CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Debbie Clatterbuck who won a "Spa Moment with The Reluctant Guardian!"



Sunday, July 31, 2011

Worth the Wait

by Gwen Stewart


Some say that Christianity undervalues or represses women. I wish those folks would read God's Word more carefully.


Have you used the term, “It was worth the wait"? Well, in the Bible, women are portrayed as worthy--worthy in the eyes of God, and worth the wait of men.


Let’s start at the beginning, where the first man waits for the first woman. In Genesis 2:18, God asks Adam to name the animal species. Two long-necked walkers appear. “Giraffe,” Adam says. Two chubby grey beasts. “Hippopotamus.” Two friendly four-pawed creatures with wagging tails. “Dog." Animals parade all day. All day, Adam names them.


In each species, there are two animals. They eat together, frolic together, lie down together. But for Adam, there is no companion. Downcast, Adam feels his loneliness and his lack.


After a deep sleep, God gives Adam a rich reward: a woman, Eve. Though she initiates the Fall, she also becomes the mother of all generations. Eve was worth Adam’s wait.



Later, Abraham waits for his beautiful wife, Sarah, to give him children. God promises her a child, but Sarah laughs. She is too old to bear children. But just as God said, Sarah becomes pregnant with Isaac. Sarah’s motherood was worth the wait for such a son.




Abraham’s son Isaac waits for his bride to journey from his father’s land. Their son Jacob works for seven years to earn his wives. Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel were worth the wait. Later in the Old Testament, Song of Solomon details the anticipation of a loving couple awaiting their wedding day.




The New Testament begins with another strong, godly man who waits for his intended. Joseph receives bad news from his betrothed, Mary: she is with child--and the child is not his. Joseph must make a harrowing choice. By rights he can cast her out, even have her stoned. But in a dream, an angel of the Lord assures him that Mary has not violated their betrothal. “Wait for her,” the angel beseeches. “Stay with her. Marry her.” Joseph obeys, then waits through her pregnancy, her labor, and her long lying-in to make her his. Mary was worth the wait.


And oh, Mary’s Child! Jesus waited for women not as husband, but as Savior. He waited while men picked up stones to murder the adulteress, then He foiled the men's plans. He waited to hear from the woman who scrambled to touch his cloak so He could call her “daughter” and heal her bleeding disease. He waited while Mary and Martha served Him; He waited while the weeping woman washed His feet with her tears and wiped them dry with her hair. On the Cross, He did not die until He made provision for His mother’s care.


The Bible demonstrates that women are worthy to be loved and cherished. The glorious end of the Bible underlines this Truth: Jesus, the Bridegroom, arrives to claim the church, His Bride. Broken as we are, Jesus assures us that we are definitely worth His wait--men and women alike.


~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~


Gwen Stewart is a writer, elementary music teacher, and musician. She sings "Wheels On the Bus" by day and pens inspirational stories by night, pursuing excellence in both. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two children, and ten thousand of her past and present students.
You can visit Gwen online at
http://singer-scribe.blogspot.com/

Friday, July 29, 2011

Time for a Go-Stop!


by Susanne Dietze

Last summer, my family and I put a few thousand miles on our car as we visited relatives in another state. Traveling by car was more economical for us than flying, and it afforded us the opportunity to visit friends along the way and explore areas we’d never seen before (some of our most fun memories were of spontaneous stops, like touring a lavender farm in Sequim, Washington, and eating Umpqua ice cream in the car as we drove through Oregon).

First Beach, La Push, Washington: a favorite stop on last summer's car trip
Car travel also has its drawbacks. The road gets long, our backs ache, and everyone gets more than a little uncomfortable and claustrophobic. This year, our vacation will keep us closer to home, but car travel is still in the plans. I found a few tips that can help counteract some of the negative effects of long car rides--Go Stops, if you will, instead of Rest Stops--and I tried them out on a recent day trip. Maybe it’s my advancing age, but I thought they helped enough for me to share them with you!

It also occurred to me that the benefits of taking a break on the road would apply to other situations where we sit for lengthy periods of time—like sitting at a computer, for example. So whether or not you’re facing a long car ride, a deadline with your manuscript, or the daily grind of the workplace, some of these Go-Stop activities might be helpful. (But remember to keep your physical limitations in mind, and don’t try anything that your doctor might disapprove of you doing.)

Take a walk around the rest stop
You knew this was coming, but use stops to GO and get your body moving. When you take a bathroom or lunch break, stretch for five minutes. Walk around the perimeter of fast-food restaurants or rest stops. If there are stairs, take them, or step up and down a curb. Even five minutes of activity can increase blood flow, release muscle tension, and refresh brain power so you can better focus on the task at hand.

Drink, drink, drink. Water, that is. Staying hydrated keeps our bodies working as they should, and soda unfortunately doesn't rehydrate. Nibble on healthy snacks, like nuts and fruit. And don't forget your bathroom breaks.

Does your back ache from sitting too long? When you stop for a bathroom break, try this stretch, a variation on touching your toes: stand and place your hands behind your thighs. Slowly bend over, sliding your hands down the back of your legs as far as you comfortably can. In the meantime, lift your chest upward. (Similar to the woman in the photo, but lift your chest and head. Feel the pull!)

Another stretch that feels great but is sure to embarrass your teenagers if you do it in public? It requires a bit of balance, but I love this stretch when I’ve been working at the computer for too long. Turn your back to a bench or chair, and stand as far from it as you can so your foot will still reach it. Then tuck the top of one foot onto the table and lift your chest skyward. You’ll stretch your back, hips, and legs. (You can use a picnic table for this stretch, too. I have to stand closer to the table, put the top of my foot on it, and hop a little ways away from it, which is undoubtedly unattractive to watch, but it feels even better to me than using a low chair.)

If you’re taking a plane or train and can’t stretch out? Anything that gets you moving from time to time helps with muscle tension and preventing blood clots. Walk up and down the aisle if permissible. If you’re restricted to your seat, try flexing your calves and feet. Point your toes, hold for a count of five, then pull your toes upward and count for five. Your neighbor won’t be any wiser.

Here’s hoping your summer travels are fun, fancy-free, and refreshing!

Silly Question of the Day: What was the longest trip you ever took? What do you most remember about the journey?

Rest stop and yoga photos courtesy of www.wikipedia.com


Susanne Dietze has written love stories set in the nineteenth century since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. Her work has finaled in the 2010 Genesis Contest, the 2009 Gotcha! Contest, and the Touched By Love Contest, 2008 and 2009. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book, http://www.susannedietze.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Time to Pray

 by Dina Sleiman

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Today we’re going to talk about prayer.” The youthful pastor glanced over the faces of the congregation lining the pews. One by one smiles turned to frowns of guilt and remorse. Several sets of eyes glazed over with disinterest, while others turned away from him. A sweet, elderly lady in the front row continued to gaze up with a beatific grin.

He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. This should be good. “How many of you have heard a sermon before that instructed you to rise early each morning and pray?”

Every hand in the audience shot up. “How many of you have tried to do this?”

Over half the hands stayed in the air. “And how many have succeeded?”

As he suspected, only five or six remained, including the saintly white-haired woman up front. “Well, I have good news for you. Jesus liked to pray at night.”

A few sighs met his ears, followed by a murmured, “Thank God.”

The pastor chuckled. “Different question. How many of you have been taught that you should set aside an hour a day to pray?”

Again every hand rose. “And how many of you actually pray an hour a day.” All hands fell. Even his friend in the front row lowered her wrinkled one and wobbled it back and forth to indicate hit and miss. Then one brave soul in the back raised his hand high. Several nearby parishioners glared at him and grumbling exploded about the building.

Oh, great. The last thing he needed was to get in trouble with the senior pastor. Again. “Settle down everyone. Today we’re going to talk about a different approach to prayer.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Would it surprise you to know that every school morning for four years straight I’ve had a devotional time with my children? Often when I mention that to people, I’m met by disbelief, glares, or guilt. But we’ve found a simple formula that works for us. And if ever one child is running late, another will fuss at them because they love our prayer time. They crave that special moment to start the day.

However, we do not wake up early, and we don’t spend an hour. Allow me to share our recipe for prayer success.

1) Keep it short: Our prayer time is five minutes long.
2) Build it into your daily routine: We pray every morning at 8:00 am by the front window right before the youngest has to go outside and catch the bus.
3) Have a plan: We say the Lord’s Prayer together, then I read a 5-10 verse passage of scripture from a specified book. Finally, I (or Dad if he’s home) close with a prayer for our day.

Perhaps that sounds too simple. Too easy. But if you read my last post you will remember that prayer is meant to be enjoyed. Not dreaded. Let’s look at these simple steps in more detail.

Keep it short. When you first attempt to enter into a daily habit of prayer, start simple. Choose a reasonable goal that you feel confident you can conquer. Five minutes a day. Ten at the most. Once this becomes a habit and you begin to enjoy your prayer time, chances are you will find this time too short and want to pray longer. But take it easy on yourself and start out slow.

Build it into your daily routine. What do you do everyday? Have a cup of coffee in the morning and read the newspaper? Check your email when you get home from work? Read before you go to bed? Take a lunch break? Go running? If you’re super busy then what about drive to work? Or take a shower? Choose one of these times and add your five minutes of prayer to it. Once it successfully becomes a habit and you are enjoying it, consider extending it, or adding a second, and later a third time.


Have a plan: It certainly doesn’t have to be the same as my family’s plan. Maybe you’d like open with a worship song, read a devotional, listen quietly, and close with an out loud prayer. Maybe you’d like to read a scripture and meditate on it and then journal about it. Maybe you’d like to begin with a time of thanksgiving, then pray for friends, and finally for yourself. You might enjoy trying something different such as deep breathing, repeating a single scripture, and imagining meeting with God to talk about your day. Traditional folks might like to use a liturgical prayer and light a candle. Our more charismatic friends might want to incorporate praying in the spirit or even dancing. The plan is only to help you, and you get to set it. One day you might want to change it, or scrap it completely. No problem! But a plan will help you see how you can easily fill that time. In fact, before long you’ll find that five minutes is not nearly long enough.

And this is just a starting point to help you enjoy your prayer time. Also keep in mind what we learned in my posts “A Place to Pray” and some of the prayer techniques we’ve discussed. Soon every hand in our audience might go up when the pastor asks who prays an hour a day. The goal is not to sit miserably, whiling away the time. The goal is to enjoy God’s presence so that you seek it more and more. To long to meet with him again. To dream of those moments. To pray without ceasing.

Because you want to!

Do you have a prayer routine that you’d be willing to share with us? What helps you to enjoy your time with God? If you don’t have a regular prayer time, what might help you establish one?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 


 Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, will release with Whitefire Publishing in 2011. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's In a Name?


By Lisa Karon Richardson

We’ve talked before about book covers, and how important they are in a reader’s decision to buy. There’s no question that a book is frequently judged by its cover. Publishers work hard to make sure that readers can do that very thing.

But in today’s climate of shrinking retail space, the very first impression people will have of most books is the spine. That’s right, we writers who slave to craft an exquisite 90,000 word tome, have (at most) about 5 words to actually capture a potential reader’s attention.

We’re not talking the first line of the story, we’re not talking about the back cover copy. The first chance we have to motivate a buyer to pick up our novel is the title.

Titles are hard, and writers are often consoled by the reassurance that it doesn’t matter what we call a manuscript, because the publisher’s marketing team will probably change it. It’s true, the marketing team often wants changes, but from what I’ve seen, they typically toss that particular albatross back into the author’s boat, by asking sweetly for other options, perhaps with certain key words that have been identified.


Being one who is not particularly good with titles I find the whole process interesting, if a little intimidating. I was trying to analyze a bit about what makes me as a reader pick up a book. There are a few authors on my auto-buy list. I may not even notice the title, when I see that name on the spine, it’s going home with me regardless.

The vast majority of my book buying decisions are more difficult. I did a survey of the books on my shelf. (A very scientific survey consisting of typing up some of the titles I can see on my shelf without having to get up from my chair.)

Justice Hall

The Camelot Caper

Cat Among the Pigeons

A Monstrous Regiment of Women

The Mummy Case

The Silver Pigs

Valley of Betrayal

The Swiss Courier

Death at Sandringham House

Sisterhood of Spies

Arms of Deliverance

I was trying to figure out if there were any common denominators. Using analysis nearly as scientific as the selection process, I have decided that all of these titles hint at intrigue within. Intrigue is clearly something I’m attracted too.

What are you attracted too? What titles are on your shelves? Why did you pick those books?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in May, 2012.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Inspiration from India

Today we welcome guest author Christine Lindsay. Her debut novel with WhiteFire Publishing has been receiving rave reviews.  Join us as she shares the fascinating history that inspired it.

So much research went into writing Shadowed in Silk that it’s hard to choose just one aspect. From biographies of military personnel I discovered specifics like the galvanized bathtub my Major Geoff Richards would bathe in, the intricacies of his Sam Brown belt and his khaki drill jacket. And one of my favorite details, what it ‘feels’ like to sit on a cavalry charger as it jumps over irrigation canals in Northern India.

Or I could share details that make up the life of an English or American woman, such as my heroine Abby Fraser living in India at the beginning of the last century. Details such as the Vinolia soap she bathed with, or the chapattis spread with marmalade she served to her son, Cam. 

But I prefer to tell you about the inspiration behind one of my secondary---but oh so integral---Indian characters, Miriam. This tiny 50-year-old Indian woman is one of my favorites. Miriam’s back-story is that she is a former Hindu widow who turned to Christ. Since her conversion she rescues abused and abandoned women and children, and runs a small clinic and orphanage. It is there that Miriam teaches Abby that God does not wish His daughters to submit to cruelty within their marriages.

The inspiration behind my fictional Miriam is a the real Pandita Ramabai, an Indian woman who lived about 100 years ago.

I first heard about this true-life heroine, Ramabai, while sitting in a mid-week prayer meeting about 30 years ago. This brilliant Indian woman had died in 1922, but she had done so much for women and children in India that England awarded her the Kaisar-I-Hind Gold Medal. India has since issued a commemorative stamp in Ramabai’s honor, and she was given the honorary acclaim of ‘Pandita’ in Hindu tradition, meaning ‘learned master’.

Born into a high caste Hindu family, Ramabai’s father broke with tradition and taught her to read. This was the beginning of my heroine’s search for enlightenment. As a family they walked the length of India, Ramabai’s eyes were opened to the incredible suffering of Indian women and children.

After her parents and siblings died, Ramabai also broke with tradition and married a lawyer of a lower Hindu caste, but he died of a cholera leaving her alone with a tiny daughter.

One day, looking through her husband's papers she found a Bible, and found fulfillment to her spiritual search in the person of Jesus Christ. But Ramabai didn’t just add Jesus to a list of Hindu gods to worship. She came to the realization that Jesus is the only way to God the Father.

This prompted Ramabai to translate the Bible into her local language. To name just a few of her accomplishments—she started the first  Braille School, promoted the need for female medical doctors, and was the founder of the Ramabai Mukti Mission, a home for sexually abused Hindu widows and children. She was a great social reformer in India long before Gandhi.

I hope you’ll be able to read my debut novel, Shadowed in Silk, which reveals my fascination with British ruled India, but also the inspiration of Ramabai. Enjoy the trailer below.



You can find Shadowed in Silk by clicking on  Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. And drop by my website. I’d love to chat with you, www.christinelindsay.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Christine Lindsay writes historical Christian inspirational novels with strong love stories. She doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects such as the themes in her debut novel SHADOWED IN SILK which is set in India during a turbulent era. Christine’s long-time fascination with the British Raj was seeded from stories of her ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in India. SHADOWED IN SILK won first place in the 2009 ACFW Genesis for Historical under the title Unveiled.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Whose economy are you living in?

by Niki Turner


The United States is approaching "critical mass" when it comes to the economy. If our nation's elected officials don't figure out how to get along and communicate with each other like grown-ups, we're likely to face a major disruption of our national economy in the next few months.

It's pretty scary stuff.

Unless you're plugged in to a different economic system, one that operates on a higher plane than Standard and Poor, Wall Street, and the national debt ceiling. (The heavenlies are FAR above any debt ceiling set by man!)

photo by colarusso    


The media (left-wing and right-wing) are pushers and purveyors of fear and anxiety. Why? Because fear sells,   even better than sex, in most cases. People who are motivated by fear rather than faith are easy to manipulate. Our enemy (that would be the devil, not the liberals, nor the conservatives) is well-aware of that fact, and uses it to his advantage on both sides of the political fence, no matter which side you're on. 

So what are we, as Christians, to do? 

First, we must look to the Word of God for our precedent. 
Second, we must resist fear and trust God to perform what He has promised.

Here are a few verses to serve as catalysts for our faith in this time of economic uncertainty, words of comfort and power and purpose.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
1 Tim 2:1-2 NKJV 
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Tim 5:8 NIV  
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 
Eph 2:19-20 NKJV
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 
Matt 6:25-27 NIV
The Bible is rampant with stories - true testimonies - about God's supernatural ability to provide for His people in the midst of terrible economic situations. Consider, if you will, the Hebrew children in the land of Goshen; Elijah at the brook Cherith, the widow and the unending vessels of oil; Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fishes; and so on.

Our elected officials can storm out of as many debt ceiling talks as they like. Their childish behavior doesn't change the truth of God's word or His promises for us as citizens of heaven and members of His household. God remains constant.

I know it's easy for me to fall prey to the fear-mongering mindset of the world system. I have to meditate on the truth that I'm subject to God's economy daily, remembering His promises and trusting Him to take care of me and mine no matter what happens in the world. Some days are better than others.

What do you do to keep out of the fear mode?










Sunday, July 24, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough


By Barbara Early

It was Joseph P Kennedy, the father of JFK, who said, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Since then, people have twisted this quote to suit their own purposes. We're probably all familiar with the self-medication versions: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping." or "When the going gets tough, the tough eat chocolate."


A brief search on the internet shows the tough do even more:
  • Go blonder
  • Get duct take
  • Go to church
  • Get a little tougher
  • Crack Wise
  • Go Eating
  • Get a Government Handout
  • Head to the Gym
  • Break down
  • Buy US Treasuries
  • Quit
  • Clip coupons
  • Switch the subject
  • Lay off the nanny
  • Get Metamucil
  • Get Drunk
  • Do yoga
  • Get Lawyered Up
  • Get Gorgeous

But what we do when things aren't going right reveals a lot about us. Jim Berg, in his book Changed into His Image, used the analogy of a tea bag. When you place a tea bag in hot water, it doesn't change. But the hot water reveals what was already in the tea bag. In the same way, difficult times bring out what is already inside of us, whether it be a quick temper or a propensity for chocolate. And while some of these options are humorous and harmless, some are sad, and others are a tad scary.

Although I'll admit to being suckered into buying a delightful little wall decoration from Amish country that spouted "When the going get's tough, the tough go to church," I'm not sure that's the answer either. Church shouldn't be limited to the times in which we encounter difficulties. And motives are important too. Church attendance motivated by a religiosity is different from attendance because of a relationship with God. During the tough times in life, while other things may distract or salve, there is only one tried and true remedy.

If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

While this promise was given to Israel, God gives some clear principles to learn from today.

1. Humble yourself. One thing troubling times reveal quickly is that we're not so tough as we like to think we are. And sometimes all the dogged determination a person can muster will not be enough to solve a problem. When we encounter these unsolvable problems, we come to a place where we realize our limitations and our need for God. God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. James 4:6b

2. Pray. Once we have a humble spirit, God wants us to talk to Him, to call out to him and tell him our troubles. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

3. Seek His face. For some reason, whenever I see this phrase, I think about making eye contact. Seeking his face to me implies a relationship and a love that makes gazing into someone's eyes comfortable and pleasant. A religion can't do that. A moral code can't do that. Only when we come, our sins and guilt washed away through redemption, can we stand before him with open face. Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Psalm 105:4

4. Turn from Wickedness. How can you attempt to seek God's face and stand in His presence, and not be instantly aware of all the ways you're failed Him? God doesn't want these things to hinder us in our pursuit of God's presence, but to turn from the sin that hinders our relationship. He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Question: Where do you turn when trouble strikes?



Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. She taught secondary English and science for several years in a Christian school before home schooling her daughter successfully through high school. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance, and was a double finalist in the 2010 ACFW Genesis competition. When not reading or writing, she enjoys cooking, crafts, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her husband and daughter.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Reinventing Leona by Lynne Gentry


by Jennifer AlLee

Ebooks. They're everywhere. Some bemoan the existence of the ebook, worried that it spells the demise of print books. I'm not one of those people. To me, there's always room for another great book, whether it's on my Kindle, or my nightstand.

Today, I'd like to share a wonderful ebook with you. Reinventing Leona is one of the launch titles in Tyndale House's Digital First line. Just like it sounds, these books come out first in electronic form, and later in print.

Author Lynne Gentry's novel begins with these words: "Living in the parsonage is not for sissies." This is our introduction to Leona Harper and her pastor-husband, J.D. Leona has made a career out of being the consummate pastor's wife, miracle worker who stretches little into much, and the perfect hostess. So when J.D. drops dead in the pulpit with the word of God on his lips, a piece of Leona dies, too.

What does a woman do when the very thing that shaped her identity is ripped away? And how do the people around her act? What about her adult children, who are facing identity issues of their own? Gentry addresses all these issues, and more, in a style that is wonderfully genuine. There are times when you might wonder how Christian people could think such things, or act in such a way. But if we're honest, I think we all know times when we've done the same. Gentry doesn't sugar-coat the heartache, confusion, and desperation that grief can cause. At the same time, she delivers a story full of sass, hope, and the abiding love of family: both the kind we're born into, and the family of God.

I thoroughly enjoyed Reinventing Leona and highly recommend it. Congratulations, Lynne, on a fabulous first offering. I look forward to many more!

How about you? What are you reading now that has you intrigued? What do you think about ebooks? Have you caught the new wave?




 JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her first novel, The Love of His Brother, was released by Five Star Publishers in November 2007. Her latest novel, The Pastor’s Wife, was released by Abingdon Press in February 2010. Her upcoming novel, The Mother Road, will be released by Abingdon Press in April 2012. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.

http://jenniferalleesite.blogspot.com/ - Jennifer's website
http://thepastorswifespeaks.blogspot.com/ - A safe haven for women living on the front lines of ministry.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Sorry" Isn't Always the Hardest Word

by Suzie Johnson

A few months ago I attended a one day seminar for women that was, over all, a positive experience. But there was one thing the instructor said that resonated with me in a negative way.

Never apologize. When women apologize,” she said, “we lose credibility.”

Is that really true? I had to stop and think about it for a while. Just because I paid for a seminar didn’t mean everything the instructor said was the truth. I can’t say I shrugged off her comment, because I didn’t. It bothered me, and I’ve mulled it over in my mind time and again. If I hurt someone, if I offend someone, of course I’m going to apologize. What about when we confess our sins to God? Don’t we do that with remorse and sorrow in our heart? Isn’t that part of a repentant spirit? What could be wrong with that?

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1091652

Recently, my co-worker, Becky, was having a communication problem. She was receiving training via web-conferences, in order to train others to use a new software program. The vendor told her not to hesitate to ask if she had any questions. But every time Becky would ask a question the vendor would start by saying, “Well. I already showed that to you but since you don’t remember…I’ll show you again.”

Becky felt incompetent. The next time she needed to call the vendor, she said, “Maybe I should start by saying ‘I’m sorry, I know you probably showed this to me before, but apparently I don’t remember. I guess you need to show me again.’”

WRONG?

“No,” I said immediately. “You have nothing to apologize for. She told you to call if you have questions, so you shouldn't have to apologize.”

RIGHT?

Then I remembered the seminar instructor’s mandate that we should never apologize. Suddenly I saw it in an entire new way. Becky’s plan to apologize before she asked her question would definitely affect her credibility, as well as her own self-esteem since she’d basically be criticizing or belittling herself.

In this case, I agree with the instructor. She’s absolutely right that we lose credibility when we apologize then qualify it with a self-criticism. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I became aware of those around me apologizing for things that seemed insignificant; an interruption, talking too loud, not answering the phone fast enough. The more I became aware of it, the more I became realized I was also apologizing frequently.

I decided to try counting how many times I apologized in one day.

First thing Monday morning, I was at the drive-through window getting my iced-tea. When I went to pay, I realized I needed to get more change out of my wallet. As I dug for seven more cents, I heard myself utter those dreaded words: “I’m sorry.”

…one

Someone asked me a question. My answer didn't come out quite as cheerful as it ordinarily would. I immediately said, “Sorry, I didn't sound more cheerful. I didn't mean it that way.”

…two

I was in a meeting later that day. My pencil rolled on to someone else’s paper. I picked it up, and what do you think I said?

…three

As I was walking down the hall and someone cut the corner and almost ran into me. Who apologized? You guessed it!

…four

That evening, I had to comment on an essay someone wrote. There was something I disagreed with. It was my opinion. His essay was his opinion. Neither of us was totally right or wrong. Um, what do you suppose were the first words I typed? Did I really need to apologize for expressing my opinion when it didn't agree with someone else's? It wasn't rude or hurtful, and we weren't arguing. Why did I feel so compelled?

Then I thought back over my day, trying to count up all the times I apologized for something. I couldn’t. Sometime during the day I’d lost track. It struck me then, if you say “I’m sorry” so many times during the day that you can’t even remember the reason…
...there’s a problem...

This is what the seminar instructor meant. This is how an apology could cause you to lose credibility. It begins to sound trite, trivial, meaningless. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not for one minute believe we should not apologize when it’s warranted. As Christians and as human beings, we most definitely should.

But when we’re saying it out of an eagerness to please someone, because of low self-esteem, or because it’s simply a habit, “sorry” will lose its meaning.


In Matthew 5:37, Jesus said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’, ‘No’; anything less is from the evil one.”;He wants us to be known as people of our word. Similarly, let your “sorry” mean “sorry”, and not: “I’m stupid, dumb, incompetent, or clumsy.” We don’t want to lose credibility. We want to be people of our word.

For me, what may have once been low self-esteem is now actually a habit. I tackled the self-esteem issue, and now I intend to tackle this habit.

How about you? Do you tend to apologize too much? If you don’t, does it bother you when other people do?

Do you agree or disagree that we can apologize too much?

Suzie Johnson has won several awards for her inspirational novels (writing as Susan Diane Johnson), including the Maggie, Lone Star, Heart of the West, and Beacon awards, as well as finaling in the Touched by Love, Finally A Bride, Linda Howard Award for Excellence, and Virginia's Fool For Love contests. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day, she lives with her husband and little kitten on an island in the Pacific Northwest. And although the beaches are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madronas and Evergreens instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much to cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can visit her blog, Suzie's Writing Place at http://suzieswritingplace.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rejecting the King


I think a lot about what my life is like and what it might have been. If I had known I wanted to be a writer when I was still in junior high or high school or even in college, would it still have taken me this long to even start my writing career? Would I have risked the liberal arts/starving artist path instead of taking the safer route of the business degree I got? If I had taken that risk, would it have put me in touch with different people? Given me a different mindset? Brought me to a different place by now?

C. S. Lewis's Aslan says we can never know what would have been. Perhaps that's true, and perhaps it's best. But I think rather that my life, with all its ups and downs and sidewayses (okay, I made that word up) is what God planned for me all along. I believe He directs our steps as much as we will let Him, and even when we misstep, He eventually brings us back to where He wants us to be.

Ever since I was a young girl, I've dreamed about being married. I've wanted to be loved and cherished, protected and cared for. I've wanted to belong to someone and have someone to love. As I went through school and into the working world, I kept my eyes open, hoping to meet that one that was right for me, the special man who would be my better half, the one God meant for me. I write romance, for goodness sake! How could I not have dreams like this?

Time passed, my friends married, eventually their children married, and my elusive Mr. Right never came along. Mostly I'm fine with that now. Sometimes I ask God why. Why can't I be like everyone else and have someone to love?

Then a few weeks ago I was doing my regular Bible reading. I read through the entire Bible over the course of every two years, and on this particular night, I was reading the book of First Samuel. I got to Chapter Eight and started to cry.

The people of Israel were unhappy with how things were going and told Samuel they wanted a king to reign over them. So Samuel prayed to God about it, and this was the Lord's reply in Verse 7:

"The LORD said to Samuel, 'Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.'"

I had read those words many, many times before, but that night they cut me to the heart. Had I really? Had I rejected Him from being king over me?

I thought about it more and more as I read. I read all the things Samuel warned them would happen if they had a king. They would be taxed. Their people, men and women alike, would be pressed into the king's service. He would take their property, their livestock, their land, the hard-won fruit of their labor for his own. Samuel warned them that they would eventually cry out to the Lord for relief from this, but in that day He would not hear them.

But they were determined. In Verses 19 and 20, the people said, "No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations . . ."

Did I really want that? To lose whatever God in His wisdom had planned for me so I could be like everyone else?

Truly, marriage is a blessing, a wonderful and godly thing – when He brings it about. But it can be a suffocating burden if He does not. If I stepped out of His will to make something happen my way, it seems fairly likely that I would eventually cry out to the Lord for relief. No doubt, out of His mercy, on that day He would hear and help me as He always has, but why go through that?

Why would I want someone to come into my life unless God was the one who sent him? Marriage, a union between two imperfect people, is hard enough even when those two people are called to be together. Without God's help and blessing, it has to be nearly impossible.

More than that, why would I reject the sweet lover of my soul, the one who already does love and cherish, protect and care for me? The one I belong to? The one I love? The one who will never leave or forsake me and from whom even death cannot part me?

God may or may not have someone for me someday, but I will leave that in His hands. He knows best how to lead me, what I really need and exactly when I need it. He is indeed the King of Kings, and I can trust him with my future.



Have you rejected God from being king over a portion of your life? Has it been hard to keep following during those times when He leads you in unexpected ways? Is it hard for you to travel a path that's different from those around you?



DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, and Letters in the Attic, a contemporary mystery. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with four spoiled cats.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Doctor, the Lawyer, and the National Anthem

by C.J. Chase
With no territory gained or lost, America's War of 1812 would be all but forgotten but for one major consequence — “The Star Spangled Banner.” Enter the unlikely catalyst for America’s future national anthem.
Dr. William Beanes was born January 24, 1749 on a large estate in Prince Georges County, Maryland. He learned medicine by apprenticing with a local doctor and used those skills in the General Hospital at Philadelphia during the American Revolution. By the summer of 1814, the 65-year-old physician owned a gristmill, extensive property, and the largest house in Upper Marlboro, the Prince Georges county seat, where he served as an elected official.
On August 16, 1814, 22 British vessels invaded the Chesapeake Bay, the large body of water between the U.S. mainland and the eastern portions of Virginia and Maryland. Fear that the British would attack Maryland’s capital Annapolis prompted state government officials to move records inland from the city to Beane’s Upper Marlboro home, about eight miles east of Washington, DC. But the British bypassed Annapolis, instead targeting the nation's capital.
With the British army marching through his town, Beanes invited Major General Robert Ross to use his home. What better way to protect the state archives (and Beanes’ home) from a British bonfire than to have the general staying on the premises!
After routing the American forces at Bladensburg on the afternoon of August 24, the combined British army and naval forces entered Washington, DC, unopposed. Captain Thomas Tingey, the American in charge of the Washington Navy Yard, torched the supplies stored there lest they fall into enemy hands. The British soon copied his example, burning public buildings including the Capitol, the President’s House, and the Treasury building. A summer breeze carried the flames to nearby residences, sending homes up in flames. From forty miles away, Baltimore residents watched the fires light the night sky.
Capitol after the fire

Unable to hold the city and fearing an American counteract, Ross ordered his army to fall back to the Chesapeake Bay, once again passing through Upper Marlboro. But not all of them returned. Over 100 men vanished, many of them deserters who decided to remain in America rather than sail back to Britain. With some of these deserters now pillaging local farms, residents decided to act. Former Maryland governor Robert Bowie, Dr. Beanes, and several other men set about capturing the stragglers. They had imprisoned six of them in the county jail when one escaped and returned to General Ross.
An angry Ross sent a detachment to Upper Marlboro where the soldiers arrested Beanes, Bowie, and two others. A swap followed, with the British getting their deserters back in exchange for three of the Maryland men — all of them except Dr. Beanes. No one knows why Ross refused to release Beanes. Historians speculate Beanes may have offered Ross some sort of pledge during their earlier meeting. Whatever the reason, Ross had the old man detained in the brig of the HMS Tonnant.
Beanes' influential friends began to pressure the American government into negotiating for his release. But American General John Mason feared that exchanging the old doctor for captured British soldiers would encourage the British to take civilian hostages. With official channels moving too slowly for Beanes’ friends, his neighbor Richard West decided to try a new tactic. He asked the assistance of his wife’s brother-in-law — a Washington lawyer named Francis Scott Key.
Key and John Skinner, the American prisoner of war exchange agent, received President James Madison’s permission to negotiate for Beane’s release. General Mason organized their transportation and also compassionately arranged for them to deliver letters from wounded British prisoners. Sailing on the Royal Oak under a flag of truce, Key and Skinner reached the British fleet on September 7 and joined Ross on the Tonnant where they presented him with the letters from his soldiers and their petition for Beanes’ release.
Despite the Ross’s lingering anger with Beanes, he agreed to free the old doctor, in large measure to express his appreciation for the letters. However, the Tonnant was already enroute to the planned British assault on Baltimore. With the three Americans now aware of the impending attack, the British were understandably reluctant to release them until after the battle. And thus, on the night of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key, along with Skinner and Beanes, watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry from the midst of the British fleet.

Major George Armistead, commanding officer of Fort McHenry, had commissioned an extra-large flag – 30 feet by 42 feet – to fly above the garrison. From eight miles away, the three Americans waited for news. Would the British take Baltimore like they had taken Washington? On the morning of September 14, Skinner, Key, and Beanes saw that star-spangled banner by the dawn’s early light. Inspired that the flag was still waving, Key wrote the poem that became the American national anthem.
News of the American victory reached Europe during the peace negotiations in the autumn of 1814 and ended Britain's hope of gaining territorial concessions. Three months after the failed assault on Baltimore, the two countries finalized the Treaty of Ghent, which returned their relationship to status quo ante bellum.
Have you or someone you've known been an unexpected eyewitness to history-in-the-making?


After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Redeeming the Rogue is an August, 2011 release. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at cjchasebooks.com

Monday, July 18, 2011

Good Mom Olympics

I call them the Good Mom Olympics.


You probably know what I mean—the competition between mothers. It runs rampant these days. The competition begins at pregnancy, when mothers compare weight gain, Lamaze classes, and “birth plans”. That’s just the warm-up. The real competition includes babies’ sleeping patterns, teething, and walking. Soon mothers compare preschool readiness, elementary school achievements, middle school activities, and college admission letters.

I’m a reluctant participant in the Good Mom Olympics. My friends are, too. In fact, I know few mothers who enjoy comparisons. But we engage, either outwardly or secretly, because motherhood has become more than a lovely addition to our lives. It’s become a measurement of our worth. We’re to be a Good Mom, and wear that label like a badge of honor.



Christians have their own subset of the Good Mom competition. Much of it revolves around schooling. Christians believe that the Good Christian Mom homeschools or, at the very least, enrolls her children in private schools. Non-Christians believe that the Good Christian Mom teaches the Bible on Sunday, then sends her children to public school during the week so they’re exposed to different viewpoints.

The longer I’m a mother, the more I resent the Good Mom Olympics. Who enjoys these games, anyway? Not my friends. Not my Christian sisters, either. While many of them homeschool, they don’t judge my decision to send my children to public school system in which I teach. Nor do I judge their decision. Homeschooling is a largely successful undertaking. It would be difficult for any naysayer to refute the positive statistics surrounding homeschooling.

I think a few stern judges run the Good Mom Olympics, and they put pressure on us all. For whatever reason, they enjoy making women second-guess themselves. As if mothering weren’t difficult enough, they instill doubt and fear. They abolish our confidence even when our children are godly, happy, and thriving.

God trusts mothers with a weighty responsibility. Should that weight feel heaviest when God convicts us, or when others compare us?

Should we trust our Christian sisters, or assess them with critical hearts and wagging tongues?


We know the answer to those questions. So let’s give those judges the boot. When they hold up a score, let’s turn our backs. When they urge us to worry and compare, let’s laugh instead. Let’s mother for the One who gave us the responsibility, and the joy, of parenthood. Let’s look to Him first, and to our children and spouses second, to evaluate our success as mothers.

How about it, reader? Would your mothering improve if you walked away from the Good Mom Olympics?


Gwen Stewart is a writer, elementary music teacher, and musician. She sings "Wheels On the Bus" by day and pens inspirational stories by night, pursuing excellence in both. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two children, and ten thousand of her past and present students.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Saved!


By Susanne Dietze

Some became fools through their rebellious ways
 And suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
They loathed all food
And drew near the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
And he saved them from their distress.
He sent forth his word and healed them;
He rescued them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
And his wonderful deeds for men.
Let them sacrifice thank offerings
And tell of his works with songs of joy. Psalm 107:17-22

Have you ever wanted to shout for joy because God saved you?

Saved...not just from sin (which is truly something to celebrate) but other things, too. Saved from a particular trial or trouble that comes along in life. Distress. Danger or fear. Something from which, without God, there would be no way we could be redeemed or restored.

I had just such an experience. Our family summer did not start out fancy-free, indulging in the pleasures of slurping popsicles and sleeping in late. In mid-June, I learned that a member of my immediate family was possibly facing a major illness, and after a series of tests, we waited for two weeks before we could get definitive answers from a specialist.

Our story ends well, with a clean bill of health and tears of relief, but I confess: those two weeks were a test to my faith. Despite my head knowledge that God is able, mighty, loving, and good, I did not cling to what I knew about Him or rest in His arms. While I spent a lot of time praying (for healing, of course, but also for grace and acceptance), I also froze, figuratively and literally. I experienced chills and had gooseflesh on my arms. I could not eat: once I tried for over half an hour to get a bowl of cereal down. I kept my kids busy, but all the while my mind went over the “what if’s” of the diagnosis the doctor described in terms of a coin toss: 50/50, maybe yes, maybe no.

While it’s normal (and essential) for us to want to protect and preserve our loved ones, I did not do well in trusting God to care for my family no matter what happened.

During my Bible reading, I came across Psalm 107, and I recognized myself in the verses: “loathed all food…cried to the Lord in their trouble…” Even the part about being foolish, because I knew that part of me was choosing panic over faith, control over trust. I invited fear to reign in my heart, which is foolishness indeed, considering how often God has shown me that His love for me and my family is real, powerful, and eternal.

And then, in a moment, regardless of whether or not I deserved it, He saved me from my distress.

So I’m fulfilling what I read in the rest of the passage.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy. I’m telling the world with joy that God did something big in my family…and also in my heart. He restored my loved one, but He also swept some junk out of my spiritual closet in the process. And He reminded me that He is with me, no matter what I do or think or feel.

Life is full of challenging moments, loss and pain, and this will not be the last time I am faced with the choice of fear or faith. But God was faithful even when I was faithless, and He deserves my praise no matter what the outcome of our problem was, or what will happen tomorrow.

I hope this is one lesson I don’t forget, but recall with joy. I think I’ll make a list of all the victories God has accomplished in my life, times when I knew He acted and showed me His powerful love. Then, when my faith is challenged again (and I know it will be), I can return to my list of his deeds and unfailing love, and declare to myself and anyone else who cares to listen that He is active and present in the lives of His children.

Do you take time to recall all of the things God has done for you? What is something you’ve seen today that is evidence of God being active in your life?

"Praying Hands" by Albrecht  Durer and sunrise photos courtesy of www.wikipedia.com.

Susanne Dietze has written love stories set in the nineteenth century since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. Her work has finaled in the 2010 Genesis Contest, the 2009 Gotcha! Contest, and the Touched By Love Contest, 2008 and 2009. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book, http://www.susannedietze.blogspot.com/.