Lifting the Veil

I recently read a book called Forevermore by Cathy Marie Hake. Hake is an amusing writer. I have read a few of her stories, and I am always laughing aloud throughout each story. As a writer, I was in awe of all of all the witty lines that Hake came up with in this particular book.

I especially loved the deep Christian theme in this book. The characters were often speaking to God, quoting scripture, and singing hymns. Different principles were woven throughout the book – trust, faith, hope, and integrity.

And something I especially loved was that the hero and heroine, as well as other key characters, were not perfect. They had glaring flaws. But the reader couldn’t help but like them anyway.

This made me think about the way many of us try to be perfect. I don’t know about you, but I often wish I were perfect. I beat myself up for my daily mistakes, big or small. But the truth is that perfectionism is a trap of the enemy, which can cause division among Christians.

Does this sound far-fetched? Let me explain further.

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Many of us put up a pretty veil so that other people only see the best of us. But as Christians, shouldn’t we be able to let our guards down with one another? Shouldn’t we be able to rally around each other, rather than gossip when someone has an error in judgment? As Christians, we ought to be able to realize that no one is perfect. That’s why we all need Jesus. And since God forgave us for our mistakes, shouldn’t we be eager to extend that same kind of grace towards our siblings in Christ?

This sounds nice in theory. But I am the first person to put on a veil. I fail each day. And although God is helping me to grow little by little, I still don’t want anyone to see these mistakes of mine. I want everyone to think I am perfect. Part of this stems from my assumption that everyone around me is as critical of me as I am of myself. Maybe some are and maybe some aren’t.

But perhaps they are also in the same boat. Maybe they too are beating themselves up for the mistakes that they make each day. Maybe they too are striving for perfectionism. And maybe, just maybe, if we could let our guards down, that would help those around us to let their guards down too.

I believe God is calling us to be more genuine and authentic with one another, so we can help each other through this journey. We all have our own unique cracks. But God uses those cracks and turns them into a beautiful story.

The first step is to take down your own veil. Accept yourself for who you are. I agree that we should all try to grow in Christ. But embrace your unique personality and don’t try to hide it from those around you.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14 NIV

The next step is to help others take down their veils as well. Of course, we can’t force anyone to do this. But your authenticity can be a witness to help others follow suit.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34 NIV

This won’t be easy. Every day we will have fresh opportunities in front of us. But the reward will be worth it. We can all become united and fight the good fight of faith together. The enemy is all too eager to keep us divided, because this makes our walk with the Lord less effective. But we have to take a stand for the Kingdom of God. Will you join me on this journey?

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Time is Running Out! (by Hannah Alexander)

For those who are Amazon Prime members, you probably know that the Prime sale is drawing to a close. I made my purchase and will not return to the site. Too tempting to spend more money. But time has been running out since the beginning of the sale.  They placed the little timers down there to remind us.

I realized yesterday that time was running out for me, as well. Actually, the time for all of us is one day shorter than it was last night. If we’re dreaming of something we need to do next in our lives, it’s time.

I love Judy Miller’s blogs because she shares with us what she’s researching for her next book. Her determination has impressed me for the twenty years I’ve known her. She’s a wonderful novelist, and she continues to move forward with the next great story. So many of my colleagues on Christiansread have impressed me.

And so it’s time for me to pull out the old timer and get back to work. I have a novella I want to write before attacking the next novel, and so many more stories to tell.

How about you? What’s on your bucket list? There are so many dreams to follow and so many people to bless. Don’t wait until you’ve run out of time.

 

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Vacation Memories by Tara Randel

This is the time of year when families are headed off on a grand adventure. School is out, the weather is great and once you gas up the car, it’s time to hit the road. Since so many of our friends are visiting new destinations or making pilgrimages to favorite locations, I started to think about the vacations that stand out in my mind.

When I was a kid, we loaded up the station wagon—yes, I’m showing my age here—and traveled to places like, Cape Cod. Washington D.C. The East Coast beaches. My parents would rent a camper or a cottage and we would explore these special areas. I have to say, my folks weren’t the least bit daunted by heading out to a new vacation spot with three kids. I really appreciate their adventurous spirits because my brothers and I still reminisce over the a many road trips we made.

Like the time we rented a pop-up camper. My dad’s hand somehow slipped out of the canvas siding and he woke to feel a dog licking his hand. It was the last time went camping. Or when we stayed with friends in Georgetown who lived right next to a huge old cemetery. My brothers and I squeezed through the iron gates after dark and scared ourselves silly. But we also laughed so hard we cried. There wasn’t anything we weren’t willing to try as long as we were together.

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When my daughters were growing up, we went to north Georgia, Daytona Beach or, the good old Florida standby, Orlando. No matter where we would land, we had lots of fun and made wonderful memories we look back on fondly today.

Like the deer we glimpsed in the woods as we walked down the hill to the small Georgia town from our cabin. Teaching the girls how to skip rocks in the river. Sitting around the campfire telling stories. Our many trips to Disney World. I’d do it all over in a heartbeat.

Aurora

Do you have plans to make vacation memories this summer? I’d love to know what exciting places are on your vacation list. As for my husband and me…we might drive up the coast here in Florida and see where we end up. It’s all about the journey, don’t you agree?

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of sixteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, THE LAWMAN’S SECRET VOW, available August 2018. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

9781335633750 (405x640)

To have and to hold—

until the case is solved?

Amazon

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Jack of All Trades?

By Marilyn Turk

My father used to warn me against being a “Jack of all trades and master of none.” I suppose he said that because I had so many interests and so much trouble making up my mind about what I really wanted to do.

In college, that indecision was evident. I first enrolled in Business Administration, then switched to Psychology, then Nursing, then ended up in Journalism. I was interested in all of these fields, but not interested enough to stay each of them. I settled on Journalism because Advertising appealed to me the most, and it was in the School of Journalism at my college.

When I graduated, I tried my hand in advertising, from layout artist with a department store to selling newspaper advertising. But these jobs weren’t fulfilling, and I ended up with a 30-year career in food service sales. Now that I’m retired, guess what I’m doing? Writing! Finally using that journalism!

Now that I’m a writer, I’m asked the proverbial question: what do you write? Perhaps some people can give a short answer to that question, but I can’t. You see, I write many different types of things. I write articles, short stories, devotionals, novellas and books. I write fiction and nonfiction. I write historical and contemporary. So what does that make me? Indecisive? Confused? Not sure what I really want to be when I grow up? A Jack of all writing?

If you were to ask me why I write so many different things, I’d have to say, “to see if I can.” Writing is a challenge to me, and being successful at it is an even bigger challenge. So far, I’m thankful to say I’ve had success in each of the writing formats I’ve tried.

“They” say a writer should focus on one genre, brand themselves one way. Many people recognize me by my lighthouse brand, which was my intention. But does that mean I can’t write anything that’s not lighthouse-related? Of course not. My stories in Guideposts magazine have only featured one lighthouse so far. My devotions in Daily Guideposts have had none. But I don’t think God wants me to limit myself. The Bible  doesn’t say we should only do one thing. In fact, it speaks of different gifts. What it does say though, is that whatever we do, we should do our best.

God made me this way – interested in many things. But like Martha in the Bible who was busy with too many things, I need to be careful to focus on the most important thing – to glorify God with what I write.

That’s the one thing I want to master.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Tim. 2:15

Are you a Jack of all trades or are you a Master of one?[

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Sorting it all out

It’s a job almost everyone plans to do, yet few of us get to it amidst the busyness of life. Or, sometimes, lethargy sets in, and a person just can’t force herself/himself to take the first step in an undeniably difficult, daunting task. And so it’s passed on to the next person in the family line, whether a child, a grandchild, or, as in my case, a younger sibling.

Files and Boxes Thus, after my beloved older-and-only sister’s death last fall, the job of sorting out my family’s pictures and documents has fallen to me. I’ve lost count of the number of boxes she sent to me in the past few years, but their contents fill a filing cabinet and several other boxes and drawers. More recently, her friend and estate executor sent me about twenty more large Priority Mail boxes filled with photos and slides. As with the file drawers where I crammed those unread documents years ago, those boxes have sat unopened beside my desk for several months. (At left are my file cabinets and only a few of the boxes I’ve been working on.)

Finally, I began to climb the mountain. Surprisingly, it isn’t as hard as I’d anticipated. The key is thinking more about the coming generation than of my own memories. How can I give them just enough family history to treasure rather than a pile of “stuff” they couldn’t care less about?

Blood Donor CardNo doubt most families have a stash of such items. In our case, our sweet mother kept things like elementary school report cards and library reading lists dating back to the 1940s. Just last week, I learned this fun fact: While World War II was raging in other parts of the world, my eldest brother attended second grade at Mark Twain School in Sedalia, Missouri, and read Let’s Take Turns and Children of the Past. He earned straight A’s in all of his classes. (He’s always been the smartest of us four kids.) Another fun fact gleaned from Mother’s 1951-52 blood donor card is that she had type 0 positive blood. Guess she’s the one from whom I inherited that blood type.

Grandmother Cain with her brothersMother also kept pictures of her mother and other relatives. What fun to look at pictures from the 1890s! At right is an 1899 picture of my maternal grandmother (1875-1979) and her two brothers. Some pics have names on the back. Others don’t. Some names are unfamiliar to my two brothers and me. Try as I might, I can’t recall all of the stories our grandmother told about her relatives, so I can’t even figure out these people’s identities. Yet it’s so hard to throw away even the most unfamiliar “face.” Again, I have to think about future generations. Would anyone want these pics? My sister had no children of her own, but she was a doting aunt to her many nieces and nephews down through four generations. Surely someone would like to have her prom picture. She was so beautiful in her gold gown, black velvet cape, and elbow-length white gloves.

King Neptune at EquatorOur family’s pictorial treasures have an added element that makes the number of pictures quite numerous. Our father was an amateur photographer from his early teens, so I’m now the proud owner of many years’ worth of his “artwork.” When he joined the U. S. Navy in 1918 at the end of World War I, he took countless pictures around the world, including one of a shipboard ceremony that “christened” anyone crossing the Equator for the first time. After being initiated with his own dunking in the South Atlantic, he snapped this picture. In the picture above left, you can see King Neptune on the left. Another group of faded black and white photos show the aftermath of an earthquake somewhere in either Central America or the South Seas islands. Those will be hard for me to get rid of because they document Dad’s wide travels during his Navy days. But with no captions giving dates and locations, of what value or interest are they to anyone?Earthquake damage Central America

Eventually, after working as a machinist for many years, Dad became a professional photographer. I can track his improving talent through his countless b&w pictures. However, my favorites date from the time he began to photograph in color: weddings, graduations, studio portraits, amazing scenic pictures of the Colorado Rockies, many family pictures. In the 1960s and 70s, he served as the official photographer of the Ski-Hi Stampede in Monte Vista, Colorado. One of his best pictures of a bucking Brahma bull with rider hanging on for dear life appeared in the National Geographic Magazine. Speaking of “dear life,” Dad would risk his own by getting right down into the arena during these dangerous events so he could get the best action shots! If I save that Brahma bull picture (which is on a slide, so I can’t show it to you), I’ll have to caption it so my grandchildren will know what a crazy-brave man their great-granddad was.IMG_1818

This picture of my husband and me with our four children, taken in my dad’s studio, is a bit faded with time and not well reproduced by my iPhone snapshot, but it shows his exceptional work.

Every once in a while, I come across something that takes me back in time and makes me laugh or cry. As I turned over one picture that perfectly captured my mother’s sweet spirit, my grief over missing her stopped me. How I wish I could hug her one more time. I want my children and grandchildren to know what a good, loving woman they are descended from. That picture is a keeper.

Slide Viewer I’ve made my way though most of the pictures, managing somehow to throw away more than I kept. Now I must move on to the slides. Two Priority boxes probably contain more pics than all the rest put together. Fortunately, I have a slide viewer to make it quick and easy to see what’s on them without dragging out the ancient slide projector, which may or may not still work.

If you have a stash of family photos, do yourself and your descendants a favor. Start now to weed out the duplicates and ditch the ones that have no meaning to those who come after you. My plan, should the Lord grant me the time and the emotional “oomph,” is to digitize most of my pictures and organize them so my children and grandchildren can quickly find the ones they want to copy and keep.

One more important note: Be sure you label everything. Your dear Uncle George may be well known to your whole clan for his great jokes at family reunions. But two generations from now, your descendants may not have a clue who the guy is with the lampshade on his head and why he was so beloved by your family.

As for me, I’m trying to spend just an hour a day working on those slides. After that, it’s on to those many documents that need sorting. I’d appreciate your prayers that I can finish the job for the sake of coming generations in my family.

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Faith That’s Tested

The-Rancheros-Love-Kindle

 

Two of my favorite activities are writing books and teaching Bible study. I love when I can combine the two. When I teach Bible study, I like looking at people in the Bible and considering how they might have experienced what happened to them. Instead of simply reading about them, I try to get to know that person and understand them a little better.

 

In my latest release, A Ranchero’s (Rancher’s) Love, my heroine, Rosalinda, learns about Rahab in the book of Joshua. Because Rosalinda and Rahab have similarities in their lives, Rosalinda is fascinated with the Biblical person. I have my heroine stop and consider Rahab’s faith.

 

Rahab saves the Israelite spies. She chooses to trust God, and God, throughout the Israelite spies, promises her protection. She is told that her house and everyone in there will be safe when the Israelites return to Jericho. So, here is Rahab, a new believer in God, trusting Him to keep her safe.

 

What happens next?—

The people in Jericho are afraid—

Hundreds of thousands of Israelites begin daily marches around the city—

On the final day the Israelites march around and shout—

The walls fall down—

Everyone in the city dies except for Rahab and those in her house.

 

Imagine the earth trembling as thousands  and thousands of men march around the city. Imagine the escalating fear. Imagine the shaking as the walls begin to tumble, and the screams and cries as the people die. People Rahab knows.

 

I don’t know about you, but my faith would be tested. Especially, when I was a new Christian. Yet, Rahab waited for her salvation just as the spies told her to. She stayed in her home. I picture her perhaps crying out to God, holding on to her belief in Him. Maybe she’s even watching out the window as her hope and future approach.

 

Rosalinda, also had her faith severely tested. She had to decide whether to believe God’s word, and His promises, or trust in herself. I think we are often faced with this choice. Do I believe God, or do I take action on my own? The best course is always to wait on the Lord, even when the walls are shaking and the earth is trembling. He can be trusted.

 

The Ranchero’s Loveis the sequel to Bandoleroand can be found here on Amazon.

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The Lady of Tarpon Springs

I’m excited to announce the launch of my latest book this week. The Lady of Tarpon Springs is set in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I wasn’t familiar with the town until I was visiting with my daughter who had lived in Florida for a number of years. She mentioned the fact that Tarpon Springs is a wonderful place to visit—the destination of early Greek divers who came to Florida seeking a new homeland and quality sponge beds like the ones they’d left in the Aegean Sea. Her comments were enough to send me to the internet searching for information. It took only a short time until I was hooked—no pun intended.

Prior to compressed air diving, spongers in Greece were making “naked” dives—men who jumped off the side of the boat unclothed with a diving stone that weighed around thirty pounds and net bag attached to a rope tied around them. They could hold their breath for unbelievable amounts of time and while underwater, they would hook the sponges.

I was surprised to learn that compressed air diving was first begun in 1863 in the Aegean Sea. The Greeks who came to Tarpon Springs brought their knowledge and equipment to the area and soon began a huge sponging enterprise in Tarpon Springs. The city remains the home of many descendants of those early Greek settlers who arrived to harvest the sponges in the Gulf.

The history is fascinating and although my book is fiction, it was a true pleasure to research the history of the area and learn about compressed air diving during the early years. There were many hardships and many men either lost their lives or were permanently injured during their dives into unknown waters with machinery that was difficult to regulate.

My story takes place in 1905 with a young female lawyer, Zanna Krykos, who is challenged by a group of Greek divers who are unwilling to listen or take orders from a woman. She must work through myriad difficulties if the new business is going to succeed. Nick Kalos is the leader of the group of men who have arrived in Florida and he must decide if he will encourage the men to work with Zanna or return to Greece. When the business is threatened the Zanna and Nick must decide if they will set aside their pride and come together to save what matters most.

While researching, I visited Tarpon Springs and I’ve included a few of the pictures taken while I was there. I had the pleasure and wonderful experience of going out on a boat and watching a Greek diver don one of the old canvas suits and put his feet into the heavy metal boots that weight thirty pounds. In addition, I had the pleasure of feasting on wonderful Greek food in the local restaurants and tasting Greek pastries in the Tarpon Springs bakeries.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for some good Greek food and an enjoyable read.

Blessings,

Judy

 

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Renewed Vision

After turning thirty, my eyes seemed to instantly go downhill. I remember squinting at an ibuprofen bottle and realizing with dismay that I needed to purchase a pair of reading glasses. I deeply loathed the idea of wearing glasses, and I prayed that God would heal my eyes. But a bit like Paul in the Bible, this thorn in my side would not go away.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NLT) Paul says, “So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’”

My eye sight continued to spiral downhill year after year. I got to the point where I would often wear two pairs of reading glasses on top of one other. After years of living in denial, I finally broke down and went to the eye doctor. I wasn’t too pleased when I left his office, after ordering a pair of glasses.

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving (a national holiday in the United States) was approaching, and I was expecting to have some family members stay with us for the week. So, I diligently cleaned every square inch of my home. I crawled around the kitchen floor, scrubbing the cabinets. I had sore knees after cleaning the baseboards. I cleaned windows, blinds, and ceiling fans. In the end, my house was sparkling and shiny… Or so I thought.

About a week and a half later, I received a call stating that my glasses were in. By this time, my sister and brother-in-law had already been at my house for a couple of days. When I came home with my new pair of glasses, I couldn’t believe all the things I noticed.

There was a coffee cup that I used most days. I always thought it was just a white travel cup with a red band around it. But I discovered that the red band had writing on it: “Fill Drink Wash Repeat.” And this writing wasn’t small either. I couldn’t believe how I had missed it day after day. I continued to discover similar things, feeling as though I could see for the first time.

But I was shocked when I found areas in my home that I neglected to clean, such as my refrigerator. It looked spotless just hours ago. But now it appeared grimy. I was completely embarrassed knowing that the loved ones staying in my home saw my house in such a state.

So I started scrubbing my house some more. As I did so, I felt the Lord speaking to my heart. And the worst discovery of all was how the state of my home was a reflection of my spiritual life. For years, I said that I wanted to draw close to the Lord. But day after day, I lived in denial of the fact that my vision was failing. I would fly through my Bible reading in a few minutes each day, believing this sloppy task was enough. But much like the reading glasses I wore, this was a poor substitute for what I really needed. My walk with God didn’t seem to improve, even though it was something I deeply wanted.

I felt God gently prompting me towards a renewed vision. He showed me how I needed to make my time with Him a priority. I began to make small attempts at increasing my time with God. However, my efforts still fell short. I knew the Lord was telling me to get up earlier and start my day off right, but I wrestled with this idea for a time before finally resigning myself to actually do so.

Bible and glasses 2

Then the most amazing thing happened. When I finally took time to make improving my relationship with God my number one goal, I saw everything in a whole new light. I began learning so much more through God’s Word, which also helped me learn more about the Father and His heart. This caused the shape of my heart to miraculously change and I suddenly had a better outlook on life.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT), Paul goes on to say, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Like Paul, I am now thankful for the glasses that I have to wear because it has helped me become stronger in my walk with God.

If this story rings true in your heart as well, take some time today to sit quietly with the Lord. Ask Him if there is something in your life that isn’t where He would like for it to be. And perhaps, like me, you will walk away with a new focus.

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Looking for a Doctor? (by Hannah Alexander)

I’ve received quite a bit of input lately from former patients who are having trouble finding a doctor who will listen and is willing to prescribe the meds needed. Mel did that for them when we had our own clinic, and they loved him for it. They knew he cared.

But it turned out that he couldn’t take the time he wanted to treat his patients as human beings and make an income of any kind. Because of the need for billing specialists and coding specialists to meet government and insurance regulations, all income we received went to extra staff. Due to government and insurance interference, we were told we would have to see 30-35 patients a day in order to meet a quota and make a living. That was when, after 4 1/2 years, we realized we were done. Mel couldn’t keep moonlighting on weekends and keep the clinic going. It seemed independent physicians were a part of history, and Mel went back to full-time ER work.

We have found, however, that some independent family physicians have successfully disconnected from the interference of government and insurance. They were once called concierge doctors. They take monthly payments from patients, and are available 24/7 for those patients. In fact, Samaritan Ministries is a huge proponent of concierge–or as they call it, direct care–medicine. Not only do patients of direct care doctors receive better individual care, they are prone to fewer illnesses because their doctors have time to take more complete measures to prevent chronic illness.  Patients of direct care physicians see the inside of a hospital less often, naturally, because of excellent patient care.

If you’re looking for a new doctor, you might look up direct care physicians in your area and see if there’s one who would successfully care for you and your family. If you go that direction and then join Samaritan Ministries, the cost of medical care could become a fraction of what you might now pay.

I found my new doctor today. He’s a doctor of osteopathy, like Mel, and they are often more tuned in to my need for functional medicine–a combination of traditional medicine and a naturopathic approach. He even asked me if I took iodine regularly–he went all Dr. David Brownstein on me! Of course I take iodine every day. Doesn’t everyone? It’s a vital element that our bodies are usually missing!

But I digress. It’s exciting to find a physician who will actually listen to you and work with you in a way that will best meet your needs. If you’re not happy with the situation you’re in–and many aren’t–just consider direct care, D.O.s, and Samaritan Ministries. That’s a knockout combo that might just keep you healthy for many years to come!

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WHEN YOU DO WHAT YOU DO, WHAT DOES GOD FEEL? by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Christians Read

 

I finished reading Karen Kingsbury’s Just Beyond the Clouds.  The story is a good one about two broken people having a difficult time moving on in their lives.  But it was a secondary element that fascinated me.

 

In it, the heroine was a schoolteacher with a little sister who has Downs Syndrome.  The heroine, after being left at the altar, becomes a teacher at a center for adults with Downs.

 

The part that fascinated me wasn’t that she loved what she did.  We all hope for and shoot for that.  It was that her joy and purpose in what she did raised a question in my mind.  That question wasn’t stated in the book, but the book planted the thought in my mind, and I found myself asking:

 

When I do what I do, do I feel God’s joy in it?  Is He happy, sad, proud or disappointed?

 

To be utterly honest, I’m not sure what made me make that connection.  But it stuck in my mind and I find now I’m asking myself those questions a lot.

 

God gives us all skills and gifts He hopes we will use wisely.  To me, wisely means in ways that honor Him.  Glorify Him, so that those who happen upon or benefit from what we do, see the work and/or us as examples of Him at work in our lives.  That they will be intrigued enough to want it/Him in their lives, too.  And that hope for the effort begs the question of His reaction to what we do.

 

Sooner or later in every life, a person asks what his or her purpose is and how s/he can go about filling it.  Some stumble over it, some search most of their lives for the answer to that question.  And some seem to know exactly their purpose from the cradle.  There’s insight in whatever the case might be for each of us.  Insight into God, and into His trust and His faith in us.

 

 

c 2012, dreamstime.com

There’s also a key insight lurking there about His respect for the free will He gave us.  He honors it.  Even when the parent in Him wants to warn us off, or redirect our destructive behavior into constructive channels, He honors His free will gift.

 

So the “Why am I here?” and “What am I supposed to be doing?” are normal questions.  But I think the deeper question is the one revealed:  When I do what I do, is God joyful? 

 

Does He celebrate or mourn?  Is he proud or ashamed?  Does he laugh or weep?

 

You see my point.  It kind of makes us see things just a little differently, doesn’t it?  It did me, and I hope sharing it will do the same for you.  Oh, I know we all crave parental approval, but this is the ultimate and eternal parental approval—far more significant and enduring.

 

And so I walk away, carrying this revelation with me. As I move through my actions and deeds and even my thoughts, I’ll be asking myself that deeper question often in planning what I can plan in my life.  I think there is much to be learned and gained in the responses.

Blessings,

Vicki

 

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Blessed by Adversity by Jim Denney

By Jim Denney

I recently read a short story by W. Somerset Maugham called “The Verger.” If you’ve never read the story, here’s a SPOILER ALERT. That’s right, fair warning, I’m about to spoil the ending. But here’s a link to the story online, if you’d like to read the entire story before I ruin it for you. You can read it ten or twelve minutes. Feel free to do so, then come right back. I’ll wait.

Waiting . . .

Waiting . . .

Waiting . . .

Okay, by now you’ve either read the story, or you don’t mind spoilers. Here we go.

WSomersetMaugham1934

W. Somerset Maugham in 1934. Image in public domain.

“The Verger” is a parable about the paradoxical blessings of affliction and adversity. The protagonist is a man named Albert Edward Foreman, the verger (a caretaker or janitor in the Anglican Church). Albert has been the verger at St. Peter’s Church at Neville Square in London for sixteen years. He became the verger when he was only twelve, and had expected to remain the verger until he died.

One day, a new vicar takes over as the pastor and chief administrator of St. Peter’s Neville Square. The new vicar calls Albert into his office and says, “I have discovered to my astonishment that you can neither read nor write.”

Albert replies, “The last vicar knew that, sir. He said it didn’t make no difference.”

The vicar offers Albert three months to learn to read, but Albert refuses. “I’m afraid it’s no good. I’m too old a dog to learn new tricks. . . . If I could learn now, I don’t know as I’d want to.”

“In that case, I’m afraid you must go.”

“Yes sir, I quite understand. I shall be happy to hand in my resignation as soon as you’ve found somebody to take my place.” Though he’s said to leave a job he’s had so long, he doesn’t like the new vicar very much, so he leaves without regrets.

As Albert walks back to his home, an idea occurs to him: Why not go into business for himself?

So, after resigning from St. Peter’s Neville Square, Albert opens a little newsstand. It thrives, and he proceeds to open a second newsstand, then a third. After ten years, he owns a string of ten newsstands all around London. He has amassed savings totaling more than thirty thousand pounds.

His banker tries to talk him into investing his money in stocks and bonds, and offers to write up a list of recommended securities. Albert tells the bank not to bother, because he can neither read nor write.

The banker is amazed. “That’s the most extraordinary thing I ever heard. . . . You’ve built up this business and amassed a fortune of thirty thousand pounds without being able to read or write? Just think — what would you be now if you had learned to read?”

Albert smiles. “I can tell you what I’d be, sir, I’d be the verger of St. Peter’s Neville Square.”

His inability to read and write was the curse that became a blessing. It cost him his job, and brought him a lucrative new career. His illiteracy led him to start a business that brought him more wealth than he ever imagined.

Albert the verger reminds me of Joseph in the Book of Genesis — Joseph the seventeen-year-old dreamer in Genesis 37, the young man with the coat of many colors. To Joseph’s brothers, that coat symbolized their father Jacob’s favoritism and unfairness. The jealous brothers were so envious of Joseph that they plotted to murder him. They ambushed him, threw him in a pit, and would have left him to die — but one of them got the bright idea of selling him into slavery instead. So Joseph’s brothers sold him to some slave traders, who in turn sold him to an Egyptian official named Potiphar.

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Joseph consigned to the pit by his brothers, a woodcut based on a painting by Raphael. Image credit: Phillip Medhurst, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Because of Joseph’s godly character, Potiphar gave him a position of trust and leadership in his household. But Potiphar’s wife lusted for him and repeatedly tried to seduce him. Joseph refused her advances, so she accused him of attempted rape — and Joseph the righteous, godly slave ended up in prison. As the saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Long story short, God enabled Joseph to be released from prison and elevated to the position of second highest official in Egypt — second only to Pharaoh himself in power and influence. Joseph was thirty years old when he was promoted from the prison to the palace. He had spent thirteen years as a slave or a prisoner. He had lived his entire adult life under incredible affliction and adversity.

Later, when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt seeking food in a time of famine, they were stunned to realize that the Egyptian official in front of them was their long-lost brother Joseph. They feared that Joseph would take his revenge against them. Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. . . . You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”

Like Albert the verger, Joseph was blessed by adversity. If he had never been sold into slavery, if he had never been falsely accused and thrown into prison, he never would have risen to become Pharaoh’s right-hand man.

If you’re going through tough times right now, if you’ve been treated unfairly, trust God and remember Albert the verger, remember Joseph, and remember the words of Peter: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

 

 

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Who, me? by Louise M. Gouge

What? You think I should be a college instructor? But I’m a stay-at-home mom with a rapidly emptying nest. I’m a college dropout! How am I supposed to earn all those degrees necessary to qualify me to teach college students? That’s for my three older siblings, all of whom have earned their doctoral degrees and teach in major universities.

Besides, I’m no great intellectual. I just want to be a writer. Look. See this manuscript? I wrote this while my kids were in school. That is, after I did the dishes and laundry and vacuuming.

What? You say I can do both, become a writer AND a college instructor? Sure. And climb Mt. Everest in my spare time.

But, you know what? With a push from one friend, a shove from another, and a lot of encouragement from my husband and children, that is exactly what has happened. (Well, not the Mt. Everest part.) Which just goes to show it’s always best to believe in yourself and your dreams, especially when you’re trusting Jesus every step of the way.

When I was a girl, I did have a dream. First, I would marry my one true love.

Next, we would have four children (two girls and two boys) before we turned thirty. Then, since they would all be grown by the time we turned fifty, I would find something new and wonderful to do with the second half of my life. It just took me a while to figure out what that wonderful thing was.

As our four children began to reach high school and to need me less and less, I started thinking seriously about setting some goals. Having a very busy imagination, I had always wanted to write books. In fact, I completed that one novel, but feared my English skills needed polishing. So a friend at church (a college professor) encouraged me to go back to school. In 1986 I started college the same semester as our eldest child. In four years, I earned my bachelor’s degree in creative writing.

Using what I had learned, I whipped that novel into shape and took it to a writers conference, where an editor liked it enough to buy it. Just after my fiftieth birthday, my first novel, Once There Was a Way Back Home, was published by Crossway Books. Then they published my second novel, The Homecoming. My new career had begun! But by now I had conceived even more dreams for my future through the inspiration of my children.

When our younger son and daughter were college students, I chanced to visit my daughter’s creative writing class. Her instructor, a former classmate of mine, invited me to make a few remarks to the class. That’s when it hit me. Hey, I can do this! I can teach college level writing! This made my friend at church very happy. She had been urging me to continue my education for some time. But once again, I needed more education to reach my goal. In a short time, I was enrolled as a graduate student, and in another four years, I had earned my Master of Liberal Studies degree. My thesis was, of course, a novel. It’s title? Ahab’s Bride.

Valencia261K8Hnx59RLMaster’s degree in hand, I applied for the position of adjunct English instructor at Valencia College. Just two months short of my fifty-fifth birthday, I started another new career, one that still gave me time to write and introduced me to some wonderful college students of all ages. (Picture in public domain.)

During all that time, I continued to write and to submit my completed novels to publishers. In 2004, my master’s thesis novel, Ahab’s Bride, was published by Cook Communications (now David C. Cook). The next two books in the series, Hannah Rose and Son of Perdition, followed in 2005 and 2006. My latest new career, my ultimate dream, had been achieved. (I own the rights to the book cover at right.)

Louise CartoonAs time passed, I wrote another series of books, my post-Civil War Then Came series. After that, I signed on with Harlequin and wrote fifteen books for their Love Inspired Historical imprint. (The picture at left is by my talented granddaughter, Emmy Santiago. I own the rights, and it is not to be copied.)

And, yes, I continued as a college instructor. I don’t like to refer to myself as a “professor” because I think that designation belongs to folks with their PhD degrees, like my illustrious siblings. And even with a master’s degree, even teaching English literature and humanities, I would never call myself an intellectual. I’m just the same wife and mom who had a dream and had enough encouragers along the way to help me reach my goals.

After sixteen and a half years, I decided to stop teaching. I can’t really call it “retiring” because I worked part time, and my contracts were signed one semester at a time. No benefits, no 401K. But I decided early on that I wouldn’t apply for a full-time position because I wanted time to continue writing my books. By the grace of God, I was able to do both. And even though Harlequin discontinued their Love Inspired Historical line, I’ve continued to write. Stay tuned! I’ll have more titles available soon.

So…what is YOUR dream? What will it take to get you there? Maybe your path will be easier than mine. Or it may take you to the foothills of your own Mt. Everest that you must climb to reach your goal. One thing is sure. If you don’t take that first step, you’ll never make it to the summit.

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The Right Voice by Julie Arduini

This summer our college-aged son and I are watching the Marvel Avenger movies in order. I’ve watched most of them, but not in order, and as of this writing, we just finished The Avengers. I also was looking for a show to binge and thought I might as well stay with the Marvel theme. Although it only lasted two seasons, I’ve enjoyed watching Agent Carter.

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Agent Carter/Marvel/ABC Network Image

Agent Carter explores Peggy Carter’s story after she lost her only love, Steve Rogers/Captain America. With the war over, Agent Carter struggles to find her place as the other male agents only see her as someone to cover the phones. When a friend asks for her help in clearing his name, Agent Carter springs to action.

Season one gave me just that—lots of action. I loved her strength and yet vulnerability. Her wit and her wisdom. She also was a literal bright spot in a sea of gray suits. Watching it made me wish I’d caught the show the first time around. I wish there had been more than two seasons.

A great conflict for Agent Carter and her colleagues was dealing with the Russians. They would come across as friendly, only to be the very worst of foes. One character was able to conquer his evil agenda by hypnosis. At the end of season 1, Agent Carter needs to convince Howard Stark she’s the voice he needs to listen to. Stark’s been hypnotized and under the Russian’s spell, he’s flying a plane destined to doom. Stark has to choose to listen to Agent Carter, or the Russian.

The crisis got me thinking. When women come to me for mentoring, one question they have is how do I discern what’s God and what’s the enemy? How do I know I’m listening to the right voice?

That’s a great question. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years from experience, mistakes, and a lot of prayer.

  • God’s voice will never condemn you. Anything that leaves you feeling unworthy, ashamed or stupid isn’t from God.

 

  • God’s voice will bring glory to Him, and Him alone. When your focus turns to celebrating yourself or someone else, that’s a red flag.

Ultimately Stark was able to discern the right voice to listen to because he’d built a relationship with Agent Carter. He recognized her, and trusted her. It’s the same for our relationship with Christ.

We make it so complicated but a relationship with Jesus is spending time with your Best Friend. Whether it’s my husband or my friend since kindergarten, I can’t wait to chat with them. I want to know how they are. Learn from them. The more time I spend with them, the more I know.

You might not find yourself in a plane hypnotized in a plot to destroy a city, but we are in a time where there is an enemy prowling around looking to devour. He is a liar and the less we know about our Heavenly Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit, the easier it is for the devil to speak to us and get us to listen.

What that liar doesn’t want you to know is his real name. It’s the defeated one. He’s already lost, but he doesn’t want you to know that, either. He’d rather pawn that name on you and let you walk around with it. If you listen to God’s voice and develop a personal relationship with His Son, you can ignore that desperate yammering and carry on.

If you aren’t sure what voice you are listening to and want to make sure you’re listening to Christ, please click here.

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When There’s No Way Out… by Mary J. Alford

Trust god

Have you ever faced a situation where there doesn’t seem to be any way out. Throughout life, we all go through situations like this. Whether it be the loss of a loved one. Financial difficulties. A heartbreaking medical report. It’s hard not to feel as if our backs are against the wall. Trust is hard to come by, but there is Someone who we can always lean on. If we put our trust in God, He’ll see us through whatever situation we face.

Whenever I am going through a difficult situation, I always think of Job. Even after Job lost everything, he never stop trusting God.

Job 13:15 King James Version Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.

I hope I can say the same thing should I ever go through the things that Job went through.

Standoff At midnight moutnain book cover

In my upcoming Love Inspired Suspense, Standoff at Midnight Mountain, the heroine of the book, Rachel Simmons believes she has nowhere to turn. Her CIA agent brother is missing and she believes his disappearance might be at the hands of his own people.

Rachel reaches out to the one person within the CIA that she can trust. Alex Booth. But can Rachel put aside the hurt she feels at Alex’s past betrayal long enough to bring her brother home safely?

facebook party 1st

In honor of Standoff At Midnight Mountain’s July release, I am hosting a Facebook party on July 2nd from 4:30-8:00 PM Central Time.

Here is the link: ttps://www.facebook.com/events/1720120084767958/permalink/1720120098101290/?notif_t=page_post_reaction&notif_id=1528229504553928  

There will be many great authors who are helping me celebrate my new release, so I hope you will stop by and join in the fun.

 

All the best…

 

Mary Alford

 

All the best…

 

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

When There’s No Way Out…

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Spiritual Gifts and Writing by Marilyn Turk

By Marilyn Turk

Recently, I began a study on spiritual gifts.

The Bible has four chapters that address these gifts—Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4. The gifts are divided into Motivational, Ministry and Manifestation.

Although I haven’t learned all I need to know about these gifts, it’s been eye-opening to discover what my gifts are. The truth is: every believer has at least one primary spiritual gift, but some believers have more than one. While it’s interesting to know what one’s gift is, it’s even more important to use them. And what’s the reason for us to have these gifts? For the benefit of others. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Often people think they want to perform certain roles, but they find out it isn’t their forte because that’s not their gift. People perform best when they’re using the gifts they’ve been given. You’ve probably known of someone who wasn’t a good fit for their position—like putting a square peg in a round hole.

So in looking at my gifts, I’m challenged to see how or if I’m using them. Gifts are not the same as talents. Gifts are spiritual, but they can be used in a physical way.

Take, for example the gift of service. Chances are, if you’re not gifted with this, you don’t notice those who are, because these people don’t seek the limelight. They’re the ones in the background, the ones taking care of things behind the scenes that make other things happen. In our church, for example, they’re the people who handle clerical work voluntarily, the ones who set out the coffee on Sunday mornings, the ones who prepare the church for communion, etc. I’m so thankful for these people, especially because I’m not of one of them.

So how does a writer use his or her spiritual gift? I’ve learned that one of my gifts is teaching, the ability to understand and explain biblical truth, and one of its characteristics is loving to do research. How do I use that? Although I do lead a small group at our church, I realize that I also employ that gift in my writing. When I write devotionals, I see how God’s truth relates to everyday life.

But interestingly enough, I do the same in historical fiction (which I love to research), through the lives of the characters. Each of my main characters deals with some moral issue. In Rebel Light, Kate McFarlane learns how to trust and whom to trust. In The Gilded Curse, Lexie Smithfield learns about truth. In Shadowed by a Spy, Lexie faces fear, but finds God’s protection. In The Wrong Survivor, Lydia Palmer learns about forgiveness. These are all very real issues portrayed by fictional characters, and the answers are all found in God’s Word.

How fulfilling it is to know I can use my spiritual gift through writing.

Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? Are you using them?

 

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