friday. It was a cool, clear morning at sunrise. My husband went to walk with our son and dropped me at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve that is a couple of miles from our house. I figured I could walk home if I took my time. (Health issues make that long of a walk exhausting.) It was a time to worship and thank God for his beautiful, peaceful creation.

Very few people are there at sunrise so the hushed surroundings made me want to tiptoe through the trees. When I arrived at the main lookout over the largest pond, a trio of birds sat on the rails looking for fish. I don’t think they were observing the sign.

The sun hadn’t come up far enough to shine on the pond yet. Clouds in the distance promised the predicted rain that was to arrive around 10:00 a.m. It was only 7:30 so I had plenty of time to make it home before I got wet. Or so I thought.

With each new turn in the boardwalk path, the sun rose a little higher shining through the trees and reflecting off those across the pond. I love that God’s mercies are new every morning!

"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24

There are always squirrels who greet us. Sometimes we’ll see armadillos, hogs, otters, and often snakes like the one on the right. You can tell he’s a poisonous one (a cottonmouth or water moccasin they’re called) because of his pointed head. Look closely by that brown leaf. His fat belly and sleepy head told me he probably had eaten recently. You can see his black tail pointed above his head.

I also saw a couple of wood peckers high up in the trees pounding away at bugs. The sound echoes through the woods so it’s not too hard to find them if you look carefully. Unfortunately, with only my phone, they are too far away to get a good picture of their red heads. A falcon swooped by and startled me. Too fast and he landed too far away to get a picture. A woman with a very long camera lens showed me where a little screech owl hides. I hope that maybe in the future I can bring my camera and with my zoom lens get a photo. So many intriguing creatures hide out in the woods. Last time I was there, a racoon appeared on the trail in front of me. He must have thought I was following him because he kept looking back to see if I was still there before he eventually slipped silently into the trees.

An occasional pop of color grabs my attention. The red beak of an ibis forging in the water for food on the left and a random red vine hugging a tree. Red seemed to be the color on Friday. Red reminds me of Jesus’ blood shed for us. Thank you, Jesus.

When I got ready to leave, the clouds were closing in, leaving only a small patch of blue sky reflecting in the water. I still had at least an hour before the rain was supposed to start. I headed home with gusts of wind whipping my hair. Would I make it?

As I walked, I sang to the Lord about his faithfulness. Holy is he. My need for him. Songs on repeat in my heart and mouth. I texted some photos to a friend to brighten her day. We love walking in the slough together but she was sitting in an auto shop waiting room. And then Jesus blessed me with one final treat. A young falcon perched on a fence along the path. I ventured as close as possible. I didn’t want to scare it, but I also didn’t want to get too close to the shallow ditch water. In Florida, you can’t always see alligators even in the shallowest of water so it’s good to keep a safe twenty-foot distance. It’s not a very clear photo, but you can find him watching for small fish in the water below.

Within about five more minutes, the rain started. Forty-five minutes early! Pulling my jacket hood up over my baseball cap, I cinched the ties and tucked my phone in my pocket. What began as a steady rain, grew quickly into a strong downpour. Fortunately, it was at my back, unlike the woman who walked towards me with the rain pounding in her face.

I wasn’t cold. The rain made my date an adventure. I laughed and smiled at cars driving by. With soggy shoes, I made my way home in the rain, singing. I think there’s a song and movie about that. 😉

I’m not going to lie. It was a long walk and by the time I arrived home, I was wring-water-out-of-my-clothes wet. At least my phone stayed dry in my jacket pocket! But it had been a delightful two and a half hours with Jesus. A true adventure. I can’t wait to see what he has for us next time.

Any relationship requires time to develop it. I spend a lot of time with the Lord reading his word, talking to him, and worshiping in song. But then there are those special moments, outings, messages he gives like he gave MamaLava on her snow walk. I pray you have enjoyed some of those intimate times. And if not, why not ask him to join you on one?

"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." Jesus.  John 17:24 

Maybe you’d like to share your special times with God in the comments. =)

Are You Aware?


Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

A young girl down the street feels flattered when some teenage boys notice her. When they invite her to hang with them, she has no idea what they have in mind. The first time, they befriend her so she’ll come back. But after that, she’s used and sold to their friends. Without anyone knowing, she’s being sold after school to a handful of older boys and young men. She’s only eleven. How can she escape? Who does she tell? Will anyone believe her that such a thing could happen?

In your favorite restaurant, three young people are in the back kitchen, washing dishes. Seems innocent enough. But they don’t receive pay. Instead, after twelve-hour days of cleaning, they’re carted to a crowded hotel room or one room space where they sleep on mats or shared mattresses on the flour. They may be used by their “owner” or someone he sells them to for a thirty-minute romp.

The elementary school staff where your kids attend isn’t aware that that student who sits off by herself instead of playing at recess or eating lunch, is sold by her parents in off-school hours. The teachers can’t understand why such a bright child can’t get her homework done and doesn’t participate in class. Since there aren’t any visible marks on her body and her clothes seem clean and in fair condition, there are no other signs that she’s surviving in deplorable conditions.

It sounds as if these situations are fabricated by some imaginative author, but they are real depictions of actual events. So unbelievable we can’t wrap our minds around them.

And I was clueless.

When I first learned of human trafficking, it was by accident. My husband and I were in Half Moon Bay, CA celebrating our anniversary. After lunch, we took a window-shopping walk and were intrigued by a store front that displayed “Not For Sale.” We laughed.

How could you have a store called “Not For Sale”?

The shop was actually selling products made by survivors of human trafficking. Say what? My husband and I were confused until we investigated more closely.

I wasn’t unaware of slavery. I knew it happened in other countries far away in which people’s lifestyle or debts forced them into servitude. But I didn’t really understand the facts. Or that it was a huge business here in the United States.

We purchased the book written by founder David Batstone. Then we learned the truth. The author discovered that human trafficking was happening in his own town, at one of his favorite restaurants. It took me almost two years to read the book. Not because it isn’t great, but because I was so shocked by the information (and triggered by some far lesser events of my past).

I never intended to write a novel dealing with the subject, but years later working off a random prompt, I found myself writing a book that integrated a kidnapped little girl and a mystery of a trafficking ring. When I published it, I decided that half the proceeds would go to organizations, including Not For Sale, that fight this horrific, billion-dollar industry and help rescue those in captivity. A couple of years ago, one of the characters in another one of my books also suffered through trafficking in a different way.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. Did you know that?

I may not be able to go rescue people, or volunteer at an organization, but as an author, I can write novels that entertain, but also make people aware of this situation. I can donate the proceeds from my books to organizations that are outfitted to intervene.

You can help too!

Maybe you do have money to give or time to volunteer. Or maybe you can get one or both of my books FREE to learn more. Or buy them so I can donate more money. And share with your friends so they can be aware or buy the books or volunteer.

Every little thing we each do adds up to something big.

So check it out. January 13-15th and 20th-21st you can get either or both of the books below FREE. Or buy them so I can donate.

It’s easy to do your part.

Get them by clicking the link: Dangerous Ground A Mighty Wind

These are the organizations I support with book proceeds, Amazon Smile, and/or my time. There are many others. But everyone needs to start somewhere.

Start today.

It’s That Simple – Part 5


The Week After Christmas

It's the week after Christmas and all through the town, 
people sigh with relief and think of when to take down 
the tree and it's trimmings, the lights on the house, 
the snowflakes, and candles, or return the new blouse?

But the manger with angels and wise men afar, 
do we pack it away like we load up the car?
What if Jesus could stay in our lives all year long? 
What if joy, peace, and love were more than a song?

Could life be as simple as receiving a babe 
and believing the man who said he would save?
Does the letdown of Christmas have to stay in our hearts 
with no hope 'til next year when holidays start?

Today as you're thinking of what is to come, 
the debt-laden bills and "will there ever be sun?"
Remember that Christmas is more than a story, 
in an old book--it's about heavenly glory

Our Father in heaven loved us so much
that he sent his son Jesus to keep us in touch
He longs for our heart to respond back to him, 
with love for our Savior and faith deep within

He did all the work years ago on the cross
If we choose to say "no" we're the ones suffering loss
But if we say "yes" to being with Him, 
he'll keep us forever and save us from sin

It's simple, not easy to give up our pride
and choose to be humble and trust that he died
For every dear child he made from the start. 
God doesn't need money, he just wants your heart

He's light in this darkness, the answer to fear. 
He's willing and waiting for all who will hear
Today can be Christmas with peace all the time, 
if only we'll trust him and our ways decline

Yes, it's that simple.

It’s That Simple – Part 4


A baby. In a feeding trough. In the middle of the night.

We make it look all pretty, don’t we?

But the rough, raw truth of it – a young teenage girl traveling miles on a donkey to a town she didn’t know with the man who wasn’t yet her husband to give birth with animals in the dirt is as simplistic as it gets. No hotel with room service. No service at all. Just some straw. No midwife or hospital. A young woman giving birth with no one to attend her except a man. At that time, in that culture, the entire situation would have been embarrassing.

Can we say “awkward”?

Why a baby?

Why didn’t God sweep down from his heavenly throne and announce himself with trumpets so we’d be sure to recognize him? Why enter the world on a donkey with a donkey to a girl, not a queen?

God uses the simple things to confound the “wise.”

He wants us to love him not explain with our human reasoning why and how he can’t possibly exist. We’re intelligent. Created in his image means we have the capacity for so much creation, discovery, and understanding if we are yielded to him. But when we rely on ourselves, we miss all there is thinking that we know all there is. We only see a small part of who God is and become puffed up in pride.

I know this. I can do this. I have to figure this out. I can tell you what’s best.

Or maybe it’s as simple as God bringing Jesus into the world the same way he began the world.

What if he knew we would never be able to love him, ourselves, and others without us receiving his love first? What if Jesus coming to us humbly as a baby without claiming his creative, God rights was to show us how simple it really is to receive his love?

His love that makes a way for us to be in relationship with him for eternity – because he is beyond time.

Could it be that simple?

Do You Read at Christmas?


If so, you can get this story that begins in the little town of Bethlehem. A young mother whose baby boy is slaughtered when soldiers come looking for Messiah to kill him struggles with her grief and despair.

It’s easy to read stories in the Bible and think they are just stories, but those people lived real lives just like us. What would you do if your child was murdered?

Rachel’s story takes us through unimaginable pain. She can’t find comfort anywhere she looks. And to make matters worse, the one hope she had in life, the coming of Messiah, is tainted by the fact that he is the reason he son is dead.

What does it take for Rachel to finally forgive the Forgiver?

Journey with her to find out.

FREE on Amazon December 22-26.

My gift to you. Merry Christmas!

It’s That Simple – Part 3


“It was time I quit running.”

Photo by Michael Foster on Pexels.com

Two young men said the same thing to me as I led them at separate times to the restroom to change after being baptized at our church last weekend. It was my group’s task and privilege to direct the soaking wet people to the facilities so they wouldn’t get lost. I congratulated them again before pointing out the basket for their towels sitting outside the restrooms.

As we walked, both said they had been running from God for years. One said it had been a decade. They both knew God was calling out to them, pursuing them with his kindness and love. I don’t know either one personally, but at our church, each week we celebrate each person who decides to start a relationship with Jesus. Then, every couple of months, we have baptism Sunday during which time after our services, believers choose to be submerged in water to show publicly the choice they made in their heart. It’s an incredible time of hearing how God has loved his children into his arms through his grace.

I don’t know if you’ve been running from God or you know him and have just been running from something he’s told you to do. Maybe you didn’t even realize you were running until reading this, but now you feel a tugging at your heart, and you know that it’s God.

Both young men described the place where they finally let go of trying to figure out things their own way and gave in to God. Their radiant faces and excited voices proved they were so glad they did.

Another young man being baptized said he’d been in a state of deep depression for ten years. I’m not sure how old he was (everyone looks young to this aging lady now), but I thought how sad he had struggled through what appeared to be his teen and/or young adult years. He showed up at our church only a few days prior to this, said yes to Jesus, and for the first time in years was free from the heaviness of depression.

We cheered with him.

I later learned that one of the guys I walked with had been a serious gang member before he quit running and gave in to Jesus. A woman shared how she lost her son and so many other things in recent years. After turning to Jesus, she found love and peace, a community to be a part of, and the man who she claimed is the “love of her life.” The truth of this showed in the way he stood with tears in his eyes, supporting her and celebrating with her.

Story after story of young, even children, and old—a woman closer to my age who knew Jesus but had never been baptized—told of how they just said “yes.”

It’s that simple.

God created and loves all of us. He won’t stop pursuing us with that love even if we turn to a life of crime, ignore him, or think we aren’t worthy. He doesn’t want to shame us or condemn us, he wants to cover us and draw us into a close relationship with him. Jesus took all our sin on him to make the way clear for us to enter into the holy presence of God.

It’s as simple as stopping our running, turning around, and running into his arms.

If you’ve been running, you can stop now and tell him you’re sorry, you need him, and you want him to change your life with his forgiveness, grace, and presence.

Yes, it’s that simple.

It’s That Simple – Part 2


Nothing existed outside of “I AM.” No human being, no single celled amoeba, not a star that we know of. And if it did, how would we know?

If the Bible is in fact, God’s explanation to us of everything, then we can take him at his word when he says that all things came into existence by him, through him, and for him. Nothing existed that he didn’t create.

What does that make you and me?

Very small.

We observe the vastness of an ocean, the height of the tallest mountain, or the planets beyond ours and have a desire to explore them, understand them, or conquer them.

What if that innate longing is actually our spirit calling out to know our Creator?

When our lives are reduced to a 9-5 job, daily monotony, complications of a declining economy, or social media stories and battles between those who comment on them, we reduce our smallness into a very tight, confined place. All the while believing that our little world is the beginning and end of all there is. Focused on ourselves, our thoughts, our beliefs, our opinions keeps us in complicated chaos.

We truly miss the bigger picture and the simplicity of it all.

In the Christmas song, “Joy to the World” there is a line that says “his law is love, and his gospel is peace.”

Most of us think (or have at some point) that the Bible is a bunch of rules we must adhere to and get right so we can please God enough to maybe escape hell – if we acknowledge there is a God and hell. But if we have to be some perfect being in order to appease God then why would we want to embrace him or the Bible?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

His law is love.

If we examine the ten commandments, they all are based on love.

Love God.

I am the only one who can do anything for you so don’t look to other gods that are worthless to you. Don’t try to make your own gods. I love you with such great love – you are mine because I made you. I will act jealously in protecting that. Show your love for me by not using my name disrespectfully.

Love yourself.

I rested after making the world, and I want you to rest in the same way. Take time to celebrate your work and remember that I’m the one who made you able to do so. Keep a day set aside to recognize this and spend time with me. I want you to have rest physically and in your spirit. I also want life to go well with you so show honor to your parents. Their union brought you into this world just like I as a Father created Adam and Eve. Honor that and you will live long.

Love others.

Don’t kill anyone, or steal from them. Don’t lie about someone or take their spouse as your own by sleeping with them. Having sex with someone you aren’t married to is taking another person’s spouse. Don’t look at what other people have and decide you should have those things for yourself. I will give you whatever you need. If you refrain from these things, you show love to one another.

God is love and wants us to love his created beings who are made in his image.

“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

Could it be that simple?

It’s That Simple


The world is a complicated mess. That’s not going to change for the better. As a matter of fact, “All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.” That’s in Isaiah. In the Bible. Telling of what will come some day…soon. (Chapter 34 if you want to read it.)

Photo by Mohan Reddy on Pexels.com

It’s a little hard to imagine. But maybe that’s because we as humans are pretty full of ourselves. We believe we’ve discovered, created, and figured it all out. How much we think we know, but how limited our knowledge is.

We complicate things with our discoveries, philosophies, and our opinions of them. If we just think this way or say that thing, we can make it so. It’s that master of my own universe thing.

But what if we’re wrong?

What if we were are simply created by a Being that gave us characteristics like himself, little replicas of his Divine existence?

If there is a God who existed before time as we humans know it, and he decided to created a universe in which planet Earth is circled by a source of power he made to sustain it, and then he chose to share that incredible, beauty with beings he formed to be like him, with the desire that they would care about him the way he loves them, how would that change the way we think?

The way we act? The way we live and treat others?

What if the Bible was God’s letters to us that explains it all with deep, hidden mysteries easily found by those who are willing to think outside our human box of understanding?

What if “I AM” is actually before the beginning and after the end?

Could it be that simple?

Get Both Free!


If you’ve been waiting to read the rest of our story, you can get the e-book now. For 5 days, November 28 – December 2, it will be FREE on Amazon before it goes up to the regular price.

If you’re waiting for the paperback version, pray. It’s been a 3 day nightmare of formatting issues I’ve never experienced before. But, God will prevail and I’ll keep you posted for the print version too.

Not only can you get the NEW RELEASE free, but I’ve made The Miracle of Us: Confessions of an Online Dater FREE through this Thursday so you can refresh your memory or read the beginning of our story for the first time.

If you read our story years ago and need a refresher of hope or if you’ve never experienced what trusting God for next steps is like, you can read our incredible story here. FREE this week only. November 27 – December 1

We pray you had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of beautiful memories. May these next weeks leading up to Christmas draw you into the hope, peace, and joy of Jesus as we anticipate celebrating his birth.

Grateful


In spite of the messiness of the world right now between election issues, shootings, floods, hurricanes, etc., nothing changes my love for Jesus and the fact that every day God provides multiple areas of thankfulness. If I were to list them all, I could write volumes of books. I’m sure everyone could. Here are a few of mine…

  • Jesus, my Lord and Savior is always at the top
  • My husband
  • My children and grandchildren
  • My family – mom, dad and my brother’s family
  • My dear friends
  • My pastors and church family
  • Music
  • Nature – ocean, flowers, animals, blue skies, and thunder storms
  • Books
  • Teaching
  • My current state’s leaders
  • Little things every day that remind me God is always with me

I’m also thankful that Beyond the Miracle is finished and ready for readers. The ebook will be out next week, but if anyone is interested in an advance reader copy, I’ll gladly set you up for this Thanksgiving weekend. Let me know in the comments below or send me your email address to laura@laurabennet.com

I’d ask that you be willing to grab a free ebook copy when it releases on Amazon and write a review – even a few words. If you don’t do Amazon, you can review it on Goodreads.

I’m thankful I get to write.

Thirteen years after the miracle meeting, courtship, and fairytale wedding of the author and her husband, Laura Bennet shares the raw and real story of the unforeseen and sometimes devastating trials they experienced, and how God used those challenges to heal and grow each of them and their marriage. Heartfelt encouragement and caution for couples ready to tie the knot or for those who have come undone and wonder if there is hope. The miracles don’t end when you say “I do,” but they may not look like what you expected.

I pray you have a gratitude-filled Thanksgiving and reflect this week on some of the little things you might forget about during each day. I pray for God’s peace to cover you, and his love through Jesus to fill you. Nothing earned, simply received.