Pockets of Time by Julie Arduini

Last month I attended a gathering filled with women who had all participated in an interactive Bible study on Esther. The pastor had a message she wanted to share that went along with Esther’s story. It was an inspiring event and it ended with a time of prayer.

A woman placed her hand on my shoulder to pray and waited. Then she looked me in the eye. Here is what she said.

“Pockets of time are precious to Him. Stop the responsibilities.  Stop.  Just stop and enjoy pockets of time.”

You can doubt, but I assure you, she prayerfully had my number. I’d been running from one thing to the next, drained of energy. Low on intimacy with Him. And simply wore out.

That was before the Christmas season began. Since then there has been travel, sickness, ministry commitments, solo parenting while my husband traveled for work, Christmas concerts, shopping, wrapping, and walking our teen through what we believe will be a victory in his life.

Stop? How is that even possible?

I think the woman’s words hold insight.

Pockets of time.

If you’re like me, I get caught up in an all or nothing mentality.  And if I can’t give all, well, I give nothing.

And that’s not what the Lord is asking of us.

Years ago a homeschooling mom lamented how she had so little to give to Him. A few minutes of praise in the shower. Some prayer times while driving. And as she explained, the picture I had in my mind was the woman with the coin. To the world, that offering meant little. To God, it meant everything. She gave what she could.

This season, would you remember with me what God is asking? Stop. Pockets of time are precious to Him.

He’s not asking most of us for hours on our knees. Pockets of time. We can do that.

Here is a few minutes where I stopped last week and was caught up in the simplicity of the season. The reason. The love wrapped in swaddling clothes. For me. For you.

Enjoy this pocket of time with Christ the King.

Merry Christmas!

The Sparkly Responsibility by Julie Arduini

Every other Sunday I spend a couple hours at a nearby McDonald’s writing while I wait for our teen to finish with his youth group’s small group meeting.

The last time I was there I noticed two ladies who came in. One had a hat full of colorful sequins. To me it sang of Christmas spirit and reminded me of the sermon I heard hours earlier about being the light of Christ. Oh, this lady was sparkly and I admired the hat.

The woman with her had a red scarf that also sparkled. She looked so warm and inviting with it. I’m not one who can naturally approach strangers, but I wanted to shout out that I loved their accessories.

But something stopped me.

Their language.

They weren’t even seated before the f-bombs landed left and right. They were both loud about their thoughts. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, they were so loud I heard them whether I wanted to or not.

-The fries were cold

-They were overcharged at their last stop

-The boyfriend was going to demand hot fries

and with every complaint, the expletives dotted their negativity.

Now if I had sensed a Holy Spirit nudge to say something, I would have. But I felt my place for that situation was to pray for them. And I did.

Their scene reminded me of a mentor sharing the time she attended a wedding and how gorgeous the bride was in her flowing dress and beautiful veil. She stopped at a nearby table, back turned, and my friend and her friends shared how breathtaking the bride was. Then, the bride turned. And now they saw the full picture. A cigarette hung off her lips, and she had a full glass of alcohol in her hands. She wasn’t just going to toast her marriage, she was ready to get bombed.

And it soured the beautiful bride image my friend had.

Both of these scenes are a good visual for me to remember because I am a Christian, my job is to sparkle whether I have a sequin hat or not. I’m not supposed to be obnoxious or annoying in my faith, but it’s the little things that really glow in a dark world.

  • Going back to a store when I’ve been undercharged to make it right.
  • Opening doors for people I don’t know.
  • Praying over meals in public. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been approached when we do this.

There have even been times I’ve felt prompted to open up the phone book and send a message of God’s love to the name I point to, believing God has a plan for that person. I don’t promote a church or agenda, but let them know they are so special to Him that He asked me to send them a card letting them know they matter.

When believers obey we don’t just show a little light, I’m pretty sure we display wattage akin to an airfield at night. 

And that’s what we’ve been called to do.

 

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My Techie Thanksgiving

You can tell it’s NaNoWriMo month, I forgot to post once or twice. I apologize. November is always a busy month around here, and that’s without the fun of writing a 50K novel in 30 days!

I thought I’d share a fun tradition I’ve had with my family for Thanksgiving. Growing up when I knew it was Thanksgiving I knew there would be stuffing. Pumpkin pie. Celery with cream cheese. Fruit salad. Homemade gravy.

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Then I got married and had kids, and the last few Thanksgiving days it has been just us at home. The first year I prepared the same foods I grew up with. Then I watched many of the foods go untouched. My kids don’t like pumpkin pie. No one but me likes the celery and cream cheese. I was disappointed at first, but then I figured why not make this a family event where everyone has a say?

We’re a plugged in family. My husband is a programmer and our teen son is gifted in the same area. Our tween somehow got custody of the family iPad and is pretty good at it. With that in mind, I created a survey for them to fill out so I would know how to plan the Thanksgiving meal.

Some of the questions are silly, but most give me a good idea what to put on the grocery list for the big day. I started this three years ago, and this year our daughter asked why I hadn’t sent out the survey yet. Well, I got right on it.

It would have been tempting to grieve the changes I grew up with, but instead I chose to make new memories with my own family. For that, I’m thankful. As you prepare for your day, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of our little survey. You don’t have to answer it, but I thought it would give you a smile as you’re knee deep in gravy and stuffing.

Click here to take survey

Have a blessed, laughter-filled Thanksgiving.

What I Learned from the Book of Job by Julie Arduini

There was a wilderness season marked by sickness, death, and change. Just when I came up for air and felt a sense of normalcy, another event rocked everything I had ever taken for granted. A natural encourager, I was muted. Numb. My husband intervened and suggested a joint Bible study. We chose Chuck Swindoll’s Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance.

I related to so much of Job’s story. If anything, I felt like the wife. I didn’t understand how God could allow such pain. And what really was hard to comprehend was how Job carried himself. My husband took Job’s cue and challenged me to find the blessings. He wrote out a list of every single trial and walked me through thanksgiving.

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It changed everything.

Today I encourage people in those wilderness seasons. I point them to Hosea 2:14 and explain how it is not God’s cosmic joke at their expense. The desert experience is a season, and it has purpose. That time and the others that followed prepare me. I don’t love it, but I do embrace the purpose of it. I feel chosen to learn from the Master, and how extra hard I cling to Him. For those experiencing similar situations, I encourage them to receive all He has, because what they learn will be used again. And above all, praise. Be thankful. I am convinced praise is a key to breakthrough. I also know the true defeated one, the enemy of our soul, he can’t stand to be near praise. So all the more reason to be intentional about thankfulness.

There is so much adversity lately. My Facebook message folder has been extra busy with people asking for prayer. Loved ones are treading water, ready to get to shore when another wave hits. It’s heartbreaking. That’s why I’m more intentional than usual inviting people to start Thanksgiving early.

Each November I hand my blog over to guests who share why they are thankful. I’ve been doing this for at least five years and I’m always surprised by how inspiring each post is. No year is the same, no post is the same. There are health stories, money miracles, family funnies, job thanks, and more.

This year is no exception. It’s even international with submissions coming as far as England. Everything from hearing from chefs to grandparents to authors. They are always fun reads but this year with political chaos and financial unrest, you want to check this out throughout November.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[a]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Job 1:21, NIV

PS

If you’d like to submit a post, there’s still a few slots left, but don’t wait. All you have to do is write as little as a few sentences and as much as 750 words about why you are thankful. Send it to juliearduini@juliearduini.com with a bio and optional picture. Sign off the way you want the world to know you (first name, full, anonymous.) I reserve the right to edit, but rarely do, and it is first come, first serve. 

 

 

When Fiction Meets Real Life by Julie Arduini

Last month I told you how I finaled in a photo contest and was mortified because the process was through Facebook voting, and that meant marketing against other pictures.

Well, I won.

It was a great marketing test as potential readers of my contemporary romance books set in the Adirondacks came out and not just voted, but shared my plea and encouraged others to vote, too. The win was solid, and I’m completely grateful for the people who believed with me.

The prize was a 2 day stay at a lodge in Speculator, New York, where my first contemporary romance is based. I also received a gift certificate that I could use at the local grocery store, Charlie Johns, or the nearby Speculator Department Store. I was able to bring my mom and show her the area I love. We were able to spend quality time that we rarely have because I live 300 miles away.

I was also able to connect with my fiction characters in their own neck of the woods. It was a surreal experience.

Spectacular Falls is my first contemporary romance and it’s finished and under consideration.

Here’s a blurb:

Jenna Anderson, sassy city-girl, plows—literally—into Adirondack village, Speculator Falls, with a busted GPS. She gets a warning from the sheriff but has ideas for the senior center to prove she belongs in town as their director. Town councilman Ben Regan is as broken as the flower box Jenna demolished. He’s grieving and wants to shut down the center before there’s too much change and heartbreak. They work on community projects and build a slow relationship, but the council needs to vote on the senior center’s future. Can Jenna show Ben both her and the center are worth trusting?

The story is of course fiction, but based on real things.

  • Speculator Falls isn’t real, but an embellished village of what is, Speculator.
  • Jenna and Ben are my imaginary friends. Jenna is a compilation of people and has elements of me included.
  • I worked with senior citizens for over a decade. To me, Howard, Shirley, Dora, Roxy, and the other seniors are a composite of the volunteers I had the pleasure of working with.
  • Ben came to mind long before I was married, an Adirondack dream man of sorts I created while visiting Speculator. Fast forward 20 years and when I received the gift certificates, I realized the owner who manages Charlie Johns and other enterprises was probably the person with the closest job in real life that mirrors Ben. I’m sure he was wondering why I was looking at him, but I kept thinking, I think this guy is Ben, if only by job and manager of the store my fictional JB’s is based on.

Here are some pictures I took that led to other surreal moments where fiction and reality clashed. If you write, do you have those surreal moments too? I’d love to hear about them.

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In real life, this is the grocery store, Charlie Johns, in Speculator. In my fiction world, I visualized this when creating JB’s in Speculator Falls.

 

 

 

 

 

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In reality, this is the view from the Melody Lodge in Speculator. For me, this is what I see when I write scenes from Ben Regan’s cabin home. When Jenna first visits, that’s what she sees off the porch and instantly falls in love. Her feelings for Ben? They don’t happen as fast as the surroundings. :)

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s a beach area right in Speculator, but in this writer’s mind, it’s the view Jenna has when she visits her pastor’s home. The Reynolds family lives across the street, and see this every day. Isn’t it surreal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s a trail in Speculator that they made sure was handicap accessible that leads to the Sacandaga River (I think!) I used this very place as where Ben and Jenna share a moment not long before the town council showdown meeting.

The Resonating Quote by Julie Arduini

Last week our pastor gave a sermon that not only had great principles, but even a statement that seemed off the cuff. It’s still resonating with me, a week or so later.

“You can hang on, or move on.”

I tend to be a black or white perspective person, so this quote got me.

There are so many circumstances in my life where this quote applies.

  • Writing delays (I lost months of writing time with a broken wrist.)
  • Marriage challenges. I’m human, and so is my husband. We’ve had mountains, and we’ve experienced valleys. When we’re in a hard place, it’s tempting to remember our words as much as I take notes during sermons.
  • Other relationships. Family and friends are our inner circle and safest people. That’s probably why the wounds run deep.

I’ve walked out the hang on choice, and it turns into a slow crawl filled with burdens we aren’t meant to carry. No matter how busy my schedule, the topic I’m not willing to let go dominates my thoughts. My conversation. My everything. Because I’m so wrapped up in hanging on, even innocent statements from others become more proof in my eyes that I was done wrong. It’s a toxic way to live, and dare I write, contagious. I’ve been in an environment with one person hanging on. And it didn’t take long for the entire room to be transformed and sharing the negativity.

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I’ve also marveled in the path called moving on. It isn’t the easier choice, but it is the healthier and most blessed way to live. Sometimes I only moved forward in baby steps accomplished by uttering the name of Jesus over and over. That’s still a victory, and I don’t take those moments for granted.

There’s so much to be angry and stay furious about. But hanging on is a toxic choice that affects others, and your own walk with the Lord. Moving on is a slow process, but it’s healthy and you can’t put a price tag on the blessings.

 

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Looking Back and Moving Forward After 9/11 by Julie Arduini

Sometimes the tragedy of 9/11 seems like yesterday.

Then I remember when I first heard of the attacks, I was a work-from-home mom of a three year old who that morning slept in later than usual.

That preschooler is now fifteen.

With 12 years behind us, I watched a series of documentaries on the events, and they weren’t easy to watch. After this much time, it’s easy and tempting to gloss over. But I felt I owed the thousands that lost their lives my time and perspective, and I’m not the same person I was back then. Our country isn’t the same.

Looking back, I thought about what life was like for me at the time, and on that day.

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  • Although I now live in Ohio and am the same distance to NYC that I was when I lived in Upstate NY, there is a fraternity of sorts, a bond, for anyone who lived in New York in 2001. Upstaters are famous for distinguishing how we are not from nor live close to The Big Apple. On and the days and weeks after 9/11, we were all New Yorker’s. When the second plane hit, we didn’t know how close planes might be to us. Would they attack other portions of the state? I lived in a city known for being the world headquarters for a corporation. Would we be a target? We New Yorkers grieved and shared questions that people in other states probably didn’t experience to such a degree. In an odd twist of fate, living in Upstate NY I saw nothing of the attacks on a personal level. A friend of ours in NE Ohio recalls seeing what he now knows as United Flight 93 flying dangerously low. It crashed minutes later in Shanksville, PA.
  • The financial impact of the attacks hit us personally. It took about a year and a half, but the impact was devastating on the entire state. By 2003 the corporate city that was my hometown lost 20% of its workforce. The cost of a slice of pizza at the local pizzeria was more than worth of stock for Corning Inc. It was awful. My husband’s job changed so drastically that he had to look for other work, and that’s what brought us to Ohio. My position lost funding, and we decided to have me stay home and raise our preschooler and baby.
  • I was working from home that day and missed the initial coverage. I had no comprehension of how horrific everything was. Perhaps God protected my mind from going there. I was in my own tailspin from a miscarriage earlier in the year, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how people were trying to survive. How long after the attacks the heroes battling blazes or helping with clean up were fighting respiratory issues, or more.
  • To this day I grieve how fast we returned to normal. My mom even warned me while we watched the news reports and speeches. The unity won’t last, she told me. I couldn’t believe her. Yet, in weeks. Weeks! I felt everything go back. People seemed complacent. Eternity and compassion fell to the wayside. And I don’t think we’ve rediscovered those things in measure to how much we need them in our lives.
  • Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, we went as a nation from relative peace to all out war in no time at all. It was nothing for us to trust everyone over everything. People my age remember you could idle at the front of the airport and no one noticed. Try that now and watch what happens. I can remember the silence in the skies when the flights were grounded. When I see an odd license plate somewhere with someone looking suspicious, I take notice. Don’t you?
  • One of the documentaries explained that prior to 9/11, many organizations were not connected and communication between them wasn’t just limited, it was non existent. Today the FAA and the military are on the same page. News can be viral in minutes from many sources. God forbid we ever experience anything like this again, but I’ll never forget the haunted look on loved ones looking for lost family and friends. They were using posters. Phone calls. There wasn’t Facebook, Twitter, none of that. Times have definitely changed.

With an older perspective I think it’s important to look back. To honor those who aren’t here and died for our country. To learn. To appreciate. To pray. I feel our country is more fragmented than ever. I refuse to live in fear, though. For everything about 9/11, I lift up truth.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b, NIV

 

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Writing Lessons Learned from Football by Julie Arduini

One thing I learned rather quickly when I moved to Ohio was come fall, it’s about football. More than once I’d have a Friday evening meeting to learn it was cancelled because there was a high school game nearby. When I braved Saturday grocery runs, everyone wore the same color, and sometimes even the same type of shirt. Ohio State red.

Football around here is more than a hobby, it’s a passion.
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Observing high school sports, I realized my writing life is a bit like the football player. The teams around here want more than a few wins. Their goal is the championship.

  • Like football, I need to set the bar high.

If it had been up to me, I’d still be crafting a newsletter for my local Mothers of Preschoolers group, and nothing more. God stirred my heart to dream bigger and write for a wider audience.

While I’m lounging in our pool on a hot July day, our school football team is working it. Many weight lift year round. They start practice long before the first game.

My writing isn’t an overnight success. My recently completed contemporary romance has seen draft after draft and even as I blog this, I’m praying about a major change to the story even as I create the next in the series.

  • Writing takes practice. Learning. Going over the words until you dream about the story. Attending seminars, classes and conferences.

I’ve watched my friend’s son move through the ranks. Now that he’s an upperclassman, the coach has plans for him. There’s anticipation because they’ve seen good things from him on the field. There’s a chance scouts are paying attention. And if they like what they see, they could court him for bigger things after graduation.

  • Quality authors don’t automatically get the call to publishing. They earned their dues and place in the market. I have peers who were so anxious to see their name on a cover and they rushed it, putting to print a work that wasn’t ready.

When I think about where my work is at and the next steps, I’m suited up. I’m watching great friends get the call and run to the field. I have the playbook, I’ve practiced, and my time is coming. I’m setting lofty goals and more than ever, I’m tuned into my coach, waiting for His leading.

And believing one day soon the masses will enjoy my work as much as the people in Ohio love their football.

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But I Hate Marketing by Julie Arduini

When I talk with friends who don’t write for a living, their vision is that authors sit in cushy offices, munch on gourmet chocolates, write one draft of what will become a bestseller, and the book sells just like that.

Oh, how we wish that were true.

Especially in this economy, authors are expected to be marketers. Half the battle is to write the book. The rest is letting everyone know it exists and persuading them there is a benefit for them to purchase it.

I’m not quite there, but I know how important marketing is. And like most writers, I’m introverted in nature. I don’t want to stand in a crowd let alone stand out in one. To have a voice in this loud voice that has to capture consistent attention that results in positive action from consumers? If I could pass on that, I would.

Yet as I’ve worked on crafting my first contemporary romance, I’ve also spent time building a base. Online I’ve worked hard to have a community throughout social media that I’ve engaged with so when that time comes, I can tell them I have a book out, and they will not only want to buy it, they will partner with me to tell others. That’s my hope, and right now I have a practice run in the works.

My first contemporary romance and now my second are based on the real village of Speculator, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains. This is my favorite place in the world, and where I honeymooned. The actual store in town, Charlie Johns, is what I used to base the store in my story, JB’s.

Charlie Johns had a photo contest where they were looking for the best summer Adirondack picture. I submitted a few, not knowing the process. I learned I finaled with a 12 year old picture of my then toddler playing at the beach in Speculator. The winner is determined purely by Facebook votes. The other pictures are stunning nature pictures that showcase the Adirondacks in grand style. And then there is my little dated picture of a little boy.

Spec1_editedThe winner receives a two night stay in Speculator, as well as a gift certificate to Charlie Johns or Speculator Department Store, another business I used in my story. To win, I’d be able to visit a favorite place as well as have writing inspiration. My husband admitted he’d love to return to where we honeymooned.

Right now I’m in second place. I’ve had to promote and talk about this contest, and I dread it. I feel like I’m bothering people, but I know enough to know marketing is part of the process. Although this is a photo contest, it’s also part of building my base. The more people who like the Charlie Johns page and see the pictures, the more fall in love with the area. The more people who fall in love with the area will want to know more. And my goal is to want those contest voters to become potential readers. Because I have stories to tell about their new favorite place, the Adirondacks.

So with that confession, how about I show you where to vote?

Like the page, and vote for Speculator Beach Time.

Thank you!

 

Word Pictures by Julie Arduini

I’m a visual person.

Not in the spatial relations way where you show me an unfolded box on a test and ask me to put the box together in my head and mark off the steps.

No. I’m horrible at that.

But I learn so much about life and my faith in Christ through object lessons and word pictures.

Years ago my fear of opening a tube of biscuits reminded me of Jesus’ return.

Crazy, I know.

But not knowing when that pop was coming made me aware and on guard. It’s a lesson I haven’t forgotten.

Watching my then pre school daughter open up her Dora the Explorer backback with a map inside was a lesson on God’s word. If Dora always had a map to consult to get her through life, shouldn’t I  consult my Bible?

Often when I pray I will have a visual moment that helps me draw closer to my Heavenly Father. Years ago when I struggled understanding His loving nature I saw me in a twirly gown waltzing with Jesus. He was kind, fun , and it was an intimate snapshot that really helped me.

Somethings the pictures are convicting. Not condemning, but a challenge I process long after the moment.

Take this week. The sermon was on surrender. I’m also facilitating a Bible study on Lysa TerKeurst’s Unglued. Many principles of that book crossed into the sermon. Although my life is based on surrender, there’s always something I’m holding back on.

I’m afraid.

Scared of rejection.

Not sure what’s around the corner.

And in the prayer time I saw me in one of those trust-fall exercises. The one where you have a partner who promises to catch you, but you have to take the risk to fall. As a child I absolutely refused to play that game. I didn’t trust anyone and the fear of more rejection was so strong I wouldn’t even try.

It’s still an issue for me, although not as severe.

In the picture, Jesus is my partner. He’s standing right where He needs to be to catch me.

And I move before falling, so that by my own choice, I fall flat.

Ouch.

I appreciate those visuals because I can chew on it for days and weeks, going to God with it. And this week my hands are up in surrender. I don’t want to be afraid or choose a fall, especially when Jesus is there and will catch me. I’ve been through enough to know He’s got me. Always. But just like the real lie Eve bought from the defeated one, I sometimes believe He won’t be enough. Won’t get the job done.

And I move away and fall flat on my back.

Can you relate to trust issues? 

Are you someone that responds to object lessons, word pictures or visuals?

 

Living Free by Julie Arduini

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder if Facebook is a barometer when it comes to our feelings about our country. Many of my updates from all walks of life (writers, Upstate NY friends, Ohio friends, family) are angry at the direction our government is taking, often naming specific politicians they are unhappy with. The criticisms come from both sides of the political fence.

Yet, when a part of our country is in trouble, whether a weather related event or man-created tragedy, my FB feed displays images showing our unity. We announce our prayers for Arizona in their unimaginable loss of 19 firefighters. That we won’t forget our neighbor to the north, Canada, with their flooding.

This week the US celebrates Independence Day on Thursday and I’m starting to see a new theme pop up in my feed updates, a sadness regarding our country where they don’t even want to acknowledge the true meaning of the holiday. To them, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of independence anymore, so why enjoy the day is their thinking. I understand their frustration, but I’m not ready to turn my back on my country or celebrating her independence.

Here are my ways, despite frustrations, to embrace everything about July 4th.

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1. Consider our forefathers. 

They probably didn’t want to leave their families to fight for freedom, but they did. They were pioneers in unchartered waters, and that always comes at a high price. When I think about pioneers, John the Baptist comes to mind. He forged new territory in sharing a message and he ended up beheaded. Freedom has a price, and I hate to think we’re surrendering the fight. Our forefathers fought for what we have, and it’s up to us to embrace those freedoms and protect them.

2. Consider our grandchildren.

Perhaps I’m too intense for you, but I think a lot about my actions and how they impact future generations. I want to lay down a foundation they can reap a harvest from. I want my kids to know what July 4th is about and why it is important so they can pass that appreciation down to their children and grandchildren. If I ignore the holiday because I’m not happy with current events, so many people lose out.

3. Consider our declarations.

When I’ve prayed everything I can think of over a situation and feel a freedom coming, I change course and start declarations. I think of these prayers as the ones that pull heaven down and bring agreement between the two places. No matter what vote in my country comes down, I start proclaiming the things I’ve prayed for our country. In Jesus’ name I celebrate the greatest awakening in Jesus people have ever known. One that is International and will set people free. I don’t look around for these declarations or I’d probably be too paralyzed by fear. I look up and believe in heaven they are already accomplished, and it’s time to believe it’s time to see that come to pass on Earth. Please know this isn’t me dictating God’s agenda. I’m agreeing with it, and that includes His ways and timing. But when the prayers have been said, time to start proclaiming. And for me, nothing feels freer.

How about you? Do you think your Facebook feed is a barometer for how people feel about your country? Have you heard any grumblings about people ready to ignore July 4th out of grief and frustration? What suggestions do you have to live free in your country even if you don’t feel it’s a guarantee as in years past?

Have a safe and blessed Independence Day. May you live free, and the freest life available is the one living for Jesus!

 

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Those Super Feelings by Julie Arduini

I have a confession. I am a Superman superfan. Not quite in the Nicholas Cage department where I named my son Kal-El, but I remember watching the Christopher Reeve version as a child and becoming swept up in the story, romance, patriotism, and family themes before I really even fully understood them.

Through the years I re-watched that version, along with Dean Cain’s version on TV with Lois and Clark. Although I didn’t quite fit their demographic, I watched every single episode of Smallville, right down to the finale when Clark finally donned the cape and flew off to save the world. Cry? No. Bawled was more like it.

man of steel photo: teaser man_of_steel_xxlg_zps2640a759.jpgI’ve tried to figure out what it is that gets me so involved and emotional when it comes to this nerdy journalist who flies around in tights to keep Metropolis safe. Although I’ve yet to watch Man of Steel, I believe former Governor Mike Huckabee has the answer.

Here is what he shared on his Facebook page:

The new Superman movie, “Man Of Steel,” reportedly shattered June box office records by raking in $125 million over the four-day Fathers Day weekend. That despite some worries in Hollywood after critics pointed out the film has Christian undertones. They noted that it’s the story of how a father in the heavens sends his only son to Earth to save humanity and stand as an example of goodness for all mankind. Some people in Hollywood apparently thought that might keep audiences away. How out of touch with reality ARE they?

I’ve learned over the years that I’m pretty sensitive spiritually. I believe even before I knew Christ in a personal way, He was wooing me in with messages that for most of the world, were clearly meant to entertain. Apparently Man of Steel has been overt in placing these themes for the masses to contemplate.

Even as a kid I knew Superman wasn’t God or a true, real Savior. But here’s what I continue to feel and get all weepy about when I watch any version:

-A baby arrives in this world, but not of it.

-A toddler adopted who has a strong connection to his biological Father, but very much loved by his adopted.

-His biological Father is the source of all wisdom.

-Clark’s true purpose is to come to Earth to save it.

-He steals away to the Fortress of Solitude for time alone with His Father, to re-charge and re-group.

-He’s going to choose good when tempted (I’ll conveniently ignore his private times with Lois, just go with me here) and have a showdown with evil.

-He will always win in the end.

I think even as a child those themes resonated with me and continue to draw me in not so much as a fan of a comic book hero, but out of thankfulness for the real Savior. I’m a true justice girl where I long for good to prevail, and Jesus is the ultimate good and victory. When I truly think about those things, I’m overcome.

And when I see it play out in fiction, I think my heart returns to those same themes, and gratitude.

How about you? Is there a fiction story, show, or film that always brings out your emotions that you believe has deeper meaning? I’d love to hear what you think. Also, if you saw Man of Steel, did the Christian overtones appear to you?

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Three Suggestions for Graduates

In NE Ohio, many high school graduations already took place, or will this weekend. There are days my own commencement seems like yesterday, and then the calendar reminds me the day I threw my cap so high I never found it again was in 1988.

I thought I’d share the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Whether you’re graduating or not, I hope these tips encourage you.

1. Be Intentional. I remember after college graduation the job market was much like it is now. Jobs were scarce and going to people with more experience. I had to be intentional and not only be persistent in sending resumes, but follow-up with each company. I sent thank you notes to every person I met during an interview (don’t forget the administrative assistant, they are key.) Even after I landed the job, I had to be intentional in communication both with my work and my home life. When I moved from Upstate NY to Ohio there was a Mothers of Preschoolers group that visited every day our first week with meal delivery. When I asked why did they go out of their way for a virtual stranger, the response was, “We promised as a steering team to be intentional.” I’ve adopted the same attitude.
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2. Be Forgiving. No matter what path you take, people are going to wound you, even unintentionally. I took so many things personally after graduation. Whether it was adjusting to living with others in college or coming to terms with a job or relationship rejection, my attitude got in the way. Even as a married adult when I had a miscarriage, my own lack of forgiveness held me back for an entire year. The best definition I ever heard was that forgiveness is “letting go of the fact the other person didn’t meet your expectation.” Want a key to moving ahead faster than most? Forgive.

3. Be like Jesus. Sounds easy and even cliche, but I didn’t choose a relationship with Christ until after college, and even then, I was too new and unmentored to know any better. Being Christ-like means you will serve others and throw self-entitled thinking out the window. People will define you as a great listener, team player, fair worker, and a person that stands out for all the right reasons. I interact with a lot of Christians who aren’t sharing their faith as much as living it, and their peers know there is something about them. The world wants you to be about yourself, to cut corners, and receive more than give. Be salt and light.

What advice do you have for graduates?

If you are a graduate, what plans do you have?

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Reflecting on Reputation by Julie Arduini

As I type this, updates continue to come in from Moore, Oklahoma.  My Facebook list isn’t huge by any means and I’m seeing several friends checking in and reporting on the devastation. Chances are there is someone here at Christians Read affected. My prayers are with you.

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Speaking of Facebook, a funny thing has been happening on my personal page lately. I’ve been tagged by friends who saw a chocolate image or quote and thought of me. Not only do I find it humorous, I think it’s confirmation I’m on the right track. Not so much building a reputation (although as a chocoholic I’m guilty as charged) but growing a brand. As a writer and speaker I want them to see my name and think surrender and chocolate.

Something else happened recently that made me think of how people view me. Last week I left a room and a woman ran out after me. She explained she had a prayer request and asked that I pray. The she said, “I had to tell you because you’re a prayer warrior.” That’s certainly not something I put on business cards or where on my clothes. Through my actions she felt that was an accurate depiction. That’s character.

One of my favorite quotes is by Charles Spurgeon, “May your character be inscribed on a rock and not written in the sand.” After the exchange with the woman I reflected on what she said.

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In the different places I go, am I the same person? You know the type, the one that quotes Scriptures with you in church but curses a blue streak in the bowling alley? That’s not how I want to be. The more I thought of it, my answer went back to Facebook.

A few years ago I was one of thousands hacked in a concentrated attack by a radical religious group. It made the news, and it was reported that Christians were targeted. When I was hacked, I knew right away. How? Because people were reading my lewd and belligerent status updates and responses to friend’s walls and realized they couldn’t be from me. It was the total opposite of what they were used to reading. Whoever had my account even argued with one of my pastors regarding Deuteronomy and I joked he had to know immediately it wasn’t me, when would I ever know enough about Deuteronomy to argue a pastor?

Friends called and texted me, readers went to my page to defend me and call the hacker out. When I re gained control I decided to use my reputation to fight back. I wrote a new status update claiming for those who truly understand me, I’d never be at the store the hacker claimed, any money I had would be spent on chocolate. Then I wrote a blog post letter to the hackers letting them know by targeting Christians and making my account one of the compromised, that was a blessing. It meant the true defeated one must be desperate, and I must be making an impact for the Kingdom of Christ. It only fueled me to keep writing for Him.

How about you? Have you ever thought what reputation you have, and does it line up with what you want it to be? I don’t mean you’ve lost a good name over a bad day, but if you think people are defining you in a way you’re not comfortable with, there’s time to change it. Not sure what your reputation is? Ask people in various parts of your life. A spouse, child, co worker, the check-out person at your favorite store–you’re sure to learn what about you is inscribed on rock, and what about you needs to get thrown in the sand.

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Short and Sweet by Julie Arduini

Ask any writer and crafting the manuscript isn’t the hard part. It’s the shorter works in the process–the pitch and synopsis that send chills down an author’s spine. Every word counts. No space for passive verbs. Advice like “write tight” and “When in doubt, cut it out” echo through our tired minds.

Today I’m scheduled to pitch to Love Inspired. I’ve edited, revised, honed, tweaked, and prayed over 100 words. If it garners interest, I move on. If it doesn’t, guess what? I still move on.

Yet as I’ve worked on this, I’ve thought about short notes. Everyone writes them. Whether we’re quick on time or space, we think of the best words to convey our feelings.
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Think about it. A text. Post it notes. Reminders. Quick letters to a spouse left on a coffee table. A love note scribbled from steam on a bathroom mirror. An emergency message. A wanted ad. Some of my favorite sitcom episodes are made from the miscommunications those fast writings. The most haunting short story I remember is Hemingway’s six word flash fiction: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

It might be my imagination, but last month I saw a necklace with a small, glass bottle attached. You could detach the bottle and include a message. Of course, that got me thinking. If it were an eco-friendly thing to do, what would I write? What would you say?

Of all the short and sweet notes out there, I realized encouragement is my theme. Most of my texts are encouraging others. It’s what I jot on mirrors. I’d let a random bottle reader know they are so important to God that He wanted them to find the bottle.

Perhaps I think too much, but I really have been paying extra attention to these things. Do you work any harder on short notes to make sure you got it just right?

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