MY ROYALTY STATEMENT

It’s that time of year when my royalty statements come in, from four different companies. Believe me, it cost more to send a couple of them than the amount printed on the statements.

What’s the best royalty statement (or check) you ever got?

Many of us are disappointed, or begrudgingly shake our heads with acceptance of a small or non-existent royalty because we’re still earning out our advance.

It’s easy to wonder… is it worth it? And when e-book publishers give royalties only, “No advance” doesn’t motivate like a contract with at least a small advance.

We don’t write for money? No… but if we don’t get money with writing, we have to get a paying job, so yes we want money so we can write.

Sort of reminds me of “good works don’t save you, only acceptance of Jesus” and yet, if we are saved and have Jesus then good works follow. James says, “faith without works is dead.” The two go together.

How nice if writing and money could go together. Other professions in which Christians work pay money, including the ministry/work of a pastor. The primary purpose isn’t for money, but without the money how does one survive?

My first published piece was seven rhyming lines of iambic pentameter for which I received $2.57 (strange amount) – was it worth it? Oh yes, happiness galore, great joy. I became a published writer, a professional making money, and that’s before I even attended a writers conference.

When I am penniless (almost) and bewail my plight of poverty, I get a letter or email saying how my book changed a life.

My book, In Shady Groves (story of Hosea and Gomer), helped save a marriage. A man called me and thanked me (later sent me a gift). His wife could not forgive herself for her actions and this book helped her realize God forgives her, her husband forgave her, and she could forgive herself. There’s no amount of money worth that!

One of my novels had a main character who visited the young woman she had sponsored when they both were young. Other of my stories included mention of sponsoring children in other countries. Readers have written to say those stories influenced them to sponsor a child. Maybe the money on the royalty statement didn’t show a lot of sales, but if one child was given a chance in life by a reader, because of the story, then that’s the payment.

A woman wrote to me, saying she was not a Christian but my book made her think, and she was going to read it again. That’s a better reward than a few dollars.

Most writers have stories like that to tell. That’s why it makes me wonder about the phrase, “don’t self promote.” I have yet to hear a writer promote self. We promote our books, articles, devotions, etc. that God has enabled us to create, and these stories touch other lives. The product of our profession needs to be promoted.

But… at those times of the year when royalty statements come and they are a disappointment we can thank God we are in a profession that ministers and touches the lives of others in positive ways. And as I write, I probably learn the faith message embedded, and need it, even more than my readers.

Through the years I’ve probably bemoaned my failure about royalty statements more than I have thanked God for the surprising ones and even a couple abundant ones (never got rich!).

Eventually, I think about my best royalty statement. Galatians 3:26 says, “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Jesus Christ is King of kings, Lord of lords. I’m his child. That makes me a princess.

What better Royalty Statement could there be?

YVONNE LEHMAN is author of 56 novels, founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, and is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat held October 18-22. Registration now ongoing. Click Novel Retreat or http://ridgecrestconferencecenter.org/event/novelist. Great faculty: DiAnn Mills, Lynette Eason, Eva Marie Everson, Eddie Jones, Torry Martin, Edie Melson, Robert Whitlow, Diana Flegal, Lori Marett, Ann Tatlock. We’ll see Robert’s movie, Mountain Top, have a six-hour class on Social Media, have critiques, contests, classes on craft of writing including writing scripts. Also private appointments with faculty and half a day on Brainstorming. Would love for you to join us!

Time goes by!

I was recently reminded of the time one of my clocks stopped working. I put a new battery in, and immediately it started ticking again—backwards! When I showed it to my husband he laughed and said he was feeling younger already.

Snow_White_CostumeThe memory was the perfect accompaniment to another task I’ve been doing lately: cleaning out cabinets, separating trash from treasure. One of the treasures I came across was this old picture of my mom, taken when she was a teen. She and her own mom made the Snow White costume for my mom to wear to a Halloween party they were hosting. I have pictures of people dunking for apples with a table filled with scads of food in the background, a decorated basement and various costumes typical of the time. Girls dressed like old men in their father’s then-stylish suits, topped with ties and bowler hats, others posing as Betty Boop or hula girls. Innocent fun compared to some of the depictions of Halloween today, I guess!

My mom’s been gone over eight years now, and as I recall her life it’s hard to imagine her as the teen of this picture. It’s fun to remember that both my mom and her sister, after raising families of their own, would sometimes dress up when answering the door on Halloween to hand out candy. On another occasion I remember my mom gathering all us six kids, our spouses and kids for another Halloween party. Although this time she was dressed as a fairy princess, she told me her all-time favorite costume was Snow White. With the wistful tone of her voice, I totally believed her, and finding this old picture with the same smile on her face confirms it.

I guess this is all on my mind because despite today’s hot weather, it’s nearly the start of another new season. Regardless of my faulty clock, time never goes backwards. Today I’m getting together with a woman who has been my friend since we first met back in fourth grade. I’m blessed to say we have one of those timeless relationships that during various seasons when life took us in different directions, we were always able to pick up our friendship again no matter how much time has gone by. These days we live less than an hour apart, so we’ve made it a point to meet on a regular basis. We’ve both learned if you don’t prioritize time, other demands too easily waste it away.

Today’s post is a bit of a mind-ramble, but I think it comes with this reminder: time goes on faster than we think, so make sure you’re spending it in a way you can look back on with a smile!

What’s IN Your Mind? by Hannah Alexander

I have notes taped up around the house with one of my favorite Bible passages, the “whatsoever” passage. “…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely…think on these things.”
I need to be reminded of this often because it’s so easy to place some ugly, untrue, impure things into our minds.
Mel and I relax in front of our favorite shows at night when we crash from a day’s work. Unfortunately, we’ve discovered lately that sometimes those shows, which are very popular with a lot of people, tend to be getting darker and darker. When we’re weak or susceptible, those shows can cause depression–homicide cop shows, high adventure, even sometimes comedy. They give me nightmares.
The nightmares have brought home to me the truth of the favorite passage of scripture above. Some things can be fun to watch, to read, to do, but I need to ask myself if it’s something that is uplifting, pure, lovely.
Sometimes a habit is hard to break. I’m in the middle of breaking a habit right now that is particularly difficult, but breaking bad habits, if we persist in doing good, will help heal us in the end.

 

Follow Your Purpose by Julie Arduini

ResizeImage.aspx

A scene from the movie, Captive, starring Kate Mara and David Oyelowo.

One of my recent reads was to review the book, Captive. You might remember the author, Ashley Smith, was the single mom who in 2005 was held hostage by Brian Nichols. What made her story so extraordinary was that during her ordeal she read him Pastor Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Life. The book will be in movie form in September, I believe.

Part of the review process was thinking about and sharing our purpose. In her twenties, Ashley, at the time of her captivity, was baby new in her faith walk. When she rejected the spotlight and told the media she wasn’t worthy of the praise, she didn’t want to sugarcoat her life. She was a single mom because her husband had been murdered. She didn’t have custody of her child because she became addicted to drugs. When Brian Nichols forced himself into her life, she still had drugs in hand to help her through the moving process.

Yet, in the midst of all that, God used her. In reading her story it’s compelling because it’s obvious she had her captor’s attention. He had been churched. He knew much of what she was sharing. And he was conflicted. He knew he’d killed people only hours before. Yet he had a son only days old. Ashley not only kept herself alive, she shared the gospel and the truth about grace and redemption.

Talk about following your purpose.

So, what can you think of in your life that reminds you of following your purpose, even when against all odds? It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as Ashley’s story, I doubt most of us could compare, nor want to.

Me? It might seem small to you but it was a life-changer. I was a Christian for quite a few years, married, and had a small child. But I was filled with anger from hurts and plans that didn’t go my way. I was afraid to trust the church, my Heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? No. Way. Too scary. All of it.

But something drew me to Beth Moore and the call to join her online Bible study, Believing God.

The homework didn’t intimidate me, I dove into it. I couldn’t get enough. Each week I could feel my mind changing. Shackles were coming off and I felt a freedom with each lesson. One week while watching the video she challenged the members to picture themselves and the mountain they were facing and just stomp on it in faith in Christ’s power.
I pictured the anger, specifically from my miscarriage. I was so toxic from it I was barely functional. I closed my eyes and envisioned my foot just stomping out the hurt and bitterness.

When I did, this is what I saw:

That mountain crumbling to a million little stones I was able to walk over with ease.

It wasn’t just a picture. It was a promise from God. He healed my heart, and my body. Within two months I was pregnant.

More than that, He gifted me with faith. I don’t just believe in God, I believe God. He has allowed me to speak prayers casually in conversation to hear that the person was healed. There have been people who have read prayers I wrote and felt God move as they read it. People have found hearing aids, Bibles, precious things because I believed God and I prayed in obedience.

I could have stayed angry. I wanted to for a long time. But like Ashley, I was able to follow my purpose.

How about you?

To learn more about Captive, click here.

If you’re interested in the Believing God study, it is currently underway in the small group session with the Women’s Bible Café.

Spiritual Hunger by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Christians Read, Spiritual Hunger

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

 

We spend a lot of time in our lives seeking our path. Whether we sense or know there is a plan or a purpose for us, or we flounder and drift uncertain, we seek. That inner cry for fulfillment hits us all—sometimes really hard, and sometimes really often.

When we’re young, we think we have all the answers, but the older we get, the more we realize we don’t. We grasp that we don’t even know all the questions and that, when we settle into old age, we still won’t. We grasp that more happens in our spiritual lives and to us on subliminal levels than occurs in them physically and emotionally combined. And the older we get, the more we realize that those spiritual things most matter because they impact us for a much longer period of time. It’s the difference in a lifetime and eternity. The physical grabs our immediate attention because it is just that: immediate and easily recognized.

If we’re hungry, we feel it. And the hungrier we are, the more demanding our bodies become for food. We feel pangs. Then our stomachs growl and, if food isn’t ingested, the hunger pains grow stronger and stronger until we eat.

Spiritual hunger is more subtle but travels the same kind of path. It can be as faint as a whisper, a longing sigh. As we become more aware of it, it can grow from a fleeting thought or a heart prick to a deep desire or steady craving. Spiritual hunger can grow as intense as a relentless yearning that resides so deep inside us we can’t tell where it starts or stops, only that there isn’t a cell in our bodies that is unaware of it, and we know the same way that we know the sun will rise each morning that the yearning will continue to yawn and stretch and grow. It won’t be satisfied until we’re fulfilled and content.

That’s when most of us realize we aren’t beginning our spiritual journey, we’ve been on it for a long time. But unlike before, the hunger is no longer subtle. Now we feel it, recognize it. We know what it is we’re seeking. We might not name it as spiritual hunger. More often than not, we address it as wanting our lives to have meaning. Wanting to do something, to be something. Our legacy…

Then comes the inevitable what. What do we want? What will give our lives meaning? What is it specifically that we need to do or to become to find the inner peace we’re seeking? What will it take for us to be content?

It’s rare for a person to know exactly what that something is, though it does happen. Now and then, we’ll meet someone who says, I’ve always wanted to do x or to be y. Most of us haven’t had that certainty. We’ve wanted to do or be many things, and we eventually find something that stirs us enough to stick with it and then we do that thing or embrace and become whatever it is that fuels that desire or interest in us.

We think that finally we’ve found our feet, our place in the world, and we settle into our niche. And for a time, we might be content. But the day inevitably comes when we feel a stirring. We need—not want, need—more. What more? Often we can’t answer that. But we know that something is missing. Something just isn’t doing it for us. We should be happy, content, joyful. We should love our lives, and yet…

Maybe we like our life—at least, most of the time. And we think that, for real life, most of the time is pretty good. Everyone we’ve ever known has ups and downs, and if we have more ups than downs, that’s success, isn’t it? A live being well-lived?

We wonder, work at convincing ourselves, and yet that nag of a stirring persists, keeps us aware that deep inside in a place we can’t point to, there’s an empty space. A tiny hollow. Oh, it’s just a little thing. We need to just not think about it. We ignore it, shove it away, or try nine hundred physical things to cure ourselves of it. We’re determined to be happy. Content. Fulfilled.

But the empty space stretches, yawns, and grows, and with little fanfare or even much notice, the tiny hollow morphs into a honeycomb with tons of hollows. We ask ourselves, won’t I ever figure out why I feel this way? Won’t I ever be at peace with myself?

We were warned that we would always face trials—they’re a natural occurrence and part of life. And a wise Apostle warned us to learn to be content wherever we are. That raises questions, doesn’t it? If we’re feeling all this inner turmoil—niggle to nag—how can we be content?

Well, maybe the answer is in why we’re spiritually hungry. Why we feel it, I mean.

Maybe spiritual hunger is to remind us (and to keep reminding us) that we have needs that go far beyond the physical, and those spiritual needs can’t be ignored any more so than physical ones can be ignored and us sustain life. There’s a huge difference between living and really living, and we know it. In one, we exist. In the other, we live life abundantly.

An abundant life doesn’t exist without inner peace. And to grow into inner peace—I do believe it’s a process of many steps, not a single step—we must satisfy our spiritual hunger.

How do we do that?

By mirroring what happens in the physical world. When hungry, we eat. When thirsty we drink. We nourish the physical body. So to satisfy spiritual hunger, we eat and drink spiritual food and water.

When that parallel becomes evident, we have an open door. Feed your soul and you’ll find your purpose. Seek your path and you’ll find it.

Whether you’ll take a direct flight or the scenic route depends on what you have and what’ll you need to fulfill your purpose.

We often consider pit stops or diversions unwanted irritants, but they are the means by which we gather the tools and knowledge and abilities—the wisdom—that we’re going to need to fulfill our purpose. We should embrace them instead.

That’s admittedly hard to do at times, but all that’s really required is a perspective shift.

We are not being interrupted. We are being instructed.

We are not being delayed. We’re gathering fuel that will propel us further faster. (You can’t drive a racecar if you haven’t yet learned to ride a bike, right?)

We are not being oppressed. We’re being prepared for progress.

And maybe spiritual hunger is God’s way of reminding us He’s waiting. Ready, willing and able to guide and direct, to instruct and assist. We feel spiritual hunger over and again throughout our lives because, as we grow in knowledge, ability, wisdom and our capabilities increase, we’re able to serve bigger purposes. All are significant. All are worthy. All are essential. Some just require more knowledge, more skills, and more insights than others.

Maybe seeds of discontent that intrude aren’t intended to rattle us or to make us discontent. They’re to signal us to the awakening of new beginnings. New seasons. New opportunities to gather what we need to be truly content.

And when we reflect, we see the spiritual-hunger harbinger might be an uncomfortable harbinger cueing us, but it is also a beacon summoning us nearer to fulfillment, if we’re wise enough to heed the call and embrace the journey.

That Apostle’s intent becomes clear, looking at His “be content wherever you are” from that perspective, and the wisdom of His message spans space, time and distance to aid us now. We should be content wherever we are. It’s all a part of our purpose journey…

_________________________________

The Reunited Hearts Series, Vicki Hinze, Her Perfect Life, Mind Reader, Duplicity

© 2015, Vicki Hinze.  Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com. Subscribe to Vicki’s Newsletter.

 

WRITING BLESSINGS GALORE

When my great-American, best-selling, internationally-acclaimed novel was rejected, resulting in my becoming physically ill and spiritually deficient, I had to re-think what this writing life was all about. Perhaps God wasn’t going to put a novel in my brain, let it flow from my fingertips, and maybe He didn’t really want to work for me as my agent and earn 10%.

Thinking I might have more to learn, had only a high school education at the time, I began taking one literature, then English, course at a time and discovered there was more to writing than my inspired thoughts. I needed the review of basic grammar. I needed the rules of good writing, the confirmation that I did some things right, and the challenge of becoming like published writers who had experienced rejection and disappointment, but never gave up although it took many years before they were published.

I learned that Writing is a profession and my goal at that beginning and early stage should not be instant publication. My goal should be learning the craft, just as anyone must learn the craft of whatever job or profession he enters. One may have a certain expertise, natural inclination, or tendency but there is still the requirement of learning the craft and practicing what one learns. There should never be a time when one stops learning.

I became delighted with everything I learned and could incorporate into my writing. I started the Blue Ridge Conference, then began to teach classes, critique students materials, and mentor because those who have gone before me had taught me. They encouraged, motivated, challenged, and inspired me. I want to pass it on.

I want other writers to reach their potential, have the joy of the writing journey, and find where God leads them in this profession. That’s why it’s so thrilling to me when students make comments like these:

“My first article was just accepted. I wanted you to know. Thank you for the conference.”

“Thank you for your encouraging critique. I believe that I am learning a good bit and that gives me a great deal of happiness. I realize there’s still a long way to go, but I am enjoying the journey.”

“I cannot thank you enough for your time and feedback. I have moved forward on several projects.”

“A week and a half until Christmas! I am thankful for the instruction and encouragement because it has kept me writing a bit more than I might have otherwise through this busy season. Good to remember that I CAN make time to keep writing through December.”

Ah, I think, it is I who am blessed to have the privilege and opportunity to be used by God and give back a little of what others have given to me through the years.

After directing the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, I turned it over to Alton Gansky, who is doing a magnificent job with it, as I expected. Now I’m directing the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat held annually, (October 18-22, 2015) at Ridgecrest Conference Center (western NC).

Along with classes on novel writing we’re offering a six-hour course in the all-important Social Media (taught by the experts: Edie Melson and DiAnn Mills).  This is an opportunity to talk with faculty, editors, agent, enter contests, get critiques, hear Robert Whitlow and see his movie, Mountain Top. There’s the opportunity to learn from Eva Marie Everson, Lynette Eason, Eddie Jones, Torry Martin, Lori Marett, Ann Tatlock and Diana Flegal.

And it’s not all novel. There’s script writing, brainstorming, private appointments, critiques, contest awards, prize drawings, book signings. Other than having 56 novels out there, I’m now into non-fiction with my series of Moments books (50+ articles in each). Some of these authors do not claim to be “writers” but have stories they want to tell. Come and learn about that!

To register for the novel retreat got to: http://ridgecrestconferencecenter/event/novelist, or call 800.588.7222. For additional information contact me: yvonnelehman3@gmail.com.

Books for Life by Julie Arduini

There’s so much about the writing process I never considered as a little girl pretending I was going to be the contemporary Laura Ingalls Wilder. Even when I took a college course about her life last year I realized back then she had to deal with agents, contracts, sales and marketing.

It’s the same for authors today. There’s also social media, following trends without becoming obsessed by them, the ever changing publishing industry, eBooks and more. It’s a juggle I haven’t mastered as I worked so hard building a name for myself in faith I would be published that I have to be intentional about writing.

I write all this to say I’m constantly looking for ways not only to balance it all, but get the most accomplished in the most efficient way. That makes for extra time researching, but when that something amazing comes along, it makes it all worth it. The bonus is I’m affiliated with a publisher that loves researching and executing these ideas as a team.

Poem still life with books and pink tulips

Poem still life with books and pink tulips

Write Integrity Press and Pix-N-Pens Publishing opened up a group page on Goodreads called Books for Life The goal is for authors and readers to connect over our love of reading. We will discuss clean, wholesome fiction including specific genres, favorite heroines, heroes, books that changed us and much more.

That’s not all.

Starting Thursday, September 17th we will launch a book club! We’re still working out details but the first book will be Entrusted. Join us as we discuss the journey between Jenna, Ben and the cast of characters in Speculator Falls. There will be questions posted, an hour “live” chat each Thursday evening from 8-9pm EST featuring behind the scenes information that won’t be posted anywhere else and interaction with the other WIP/PNP authors. Entrusted will run for 6 weeks and then there will be a short break and another club will start in October. We love talking books and are really excited about this opportunity to reach out with current readers and hopefully meet new ones.

I’m personally inviting you to join us.

About Entrusted:

 Jenna Anderson, sassy city-girl from Youngstown, Ohio, 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?

See more at: juliearduini.com 

Elevator Pitch: A city girl moves to the mountains and produces a lot of change for the local grocer.

Purchase Links:

Amazon

CBD.com

Barnes and Noble

Update: After Entrusted we’ll discuss Annabelle’s Ruth by Betty Thomason Owens.

Stay tuned to BFLBC-Books for Life Book Club!

 

 

Mountain Bathing by Kristen Heitzmann

20150724_160714The mountains are calling and I must go. ~ John Muir

Shinrin-yoku is Japanese for forest bathing or, in other words, getting into the trees and drinking in the fragrance, the sounds, and sights. This is suggested to promote health and serenity. Our local newspaper ran a feature on this concept, affirming what I experience once or even twice a day, hiking up the slopes and breathing mountain air. It’s about seeing three blue speckled beetles on decomposing roots, an abundance of blooming wild onions and violet hare bells. Water running over craggy stones. A hawk’s gyre overhead, sun through its wings. Stopping to see new bark on a charred trunk of a tree that survived fire.

It’s why I’ll push upward when my calves are burning and breath is hard and loud. To feel the mountain, to bathe in God’s creation. What are your “bathing” places?

Rain, Rain….Go Away! by Tara Randel

It has been a monsoon here in Florida. Okay, maybe because I’m a writer I exaggerate a little, but boy, have we been soggy! This morning the frogs, who have to be the only creatures enjoying this weather, were so loud, I feared they were uprising.

Seriously though, it’s been raining for two weeks. The river is rising to an all time high and people have had to evacuate. Plenty of people have joked about an arc coming in handy right about now. There is more rain forecast for today and high tide is this afternoon. We just flipped the calendar to August, the rainiest month for us down here. It’s crazy. But my grass is very green. And brown, depending on the mud.

20150803_145754
My driveway near the house.

20150803_145637
At the end of the driveway.

20150803_154502
Soggy front yard.

I started writing this post on Monday and thankfully, as of today, the sun has come out and we’re starting to dry up. Finally!

What a contrast to California, with the high temperatures and fires. I’m sure those of you living in different parts of the country have plenty of weather stories to share.

If you would, please take a moment and pray for those living in these extreme weather conditions. No matter what we go through, it helps to know that God is in control!

How’s Your Acting Ability?

This is one of the most off-beat pieces I’m going to write because I’m so NOT an expert in the field of behavior control–or acting, as it’s called in one book I’m studying. I’m still learning. I did dream of becoming an actress when I was about ten years old, but I don’t think that counts.

Did you know that feeling one way and behaving a different way can be stressful? Yeah, I know, everyone knew that but me. For instance, if you’re angry with your boss or coworker or client, but you have to put on a happy face, that’s hard on you emotionally.

Now I know why I’m so stressed when dealing with the public, introvert that I am. I once broke out in a storm of perspiration when faced with a long line of readers at a book signing. It was great to see all those people lined up to get a copy of my book, but I still felt the stress when I pasted on a bright smile and took pictures and hammed it up. Remembering that stress helps me identify with the staff that works with us at our clinic.

Whether we deal with the public on a daily basis or hide away and work in seclusion most of the time, I think we occasionally find ourselves forcing a smile we don’t feel. Those of us who work in service fields are especially susceptible to burnout. The medical field is a very difficult one. It helps to be an extravert when working with others, and most of our staff members are extraverts, but it isn’t vital.

I’m taking a self-taught course in managing a medical staff, and I’m learning a lot. Among other books, I’ve been reading one titled Organisational Behaviour For Dummies, which, as you can probably tell by the spelling, was written by someone in the UK. I’ve been intrigued to learn that there are two different kinds of behavior upon which to draw when you want to leave a good impression in public.

There is a form of acting that is merely “faking it,” which means you paste on a smile you don’t feel, which looks obviously fake to others, and you tough it out. I read that this leaves you with the most amount of stress, and leaves the client/patient/customer with a poorer impression of you. In other words, with most people it’s obvious you’re faking. If you find yourself doing this often, check your stress level and see if you can learn a different way of dealing with people.

A business in the service industry thrives on meeting the needs of others with kindness and consideration. No matter how we feel about our lives at the moment, strangers on the street, customers, patients, and clients all need to see a face of genuine compassion and kindness from us, so forcing a fake smile doesn’t help anyone.

The other form of friendly behavior when dealing with the public is deep acting, when you dig deeply into your heart and try to identify with another person. Although this, too, is stressful, it apparenly isn’t as damaging to the psyche. Sure, you can take on so much of another person’s pain and suffering that you’re affected long after she’s gone, but genuine compassion and kindness goes a long way toward helping not only your own stress, but it leaves the other person feeling validated. Feelings of kindness and compassion far surpass feelings of resentment and impatience.

Working in the medical field calls for sincere compassion for people, and I can see the stress in the faces of our staff when we’ve had a busy day, or when we’ve had patients in a lot of pain or are even facing death. That stress is worse when we have antagonistic or demanding patients, and it makes for a stressful work environment for everyone. Calling up compassion for bullies is very difficult, indeed–and something for all of us to remember when WE become the demanding or angry patient. Keep in mind that a gentle answer turns away wrath. It’s just difficult to bring up the compassion to keep that answer gentle in the face of animosity.

A well-known psychologist recently remarked that if you work in the service industry–especially if you’re responsible for staff in the medical field–you need to learn how to physically leave the problems of others at the door as you walk out. When I take my badge off and prepare to go home at night, I try to physically leave the stressors, the pain, the staff worries and upsets with that badge on the desk. It’s a work in progress.

Reaching the non-Christians in Japan by Camy Tang

_MG_1378_I had a really interesting conversation with two young women who are staff with me for our church youth group. Both of these women are in their mid twenties, and one is from China, so their age and backgrounds give me a different perspective on evangelism from my own experience.

I was talking about how I really want to reach non-Christians in Japan with my fiction. Less than 1% of the population in Japan is Christian, and there are very few Christian churches in Japan, even counting home churches.

Anyway, in my conversation with these two girls, we were discussing the major religions in Asian countries. Most people in Japan are Buddhist or Shintoist, while people in China are Buddhist or Daoist.

We also talked about how there is some distrust of “foreign” or “Western” religions—and basically, anything west of the borders of China is considered “Western” to Asian countries, which was something I hadn’t realized. They considered the Middle East to be “Western.”

I’ve been reading a lot of English-translated manga and watching anime TV shows to understand the entertainment industry in Japan and what message it’s sending to people. I’ve also been seeing a lot of “slice of life” shows that seem to have certain minor threads in all of them, which show how people seem to view their religion in their daily lives. They seem to adhere to long-standing social rituals like visiting the Shinto shrines at New Years, but it doesn’t always have an impact on people’s day to day lives, unlike Christianity.

In talking with these girls, we also discussed how Buddhism and Confucianism and the like tend to stress a “moral life” and for people to be responsible in their daily lives, as opposed to an active awareness of God’s involvement in life and fate.

One important thing that I got out of the conversation is that people in Japan and other Asian countries might feel it’s disrespectful to change their long-standing traditions passed on from generations before. Respect for ancestors is something strongly stressed. I’ve had some really interesting conversations with Japanese nationals who go to my church, and one or two of them have mentioned that sometimes there is a demonic aspect to ancestor worship that also may be fighting against the truth of the gospel in people’s hearts.

The conversation with the girls made me want to study and know more about the Eastern philosophy. I need to understand the social and cultural background of the Japanese in order to be able to know how to present Jesus in a way that they will understand. I want to show them that Jesus is not just a “Western” religion that’s easy for them to reject simply because it’s “foreign.”

It’s interesting, because a few months ago, I wasn’t all that interested in my Japanese heritage, but since God has stirred in me a desire to reach non-Christians in Japan, I’ve been strongly motivated to learn more about the Japanese and their culture. I’ve become really excited with the prospect of fulfilling the Great Commission in this way.

Unfortunately, my dislike for Japanese food has not changed. :P If I ever get to go to Japan again, I think the only thing I’ll be able to enjoy eating is ramen!

Behind the Scenes at a Book Club by Julie Arduini

I have a confession. I’m an avid reader who has never been to an actual book club. I did an online one once, but I’ve never attended one. Until this summer. The book? My own. The women’s ministry at my church suggested a book club this summer as an alternate to the Bible study we did last summer. Before the suggestion could sink in our pastor’s wife looked at me and asked if I’d consider Entrusted as the book.Entrusted FRONT Cover_edited We’re nearly done with the book and a wrap-up picnic and I thought I’d share some behind the scenes observations from a first-timer.

  • It is crazy surreal to talk about your own work. Each week the ladies ask questions and no matter what material I give them—background info on the story, author tips, writing how-to’s or industry information, they eat it up. I want to hold back because it feels so weird to talk about myself for 90 minutes. Thankfully we have a hostess each week who bounces off my chatter and that helps. But one week during group discussion I heard a group talking about Will Marshall and it hit me. That’s one of my characters. They are talking about him like he is real. He’s real to me. They all are. But for others to feel the same way and me see that—so awesome.
  • Most readers have no idea what goes into writing a book. I’m not sure what my group thought but they were surprised to hear how many drafts Entrusted took before I turned it in. That we have to write a thing called a query and fine tune a synopsis. And even then there are authors who have made it that far and not received a contract. That having it published is the beginning, not the end. There is marketing, always marketing. If you have a series, you need to be working on the next one. The group seems to have a huge respect for authors and I believe understands what fluid times the industry is in, generally speaking.
  • Don’t take your story for granted. Ever. Each week I came home and told my husband how on top of my game I needed to be for these ladies. Many dissected scene by scene and wanted to hear about my motivation. Sometimes I surprised myself by recalling the scene and out of my memory bank I recalled that scene being from my dad’s life and it was a tribute to him. Then there were the moments when I admitted I was low on word count and wrote to satisfy that. The ladies asked what critique groups thought about certain characters and chapters and were interested in specifics I never imagined anyone would ask. I walked away with a deep appreciation for my work. I think when we’re holed away writing we convince ourselves few care about our precious people and places in fiction was much as we do. This book club taught me readers care. And it feels good!
  • I have a renewed sense of purpose. One reader asked a great question that I’ve stumbled over for years. Why romance? Why would a woman from a strong Christian faith write romance? I’ve been insecure about this, especially when I’ve walked by people from my church saying they won’t read anything fiction. Talk about a confidence killer. Not only do I write fiction, but romance. For a long time I felt like I had to apologize for it. However, answering that question head-on with words that I believe were given sent directly from my Heavenly Father, I am no longer ashamed. Here’s what I shared:

I have a lot of romantic ideas, but I’m not really a romantic person. At the movies I usually choose the action movies. But in ministry I tend to deal with some heavy things—standing in the gap for others. Taking calls for prayer that at times were life and death. Leading tough Bible studies or needing to say hard things to people I love as God directed. It’s draining and writing was my escape even when I was a child. I think it is a good escape and therapeutic. Not long ago I also sensed this: Writing is the door God will use to get me to the real ministry He has planned for me. My books will take me places on my own I would not be able to go. Perhaps book signings or speaking engagements. Whatever it is, the real ministry will take place when I am done with talking about writing. Women will linger and even if it is just one, they will want prayer. And that’s what it’s about. For God, that’s been His plan all along. And His way to get there? A romance writer. Yes!

Have you ever participated in a book club? Authors, how about you? Was it your book? What was your experience like?

Faith in the Margins by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Christians Read, Faith in the Margins

 

A short while back, I had a conversation with a devoted believer who is struggling in her personal life and in her professional life.  Usually, we’re stable in one and upset in the other, which gives us a little refuge in the one not in turmoil.  But this time, she got zapped with challenges in both simultaneously leaving her no refuge in either.

We talked, I listened, we talked more, and we prayed together. Later, as I moved from that conversation and situation, I had a hard time shifting focus. Something niggled at me. Some nebulous something I sensed I was missing and I needed to not miss.

The more I thought on it, the more her situation reminded me of other people and other similar situations, and then came to mind the inevitable, Why do the people trying hardest always seem to have the most challenges? I don’t get it. 

I don’t know if life really is that way or it appears that way because the contrast is so stark. I mean, we expect people who seek trouble to find it. But people who are not seeking trouble find it, too, and it, well, sometimes it just seems so unfair.

The moment that phrase crosses my mind, I hear my father’s voice telling me that no one ever said life was fair, and no one ever said it was easy. It isn’t, and it isn’t. Accept it, and live on.

Then I’m reminded that the Bible bluntly tells us we’ll be tried and tested and face hardships and troubles. Each of us.   All of us. But it also promises us we will never be given more than we can handle. And that we’ll never face anythingalone. We just can’t get to a place—physically, emotionally, or spiritually—where we’re beyond God’s reach.

I find enormous comfort in knowing that. Admittedly, I sometimes have wondered if He thought I was stronger, wiser, more capable of handling things than I am. I’ve wondered, and whined and, yes, at times, I’ve crawled into bed and pulled the covers up over my head and hid out from the world for a minute or two to catch my breath because I just knew I wasn’t that strong—not enough to face the challenges pounding me down.

But the challenges remained, so I did what we have to do.  I got up. And I faced them. And, surprise—I got through the challenges. He was right and I was wrong. I was strong enough—with Him—and I’m grateful for it.

One of the things that we hopefully learn with each new challenge is that He has more faith in us than we do. He knows us best—every flaw, every error, every mistake and short-coming—all of it–and yet he still has the greatest faith in us, during good times but also during trials. We doubt.  He’s there with us, cheering us on, trying to get us to see ourselves the way that He sees us.

The first time I considered that, frankly I found it amusing. Well, astonishing that He’d bother, and amusing. I expect we amuse Him often in all the ways our young children amuse us. He knows the outcome before things start. Knows what free will choices we will make and whether or not they’ll be to our detriment or benefit. And I often imagine Him weeping at our poor choices, and delighted by our good choices. Oh, yes. I imagine we do amuse Him often; He loves us.

Yet, following that same line of thought, I can’t deny that we also break His heart. A perfect parent couldn’t not be brokenhearted at seeing His children mess up, harm others, head down the wrong path, or miss his or her destiny due to any of a thousand reasons, including indifference and apathy. Our imperfect parents are heartbroken. We’ve seen their agony, their fears and worries. How much more must our perfect parent, knowing outcomes, be hurt and heartbroken.

Still thinking, I wonder at what hurts most. We all mess up; we’re human. Hurt? Yes. Hurt most? I don’t think so.

I explore this and I come upon those times when we are floundering, lost and in the dark and clueless and yet we fail to turn to Him. I think that must be most difficult for Him. He’s there, waiting for us, eager to help, but can’t intrude uninvited due to the gift to us of free will. I mean, imagine being a parent, seeing your child about to do something that will hurt him/her forever, and you can’t intercede because your child hasn’t informed you, or made you aware, or come to you for help. As parents, we often don’t know. But as the perfect parent with expanded vision and knowledge, He does know.

Definitely heartbreaking. And incredibly difficult. Much, much harder.

You know, when you believe and come upon a trial, often you think, I should be able to handle this. I have the tools. And you do. We all do. But while we have vision, we don’t have the complete big picture. He does. At times I expect that makes things even harder for Him, not easier.

Handling it all on your own as a believer. That’s living with faith in the margins. Going to Him as a last resort instead of right out of the gate. Waiting to see how much you can do before taking your concerns to Him. That’s more “faith in the margins.”

Thinking that you don’t want to bother Him with little things; He has so much to do. Even more faith in the margins.

I give myself a mental thwap!  Do you doubt He can handle all? Seriously?

I don’t.  But the thwap has released an avalanche of random thoughts.  Running in a hundred directions in my mind, I see a multitude of flaws in my thinking. I see that I’ve been getting in my own way, making my challenges more enduring and difficult than they needed to be. I’ve shared them but in case my ramblings are indeed ramblings and are not clear to anyone outside of my mind, let me be blunt on the upshot:

Get out of the margins. Everything about us is of interest to Him. He created us. Nothing we say or do can shock Him or make Him turn His back on us. He’s with us for the long haul.

That puts a twist in the thinking, doesn’t it?  And it sends one scrounging for the bottom line.  Yours could be different, but this one is apparent:

He does not exist with faith in us in the margins. He’s all in, all the time, in all ways. If wise, we’ll follow His example and get out and stay out of the margins in our faith in Him.

All in.

Finally, I think. I’ve identified the objective of this mental journey.

It seems so simple now.

To reap the reward, you must make the journey.

Ah, the niggle reveals yet another gem…

_________________________________

The Reunited Hearts Series, Vicki Hinze, Her Perfect Life, Mind Reader, Duplicity

© 2015, Vicki Hinze.  Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com. Subscribe to Vicki’s Newsletter.

 

Christmas In July? by Tara Randel

Yes, you read that right. Christmas in July. At least that’s what you’d think with the shopping channels offering specials for Christmas. Even daytime cooking shows are in on the action. C’mon, you’re thinking. I still have a couple of months before I get caught up in the holiday hubbub. Let me enjoy the beach!

I live in Florida, where it’s been hot and rainy. We didn’t even have spring this year, so the idea of fast forwarding to December holds a certain appeal. But for those of you enjoying the warm temperatures, I’ll cut you some slack.

So, back to Christmas. Not to fall too far off the bandwagon, I’m pleased to announce pre-orders for a new anthology, A Heartwarming Christmas. Twelve Heartwarming authors have put together twelve novellas to warm your heart and get you in the holiday spirit. Twelve connected novellas sharing characters and story lines! This collection of sweet holiday romances are all set in Christmas Town, a location introduced in the 2014 Harlequin Heartwarming release Christmas, Actually. A Heartwarming Christmas will bring you laughter, tears, and happily-ever after.

Foreword by small town lover and New York Times bestseller Kristan Higgins.
Here’s the link to pre-order:

http://www.amazon.com/Heartwarming-Christmas-Twelve-Holiday-Romances-ebook/dp/B011M4GQQO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1437597601&sr=8-1&keywords=a+heartwarming+christmas

If you aren’t feeling the spirit right now, the official release date is Oct 13, 2015 for the unbeatable price of 99₵.

A Heartwarming Christmas

Decisions, Decisions

Have you ever been faced with a decision between two comparatively good choices? Which is the right one? We’ve all been there dozens of times, from small choices such as paint color for a wall, to larger choices such as job offers.

What do you do when faced with a choice you can’t seem to make? Close your eyes and pick one and hope it’s the right one? Call your friends for input? Sleep on it? Pray for wisdom? Of course, praying for wisdom is something I’ve found myself doing every day lately. Sometimes, however, even with those prayers, I find myself facing a decision in which I would need knowledge of the future in order to be certain of the right choice.

What to do?

I can gather all the information I want and still make the wrong choice. I can talk to every business person I know and crunch numbers all day long, but when faced with a particular decision, I can’t predict what will happen.

One company I know made a decision to move their business to a “better” location, but after all the expense and effort and lost time, they could not have predicted that one bean counter in one little office would make a decision that would cut that business off at the knees. Events like this can paralyze a person’s ability to make the next big decision.

Not all decisions are so life changing. Others are. What kind of treatment does one choose when faced with a life threatening illness? Go the traditional route with physicians under the control of government regulations and insurance companies? Or attempt to find some alternative treatments that might be dissed by the medical community, but would be healthier, though more expensive, in the long run?

I know one answer I’ve used over and over again, even when the decision deadline comes down to the wire. Wait.

When Mel and I were dating, we came to the point where we’d been seeing each other exclusively for nearly a year and we both wondered where the relationship was going. I knew for sure I loved him. He thought he loved me, but wanted to be certain. We prayed and prayed for direction. We were both frustrated. Our only reply was, “Wait.” So we waited. I actually got comfortable in that waiting state, though Mel never did. When God says wait, you wait. Believe it or not, we grow in that waiting room of life. If we skip ahead without God’s go-ahead, we could suffer in ways we might not if we had only done as we were told and waited.

It wasn’t until a very important person in our life passed away, jarring us emotionally, that the answer came. Only a few days after his funeral, Mel asked me to marry him. Our waiting time was over. At least, for our relationship. I’ll never regret the wait.

As for other instances in our lives, the waiting we’re doing right now? I plan to find peace with the waiting phase before we move on. God has something in store. We just have to hurry up and wait.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 34,559 other followers