Sunday, July 31, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
|First Beach, La Push, Washington: a favorite stop on last summer's car trip|
|Take a walk around the rest stop|
Rest stop and yoga photos courtesy of www.wikipedia.com
Thursday, July 28, 2011
“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.
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?
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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.)
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
Monday, July 25, 2011
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
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?
Saturday, July 23, 2011
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.
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?
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
|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?
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.’”
“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.”
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.”
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?
As I was walking down the hall and someone cut the corner and almost ran into me. Who apologized? You guessed it!
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
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?
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
|by C.J. Chase|
|Capitol after the fire|
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.
Monday, July 18, 2011
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...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.
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.
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.
"Praying Hands" by Albrecht Durer and sunrise photos courtesy of www.wikipedia.com.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
|Review by Suzie Johnson|
Megan’s Hero is the third book in The Callahans of Texas series. But don’t worry if you haven’t read the first two books in this series, it’s not necessary in order to enjoy this book. However, I’m willing to bet you’ll enjoy this one so much you’ll make sure to go back and read the other two books.
I was privileged enough to hear the story line for Megan's Hero before it was written. From that moment, when it was still a brainstorm, I've waited to hold the printed book in my hand and devour the story – even more-so after reading the first two books in this series. It was well worth the wait because when I finished this book, I was happily satisfied.
Unfortunate circumstances cost Megan Smith her job. Now, pregnant, unmarried, and down to her last few dollars, she's reduced to living in her van. But when a tornado blows across the road, and destroys her van, her life is about to change forever.
Enter one seemingly too-good-to-be-true hero.
Will finds himself almost immediately smitten with the sweet mother-to-be, but there are things about her that don't add up: her reluctance to talk about her family, a secret past, and the fact that his father's private investigators could find nothing about her. What is Megan hiding, and will the truth about her past be devastating enough to keep them from pursuing a relationship?
With a little help from the rest of the Callahan crew, Will lives up to his title as the perfect hero for Megan’s wounded heart in this incredibly romantic story.
I have had favorite writers let me down with the second or third book in a series before, but not Sharon. Curling up with a book of hers is like curling up in front of the fire with family, friends and hot chocolate. Or maybe with some popcorn, Dr. Pepper, and a warm blanket. Either way, it’s comforting, soothing, and satisfying.
I love the risk Sharon takes with her unwed and homeless heroine. The way Megan struggles to overcome her past as well as her present troubles in order to find a promising future makes this heart-grabbing book the perfect one for a weekend-read.
I have a copy of this book to give away to one lucky commenter, so be sure and leave your email address along with your comment by midnight tonight (July 16th, 2011). Just be sure and keep it safe from internet spider-bots. Example: Iwannabook (at) hotyahoogmail (dot) com
If you'd like to read my reviews of the first two books in this series, visit my personal blog, Suzie's Writing Place where I've just re-posted them.
Her books are honest down home love stories with laughter, conflict and sometimes tragedy that carries the reader along. The power of God working in the lives of the main characters is always evident as is their relationship to Him.
She again brings you the wonderful people, small towns and West Texas region she loves in Jenna's Cowboy, Emily's Chance and Megan's Hero in the Callahans of Texas series.
For Sharon, writing romance novels is a ministry. God has given her the talent to write, and she uses it to serve Him. She depends on Him to give her stories that will inspire, heal, entertain and bring her readers closer to Jesus.
Click here to visit Sharon’s website.