Thursday, May 31, 2012

Content, Contented, Contentment, Satisfied ....Do These Words Describe You?


by Suzie Johnson
The dictionary definition of content means being satisfied with what you have, or being satisfied with your circumstances. Contentment is not wanting more than what you have, and not looking at others and wanting what they have. But is it more than that?  

I like to think I’m content. I think it’s because I have a fairly easy-going personality, and that makes it easy to adapt even though I don’t like change. I’ve also learned over the years that if you can’t be content, you and everyone around you will be miserable. Therefore, it has been my goal for several years to remain content in all circumstances.

But how did I come to that place, and does it mean I never worry?

I would be a liar to say I'm never dissatisfied or that I never worry. I am. I do. I don’t like that about myself and I wish I could “practice what I preach” always and in all ways. But I’m human and things occur that make me unhappy or worried. I wish I could say the very instant these things cross my mind I turn straight to God and pray. I wish…

Would if I could…again, that human thing comes in to play. Sometimes it’s not easy being human, is it? Especially when we want to live a life that is pleasing to God.

I think that’s where contentment starts – by wanting to please God. We must have that desire because when we want to please Him, we turn to Him. We may not start out turning to Him as often as we should, but it’s a starting point. It takes doing something twenty-one times before it becomes a habit. At least, those are the latest figures I’ve heard.

If a family member is ill, and I start to worry and I don’t turn to God right away, I certainly won’t be able to let go of the worry long enough to be content. If I owe too much debt and I’m unsure if I’ll have a job in a month or two and I don’t pray about it first, I’ll make myself sick before I ever get to the point of finding contentment.

It’s only by turning to God that I can be truly satisfied in all circumstances. Even when I don’t turn to Him right away, I get there eventually. But there are many times when I do turn to Him first and worry is diverted and I feel contented almost immediately. But I can’t stop there. I have to keep praying, keep focusing, keep Him in the forefront of my mind and do everything I can to turn to Him first because that contentment will turn to peace.

It sounds so simple, but even the very “best” Christians know it’s easy for humanity to slip in and steal our focus.

Try to make turning to God first a priority. This is how we build trust that He will take care of all of our needs. This is how we learn to rely on Him first and to rely on worrying less. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail. If your heart is truly seeking, God will find a way to prompt you to turn to Him even if you didn’t seek Him before you began to worry or feel scared or sad.

He promised! In Hebrews 13:5, He said He would never leave us or forsake us. That promise comes right after Paul reminded Philemon and other believers that God said to, “be content with what you have.”

And what, you must wonder, does this have to do with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and The Beautiful?

Deb told us about this movie a few weeks ago (click here to read her post). Because of her recommendation (even though she hadn’t seen it at the time) I went to see it. I wasn’t disappointed by any means. I absolutely loved it. Based on the book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, the move is about an assortment of people with assorted personalities who all find themselves in the very unwelcome position of not being able to retire on their income unless they do something drastic like moving to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and the Beautiful.

Some of those characters are content and some are not. Those who are, find it easier to adapt to their circumstances. Those who are not…well, let’s just say they have a few lessons to learn along the way.

I love the way these characters were developed – not for ratings or sensationalism, but merely to tell a good story. It became obvious right away who would have a hard time when they got to India – not because they were going to India, but because they wouldn’t be happy in any circumstances. Did they learn? I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone, so you’ll have to see for yourself.

Contentment isn’t just the ability to be satisfied, it’s also the ability to trust and rely on God in all circumstances.

Pray. Trust God. Turn to Him even if you didn’t turn to Him the instant you became dissatisfied. He’ll still be there and He’ll still fill you with peace and satisfaction. And the payoff will be great (as in Good, Wonderful, Huge). The more you trust Him, the more satisfied you'll become.

And go see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and the Beautiful. (Can you tell I just like to say that over and over?)

Suzie Johnson’s debut novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, will be released by White Rose Press later this year. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man, who makes her proud every day, Suzie lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and naughty little cat. You can visit her blog at: 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Write Circles

 by Dina Sleiman

Early in 2009, three years after I started writing seriously, I hit a wall. I knew writers had to deal with rejection, but that day was just too much. I received a rejection letter from the agent, who at the time, I really had my heart set on. I locked myself in my room to pray and cry, and I realized something. If I didn’t get into a community of writers—and quick—I was never going to survive this industry.

How true that is. The writing world is brutal, and in order to make it, you have to be in the “write” circles.

Problem was, other than those super-scary writers conferences I’d heard of, I had no idea where to start. So I emailed two of my favorite authors, and one of them, Siri Mitchell was kind enough to take me under wing. I drove up to Charlottesville, Virginia to meet her at the Festival of the Book, and she pointed me in the right directions. Through her, I got involved in the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Hiswriters historical fiction loop. Even better, at that festival I met a lady who had been wanting to go to the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference like me, but—like me—was a big weenie .

So we went together!!!

Five Inkies at ACFW in St. Louis
By that summer, Gina Welborn had the idea to form a group blog. She’d seen the effectiveness of the synergy between the ladies at Seekerville, so she gathered up a group of “Contest Divas” (which thanks to discovering Hiswriters in the nick of time before contest season--I was one), and we joined together to form Inkwell Inspirations. At the time, only Jen AlLee was published. Now over half of us are. Why? Because we’re all there cheering and praying each other on. We pick each other up when we’re down. At times we even critique each others work. And perhaps most importantly, we offer each other priceless industry insider tips.

We’ve all come a long way baby.

Other important relationships to come out of those early introductions were my friendships with Roseanna White and Christine Lindsay. Newbie me tentatively approached these two special ladies and asked them to be my critique partners. Not only did I learn tons from each of them, but Christine and I are now published by Roseanna’s WhiteFire Publishing. And because she knows my tastes and editing ability, Roseanna invited me to be an acquisitions editor as well.

Last week I went to the Blue Ridge Christian Writers conference for the fourth time. And because I’m an editor at WhiteFire Publishing, it was my second year on staff. My writing relationships have continued to grow and flourish to the point that I somehow found myself at Denny’s after midnight with four very famous authors. I won’t name drop, but it seems I’m now hanging out with some amazing, award-winning, best-selling authors. And trust me, I’m listening closely and learning all I can. Some might call it networking, but to me, it’s just having a blast.

People often think of writing as a solitary profession, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. It’s all about relationships. So if you plan to be a writer, get-involved. Get yourself into the “write" circles.

Share with us about your writing relationships. What has worked for you and what hasn’t?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Year Without a Summer

by C.J. Chase

Our local weather service predicts our first heat wave of the season for this week, so I thought I’d keep cool by writing about “The Year Without a Summer.” If you’re facing a string of 90-degree days, skipping summer might sound like a pleasant change. Unfortunately, for those who lived in 1816, the abnormally cool weather was anything but agreeable.

Scientists now believe a convergence of unusual solar activity and a massive ash cloud from the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora created a “volcanic winter” throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere that year. Spring proceeded much as usual, but by June, a shift in weather patterns emerged.

Much of Europe endured frequent clouds and rain. Parts of Ireland and England saw just nine (9!) rain-free days for the entire summer. Switzerland experienced roughly twice the rainfall for that season. Rivers flooded, adding to the destruction. While Europe struggled with a deluge, the situation on the other side of the Atlantic was exactly the opposite. Newspapers carried stories of prolonged drought in northern states.

Worse, when it wasn’t raining (or not raining, in the case of North America), it was snowing. In June, snow twelve inches deep fell in Quebec, while about six inches covered the ground in parts of New England and New York. July brought reports of frost, while by August, heavy snowfall was again reported in Eastern Canada. As far south as Pennsylvania, lakes and rivers were iced over in August. London experienced snow in May and July.

Seeds rotted in the fields. Those that germinated soon found the tender young plants succumbing to frost, flood, or drought. Then the killing frosts of autumn came early and ended an already dismal growing season. With harvests reduced by 50%, 75%, and even 90% in some areas, the costs of fruit, vegetables and grains skyrocketed. (The price of meat, however, fell as farmers butchered livestock they couldn’t afford to feed.)

The unseasonable cold disrupted shipping as sea lanes, rivers, and lakes froze. With transportation hampered, provisions could not be easily delivered to places where the famine was most severe. North America, with its smaller, more rural population and plentiful forests suffered less than Europe. People survived on wild game, including raccoons and pigeons.

In France and Switzerland—the epicenter for the below-average temperatures—starvation brought on food riots. In Switzerland, where people resorted to eating moss, the government published information about recognizing poisonous plants for those forced to forage for sustenance. England too suffered its share of rioting as unemployment (brought on by the end of the Napoleonic Wars) collided with shortages and rising prices. In times of fear and famine, "civilization" often breaks down.

Poor harvests brought famine, and famine begat disease. Weakened by hunger and malnutrition, people succumbed to a deadly cholera epidemic that spread across Asia and Europe.

“The Year Without a Summer” was the last wide-spread famine in the Western world. I sometimes wonder what would happen should I ever face such a severe crisis. Imagine how quickly your grocery store shelves would empty if half or more of this year’s crops failed or if transportation problems made delivery of food all but impossible.

Irving Berlin’s God Bless America begins with the line, “As the storm clouds gather, far beyond the sea…” Right now, storm clouds are gathering in Europe again. Not the clouds of volcanic ash or war, but of financial collapse.

If my children were hungry, would I riot and horde? Would I be ruled by fear? Or would I learn to lean on the Lord and share generously with those in need? Several years ago, the late Chuck Colson spoke of the opportunity that comes with economic hardship. We can spread fear...or we can spread Christ. When people hunger for food and meaning and direction, will they see Jesus in me?

It's a sobering thought.

The "Year Without a Summer" was tragic, but there were had several positive effects associated with it. Do you know what some of them were? Feel free to show off your Jeopardy potential in the comments section. (Googling is allowed since unlike Jeopardy, we don't give cash prizes.)

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. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be out in early 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Promise of the Spirit

by Suzie Johnson
Long before Jesus walked on the earth, God gave the promise of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Isaiah spoke about God’s promise of the Spirit many times and in many different ways.

Some of the promises of the Spirit found in Isaiah


Isaiah also prophesied that “The Messiah, God’s Servant, will be given the Spirit” (42:1) and “Through the Spirit, God’s true children will thrive.” (44:3-5)

Later, Jesus himself spoke of this same Spirit.

John 7:37-39
37On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Then Jesus promised he would not leave the apostles; instead, he said he would ask the Father to send another Counselor, the Spirit of truth, to be with them forever. (John 14:16-17)

Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven.

Luke 24: 50-51
50When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.

Ten days later, his promise was fulfilled when the Spirit descended on all who believed as they were gathered together on the day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:1-4
1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

But story doesn’t end there. God reminds us, through Paul, of the Spirit He sent for all who believe.

Ephesians 1:13-14
13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

I Thessalonians 1:4-5
4For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.

May you all be blessed by the Spirit on this day of Pentecost.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Castle - The Finale

by Anita Mae Draper

***  SPOILER ALERT   ***

***  This post contains everything you wanted to know
about the final episode of this season's Castle.  ***

I love watching the TV show Castle and I anticipated the season finale for weeks because I knew it would be a cliffhanger. When the time finally came, I was left frustrated and discouraged. Although the finale took the relationship of Rick Castle and Kate Beckett to the next level, I felt the last few minutes were rushed and left nothing to imagination.

I think one of the reasons is because I know what happens to TV shows that are successful mainly because of the attraction, chemistry, sexual tension - call it what you will - between the two main characters. Some of my all-time favourite shows shared this in common withCastle

- Moonlighting (1985-1989) with Cybill Shepherd (Maddie) and Bruce Willis (David):

She’s a glamorous ex-model, while he’s your typical sleeveless under-shirted, wise guy detective. Together, they run a private detective agency. Their trademark scenes are when they both talk at once –getting louder by the second - and end abruptly at exactly the same moment. The show had a 5 year run with Maddie and David getting together at the end of the 3rd year. Year 4 tries to keep up the conflict, but fails miserably and Year 5 is downright boring. (Full episode list)

- Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983-1987) with Kate Jackson (Amanda) and Bruce Boxleitner (Lee):

A divorced housewife is given a package by an agent being pursued by bad guys. Her attempt to follow his directions not only gets the package delivered, but rescues him in the process and introduces her to the Agency and a new life as an agent, kept secret from her boys and mom who live with her. Although Amanda and Scarecrew dated others along the way, their relationship is fed by having the two go undercover as man and wife in several episodes – parts they play so well that it’s a natural progression to fall in love by the end of the 3rd season. Although they keep their marriage secret to protect her family, the episodes stall since the sizzle is gone.

In real life during the final season, Kate Jackson was undergoing treatment for breast cancer and supposedly this is why the show lagged. I’m not so sure. She’s always been a professional. I suspect part of it was because the excitement was gone since Amanda and Scarecrow's relationship had lost its element of suspense. (Full episode list)

Scarecrow and Mrs. King is available free for Amazon Prime members.

- Remington Steele  (1982-1987) with Stephanie Zimbalist (Laura Holt) and Pierce Brosnan(Remington Steele):

Frustrated by prejudice against a female private investigator, an agency owner invents a mysterious man as her boss. When the need arises to prove he’s real, she hires a polished, suave Brit to play the part without knowing he’s really a thief. The show’s trademark was the use of the word, Steele in every title. ie License to Steele, Hearts of Steele, Steele at Your Service, Altared Steele, etc.

And yes, Laura and Remington’s developing relationship was slow, not coming to fruition until the final episode of the final season. So why have I included it here? Because in my mind, the series ended when they got together.

Remington Steele also needs to be credited because according to Wikipedia, “It pioneered the slowly evolving "will they or won't they" relationship arc that is now common to television drama of all genres.”

Another interesting tidbit in Wikipedia states, “A 2011 episode of the television detective show Castle, "Eye of the Beholder", made multiple references to Remington Steele, including an appearance by James Read. A review stated that the episode "felt like an homage" to Remington Steele.”

- Castle  (2009-renewed for a 5th season) starring Nathan Fillion (Rick Castle) and Stana Katic (Kate Beckett): This series sizzled from the start. Part of that has to do with Castle being an urbane ladies’ man reminiscent of Remington Steele without the accent. And Kate had Castle pegged from the start. She wasn’t about to join the long line of women he’d loved and set aside. Yet a look here, a secret smile there, and we knew these two would get together some day. Their connection is the cement which holds the show together. A very good show with more plot twists than I’ve even seen or read before. Nothing happens as expected and altogether, the show is pure magic.

Before I go on, I'll post the video of the final episode of this season's Castle. It's 15 mins long, but if you haven't watched it, this is a treat because it's pure Kate and Castle - all their moments of the show. If you are offended by sensuality, I'd advise you to skip the video.

So why am I frustrated? Because the creators of the show have taken the chance of ruining it for a mere 2 mins of air time. That’s how long the steamy, sensual scene lasted. That includes the part where he opens her blouse and sees the scar where the bullet nearly killed her a year earlier. Two minutes. And then they walk off camera holding hands. No, we don't see where they went, but they intimated what was going to happen.

Did we have to see those final steps?
Am I the only one who would have liked the show to end with them holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes, thereby leaving us to wonder – all summer long – what happened after the cameras were turned off?

After 4 years of waiting for them to get together, I felt this episode should have been more them and less police work. That would have given time for a better build-up to the end. Granted, Castle stared at his phone awhile before turning off her call, but then he turns on his SmartBoard with the investigation files and clears it within seconds. A slight hesitation and it’s wiped clean. Two minutes later, the show - the season - is over. And I felt like a deflated balloon. The mystery has been resolved.

One show that deviated from a similar path of destruction was Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998) with Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn) and Joe Lando (Byron Sully):

I think what sets this apart is that the series started with the emphasis on the story of a female doctor in 1867 Colorado with barely a nod at Sully. As the weeks pass, he plays a more prominent role and we feel their attraction. But their courtship, wedding, and family life is more of an extension of her medical practice. Although Sully is a main character, and the show will survive without him if need be. It would fail without her. So is this the way to keep these shows on the air? Centre it around one main character instead of two sizzlers?

Would Castle have more of a chance of succeeding after this momentous event if he were the main character and Beckett his sidekick? Let's face it, the show is named after him... does that imply Beckett is dispensible? Would they find another female detective to rattle Rick's role if ratings lagged?

As of May 10th, Castle has been renewed for a 5th season.

What about you? Were you satisfied with the  Castle season finale? Do you think they can maintain the excitement? What do you want to see happening? Can you think of any other TV shows that ended soon after the characters admitted their feelings and got together?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. She writes stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books and Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at 

Friday, May 25, 2012

No more ticky-tacky!

by Niki Turner
I walked out of the junior high and got into my mom's Jeep Wagoneer. She looked at me, then at my peers flooding out of the building.

"You all look just the same." She punctuated her statement with a heavy sigh, then pulled away from the curb.

At 13, her statement confused me. Wasn't that the goal? Weren't we all supposed to look the same, act the same, talk the same, dress the same? The better you conformed to the ideal, the more points you earned on the invisible popularity board. It would be years before I understood what she was talking about when she sang this song...

I carried my version of ticky-tacky to an extreme. I would wake up in the morning and move through my day thinking, "What would so-and-so be doing right now?" 
I'm sure I drove my parents crazy... coming home and imposing the lifestyles and habits of my friends' households on MY household.

"We have to clean our bathroom every day, because so-and-so does." 
"So-and-so cleans the table and does the dishes right after every meal. Shouldn't we do it that way?" 

(Granted, at the time, we were experiencing household neglect in the cleaning department because both my parents worked like dogs. I didn't see THAT, of course, only the mess.)

 ChameleonOver the course of the next few years, I moved from one "clique" to another, some healthy and some not, transforming myself, chameleon-like, in order to fit whatever group I chose to be a part of at the time.

As a young adult, I applied the same philosophy to church. Find the leader, or the most successful member, and become a body double. Dress as they dressed, speak as they spoke, do what I thought they did with their days. Mind you, I didn't go to the kind of church that demands conformity, it was just something in ME. (I've since discovered the chameleon-like behavior is characteristic to women with Asperger's Syndrome. Hmm.)

It got even worse when I became a pastor's wife and the pressure coming at me wasn't just internal, it was external. After all, people want their pastor's wives to fit a certain model! The relief I experienced in laying aside that "hat" was tangible.

I still struggle (personally) with the concept that I am an individual, created by God for His unique and divine purpose as an original, not a copy. I still have to remind myself that I don't have to "fit" a man-made mold, I only have to yield to Christ. God loves ME, just as I am, whether I "fit" a man-made stereotype or not.  God isn't into ticky-tacky people.

The individuals whose lives are highlighted in our Bibles are the ones who lived the most unique, original lives. Every one of them "bucked the system" to live the way they were led to live. Abraham, Noah, Moses, Isaiah, David, Hosea, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esther, Jeremiah, Deborah, Elizabeth, Mary, JESUS, Paul, John, Peter... name a Bible hero and you'll find an INDIVIDUAL who followed the spirit of God for him (or her) self.

Now I need to apply this lesson to my writing. It's tempting to seek ways to conform, to comply, to fit in, in order to fulfill the dream of being a multi-published, wildly successful author of New York Times bestsellers. But conforming to someone else's ideal will never (as I ought to know by now) provide the kind of satisfaction that comes from yielding completely and totally to the creative, unique, original spirit of God within.

About   the Author: Niki writes fiction, nonfiction, blog posts, newspaper articles, grocery lists, and Facebook status  updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Have you seen Jesus?

by Niki Turner

I took my youngest son with me when I went to cast my vote in the 2008 election. The elderly women at the registration table (none of whom I knew by name) took one look at my son and said, "That must be Pat Turner's son!" The same scenario has been repeated at the grocery store, at church, and at my 10th and 20th class reunions. Now the same thing is happening with my grandson, who, admittedly, has picked up the Turner DNA in spades.

Havin' Saturday morning coffee with my Pop. ~Talen

We aren't surprised when the natural son bears an uncanny likeness to the natural father, but we seem to stumble when it comes to the Son of God resembling Almighty God.

"Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.' 
Jesus answered: 'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.'" John 14:8-9 NIV
Religion, whether it's Christianity or Judaism or Mormonism or any other -ism, tends to blur one's understanding of the Creator behind institutional policy, protocol and procedure. Couple a sprinkle or two of religiosity with the blindness of the world system that surrounds us and we run the risk of having a very convoluted view of our heavenly Father.

Is He an angry, hateful, spiteful dictator just looking for a reason to smack us upside the head with the fly swatter of judgment? Is He a churlish, irrational tyrant operating on whims and fancies, tossing a tornado here and an earthquake there as it fits His mood swings? Is He a legalistic, Spock-esque ruler, immune to the feelings and thoughts of mankind? Or is He a "free spirit" with no requirements, no regulations, no expectations for those who follow Him? Even worse, is He just "removed" from the goings-on of the world He created, like a child watching the progress in a ginormous ant farm with no intention of participating no matter what takes place in the biosphere He created.
Hubby, oldest son, youngest son. Scary similarities.
I think Jesus answered the question quite succinctly...
"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."

Have you seen Jesus?
That's the question. Have we seen JESUS, or have we seen an analyzed and synthesized version of Jesus? Read through the Gospels again. He was quite the radical. You rarely find Him doing the expected thing. He most often found Himself at odds with the religious leaders of the day. Whether it involved healing a blind man on the Sabbath (by making a mud pie out of spit and dirt and slapping it on the guy's eye sockets), running into the temple and creating chaos by overturning the social/economic/religious system, or having dinner with notorious sinners, Jesus was a nonconformist.

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."
That leads me to believe my Abba Father must be a nonconformist, too. How could He be anything else? Look at the vastness of His creation, the variety, and creativity involved! He's a supernatural being completely unmotivated by the things (selfishness, greed, animosity, fear, etc.) that motivate and guide carnal human behavior. Through Jesus, I see the Father's pure mercy, compassion, and generosity. I see (don't get out the stones yet) flexibility controlled and directed by unadulterated love; the kind of love that looks past outward appearances, even actions, and offers forgiveness, hope, and restoration, not because of what we do or don't do, but in spite of what we do or don't do.

Have you ever been confused or concerned about the character of God? Wondered about His will in a situation? Set aside the literature and pamphlets and sermons and hymns for a moment and set your eyes upon Jesus. What you see in Him is what's in the Father's heart!

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." Col 1:15-16  NIV

I hope considering the ONENESS between God the Father and Jesus, His Son, will help clear away any confusion, settle in your heart the (good) will of God for you, and settle in your mind once and for all the character and nature of your Abba Father: LOVE.

About   the Author: Niki writes fiction, nonfiction, blog posts, newspaper articles, grocery lists, and Facebook status  updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The New Arrivals

For the past six years, I’ve had a swallows’ nest on my front porch. The porch is totally covered and enclosed on three sides, so it’s a perfect place for these little birds. I’m always delighted to see them return in the spring. In late April or early May, I see the parents sleeping on the high ledge under the porch roof and preparing the nest for eggs. When they start dive bombing me as I go out to the mailbox, I know they must finally have little ones.

Soon I can see the babies’ downy heads popping up over the edge of the nest, beaks wide open, screeching to be fed. Not long after that, I see the little ones piled on top of each other, grown too big to comfortably fit in the nest anymore. Then I see them lined up on the ledge, maybe one or two of the less brave ones still in the nest, all ready to test their wings. And then, before I know it, the little ones are gone, and mommy and daddy are preparing for another brood.

Usually they have four or five little ones in each batch, but this year the nest looked particularly full, so I got out my ladder and had a peep inside. I counted several times to make sure I wasn’t mistaken, but here are definitely seven baby swallows in this crop. They’re about ready to fledge, so it’s kind of funny to see all seven of them still trying to fit in their little nest, more piled on top of it and each other than actually inside.

They’re testing their wings now, stretching and fluttering and making short test flights. I’ll be sad to see them go, but it’s always a delight to witness this miracle each spring.

Not once, but twice!

Do you ever birdwatch?

Are there any "new arrivals" in your life right now?

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, as well as Letters in the Attic and The Key in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

by Suzie Johnson

At some point in life, every one of us will experience pain and sorrow. Whether it’s losing a pet, a friend, a beloved family member, or even our health; the sad fact is grief and sorrow are a part of life. Not a pleasant part, by any means, and certainly nothing to trivialize or take lightly. Your pain is your pain and my pain is mine. We all internalize and experience things in different ways and we should never assume our sorrow is greater than another’s.

In spite of our sorrow, tears and loneliness, it doesn’t end there. We don’t have to build walls around our hearts with the hope that we can never be hurt again. There is One who holds us in the palm of His hand. The Bible is filled to overflowing with scriptures that tell us of our Heavenly Father’s desire and longing to wipe away our tears, to fill our hearts with peace, and be our everlasting comfort.

Some scriptures of comfort and hope

Job 11:16-18
16You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.
17Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.
18You will be secure, because there is hope;
Psalm 27:5-6
5For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in his dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
6Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Isaiah 51:12
I, even I, am He who comforts you.

Isaiah 66:13
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.

Luke 7:13
When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, “Don’t cry.”
John 14:26-27
26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.
27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 

The ladies at Inkwell Inspirations know that there are members of the Inkwell, as well as friends and family of members of the Inkwell who are going through a time of sorrow right now. In the name of Jesus, it is my fervent prayer that each of you will feel the peace and comfort of God surrounding you.  

Suzie Johnson’s debut novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, will be released by White Rose Press later this year. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man, who makes her proud every day, Suzie lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and naughty little cat.  Although the beaches there are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madrona trees instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much too cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing inspirational fiction. You can visit her blog, Suzie's Writing Place at

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wonderful Discovery: Charles Martin

 by Dina Sleiman

If you're a bookworm like me, probably one of the world's purest joys is the discovery of a fabulous new author. So today, I would like to introduce you to Charles Martin. Honestly, I have no idea why I had never heard of him. He wrote for Thomas Nelson for years. Now he's crossed over to ABA publishing and hit the bestseller list. Plus his books are incredibly romantic. Think the Christian Nicholas Sparks. Oh, and in case you happen to be sight impaired, let me mention that he's a total cutie. 

My good friend and writing buddy, Angela Andrews, had been bugging me to check out Martin for a few months. Turns out he went to the same grad school we did, Regent University. And Angela had totally fallen in love with his writing. But with my never ending to-be-read stack, I didn't get to him until she actually broke down and bought me a book. Now that's a true friend.

When Crickets Cry was published in 2007, so I'm a little late with my review. Short story is, I loved it. It's a novel of healing, hope, and romance. Martin's writing is very artistic. A sort of literary feast where you can savor each word. This book is all about the heart: from the characters who will capture your heart, to their own wounded hearts, to the actual human heart in all its splendor. And all of this ties beautifully to the spiritual heart with a deft touch that will change you without ever falling into preaching.

Now's the time I'm supposed to say I enjoyed every moment of reading this book. But actually, that wouldn't be true. There were chapters that were a little slow and descriptive, even for artsy me. But don't give up on this book, because it's well-worth persevering. Then there's a moment at the end that I felt was tricky. A sort of "ha ha, you actually believed me" kind of moment. I hate jokes like that. Anyway, I was pretty upset for a few pages and ready to throw the book at the wall. For a short time I felt like the author had completely ruined all his hard work with an awful ending. Fortunately, I was wrong. Everything turned out great. I'm sure there's some spiritual lesson in there somewhere. Probably I should have seen all the clues, including several prophetic moments, and clung to my faith in spite of how circumstances appeared. LOL. And the fact that the story provoked such a strong response in me just goes to show how invested I became in it.

Overall this book was tremendous. And I'm so glad to have found this new author. If you like books that tug at your heart, you need to check out Charles Martin. His writing really is exceptional.

Have you heard of Charles Martin? Read any of his books? Do you enjoy Nicholas Sparks books or movies? By the way, my daughter bought me The Lucky One for Mother's Day. We're both going to read it then go see the movie.

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 with Whitefire Publishing has just released. 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

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Story Behind The Next Target

by Nikki Arana


Many people are interested in how I came to write The Next Target, which is releasing June 1, 2012. It was inspired by my ministry, AVoice for the Persecuted. I help persecuted Christians who are under the threat of death . . .  here in America! That is code for Muslims who convert to Christianity. Working with Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) has changed my life. You see, after talking and working with numerous Muslims who have come to know Christ, I realized that I hardly knew Him at all.

Muslims who convert to Christianity pay a huge price for their faith. Most I talk to live under persecution by their former friends and family. They have no jobs because they live in a Muslim community and are shunned. And of course there are those who have been deported and/or killed. As I heard their stories I realized that my Christianity has cost me nothing. That I can never know Jesus like they do. They have paid a great price to know Him. And they love Him as you would love someone who has saved you from certain death. Oh, I know He saved me from sin and death. But I don't know it experientially like they do. I know because I have read about it in the Bible. But I have never lived under the threat of eternal damnation like they have. Islam is an unforgiving religion and God is presented as cold and unpredictable, judging you every moment, noting your sins, waiting for your death to exact His judgment. And there is no way to escape Him. That is as real to them as the assurance of salvation is to us. When they meet Jesus, and often He comes to them personally to overcome their fear of Allah, they realize that He died in their place. That God exacted His judgment on Him, that Jesus suffered so they will never have to, and they fall on their knees and worship Him. They worship and love Him in a way I never can. I have never experienced what life and death would really be . . . without Him. Though I do understand better now, thanks to their testimonies.

That is how I came to write The Next Target. I feel a burden to tell their stories. To introduce American Christians who have a fear of Muslims to characters who are patterned after Muslims and MBBs I have met. They live and work among us. We can reach out to them, model the love of Christ, and then with the leading of the Holy Spirit, give them what Islam can never give!

Yes, evangelizing Muslims can be scary. And that’s why the tagline for The Next Target is: Would you share your faith if it would cost you your life? I am hoping that people will consider that question. I had to. And I hope they realize what I did in a single moment as I was talking to an apostate, discussing the fact that he might soon be put to death. He said, “Nikki, if I have to die here I doesn’t care. I already gave my life to Christ.” Those few words, spoken from that man’s heart, changed my life forever.

Are there Muslims living or working in your world? Would you be open to starting a friendship with them?

Read The Next Target Excerpt

Nikki is giving away one copy of The Next Target here at the Inkwell. One winner will be drawn from comments left on this post until midnight Sunday, May 20th. The winner must have a continental US postal address. If the winner lives out-of-country, Nikki will provide a free Kindle copy when it is available.  (Download the Kindle app if you don't have a Kindle.) Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address (remember to use (at) and (dot) so the web spiders don't find your email address).

And here's some great news - The Winds of Sonoma, Winner of the Carol Award, is Free on Kindle May 16 - 20. Click here
And you can win a Kindle to read it on! Details are at the News! tab on Nikki's website at  


Nikki Arana

Author and Speaker

Nikki Arana has received numerous awards for her writing, including the American Christian Fiction Writers' Book of the Year award and Top 20 Novel of the Year for The Winds of Sonoma. Through her ministry, A Voice for the Persecuted, she inspires hearts toward evangelizing the Muslim community.
Visit Nikki at:

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How Our Giveaways Work: The Official Rules

We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.