Of Art and Lucre by Kristen Heitzmann

A few weeks ago I finished writing the second book in my Told You Series. It’s always exhilarating to bring the crescendo to a final resonating note. The arc is complete, the suspense resolved, a satisfying denouement for the characters with hope for their future. In writing, composing, creating art in any form, there’s a structure—maybe not planned in advance but there in the essence of the whole—that makes it complete.

As a novelist, I delight in the process, the choosing and pacing and rhythm of each word, from the start of a story to the end. That doesn’t mean it’s without effort, without time, without myriad renderings to do justice to the gift planted in my heart before I even came to be. So when I reached the end of Told You Twice, I rejoiced. There it is, I thought. There it is.

Of course I step away, and give those one hundred fourteen thousand words time. I gather feedback, get the edits, and revisit and polish and revise. But the thing is whole, the story complete. So what happens when I want more, when I sense a continuation with these same characters? Maybe not a full length novel, but a fresh conflict, a further development of their relationship, digging deeper into things that formed them, into spiritual and emotional truths.

Free-spirit creator that I am, I start to write. In fact I can barely keep up as new ideas pour out. A novella maybe. Twice Take Two. Number 2.5 in the series. This feels right. It’s exciting. But then doubt creeps in, doubt fed by the knowledge that a whole segment of the population will cry foul!

Like the reviewers who really enjoyed my historical series but could not understand why it was three books when they should have only had to buy one. Never mind that each book was 400+ pages, that it took nine months of research, writing, revisions, and promotion to launch each one. The reviewers’ conclusion: “The author just wants more money.”

Ah, filthy lucre.

lucre (3)

Suddenly, I don’t know. I wanted to give my wonderful readers who go through the suspense of Told You Twice an encore—it is Bo Corrigan. And, oh, does he deserve one.

But…

The outcry. Like piranhas or flesh eating bacteria, there are those who feed on people’s gifts and efforts, and think they have a right to them at no cost to themselves. I’m not ranting. Truly. I’m asking myself if it’s worth the heartache.

Then, I look at my document and know that story will happen. I can’t refuse it. And maybe I’ll put it out there in the shark infested waters, because…well…it’s why I’m here, fulfilling a destiny and a calling, for the praise and glory of the Creator, and of the Savior who bore our afflictions, and of the Holy Spirit who breathes life into every word.

Kristen Heitzmann

www.kristenheitzmann.com

www.facebook.com/kristen.f.heitzmann

 

 

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Guarding Our Words When Life Squeezes Us by Jen Pheobus

“If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to Your people” (Psalm 73:15 NLT).

woman-1006100_1920We’ve all gone through some major upheavals. Times when it feels as if life has completely sideswiped us, and when that happens it’s easy to complain. And frump. And mope. But our words matter, a lot. Everything we say has the capacity to inspire and encourage or discourage and deaden.

Never is this truth seen more clearly then when words are spoken between a parent and child. Hold on to that thought; we’ll pick it up in a moment.

I’d received a bit of a blow. Nothing catastrophic, but enough to throw me into full-on moping mode. I’d stepped out in faith in a few instances, believing wholeheartedly God was calling me in that direction, only to reach the biggesdead-end-98934_1280t dead end possible. And there I stood, staring at that big yellow sign, confused and discouraged.

Numerous questions swam through my mind: What now, Lord? Were you in that? Have I learned to recognize Your voice at all?

Questions like those aren’t bad. We all go through periods of doubt and uncertainty, of times when we run full speed ahead only to ricochet off a massive and previously hidden brick wall. And when that happens, it’s okay to lie on the ground stunned—for a while. It’s okay to cry out to God, asking for help. For guidance.

But even in the midst of our greatest setback or frustration, we must remember others, our children in particular, are watching.

Mamas, we need to be really careful to guard our words, to make sure what we say when squeezed mirrors what we preach during bedtime devotions. Because each day, in the muck and thick of it, our kids are learning from us what it means to live a Christ-centered and Christ-dependent life. What it looks like to keep walking by faith even when our sight gets all fuzzy. And what it means to love God and others with everything within us, even when our first response is to hide, lash out, or self-protect.

So how do we do that?

First, we surrender.  The other day, I happened upon a quote cycling Facebook. It said, “Quit asking why and start asking, ‘God, how can you be glorified through this?’”

That’s a game changer, isn’t it? An attitude changer—a life changer, and not just ours. Our response to problems and trials has the capacity of drawing others to Christ or pushing them further away. The choice is ours.

Next, we pray, knowing God’s wisdom is perfect for every situation or problem we’ll encounter. Throughout the Bible, God promises to guide and instruct us. I believe many times when we feel we have no answers, it’s not because God hasn’t made His will clear but rather because we haven’t taken the time to listen.

woman-987188_1920Finally, we rest in Christ and His perfect strength. That’s the only way we can live this Christian life in a way that glorifies Him. Apart from Him, we’re weak, selfish, fearful, and deceived. But when we abide in Him, which means drawing near and staying close to Him throughout our day, allowing Him to stand strong on our behalf, we can overcome any challenge or setback that comes our way.

When problems strike or uncertainties arise, we can ho, hum, and mope about, presenting a fair-weather faith, or we can guard our words, draw near to Christ, and let Him use our circumstances to bring glory to Himself. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do the latter.

What thoughts did you have as you read today’s post? How have you seen your words impact others? How might being intentional about what we speak, especially when we’re more emotional or perhaps tired, help those we love?

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The Day I was Brave by Susan May Warren

So, you know that feeling when you’ve had an idea sitting in the back of your head for a while, months, even years, and it finally happens?

It’s almost unbelievable. You sit back and think–wow, I did that thing.

So, a few weeks ago, I was in Hawaii with hubs, and he (with great fear and trembling) suggested that we finally, finally do that THING–meaning, GO SCUBA DIVING. See, he’s a certified diver, but alas, I have this fear of closed places. And while the OCEAN is hardly a closed place, for some reason breathing through a tiny tube feels VERY confining.

But, I had done an introductory dive in a POOL about a year ago and I’m tired of always watching the fun stuff…so I did it.

Went 40 feet down, breathed out of a tube and discovered that I was braver than I thought. (and really, SCUBA diving is a little like flying…underwater, but with air…through a little tube…)

This is me, AFTER the event. Still alive. Grinning.

Scuba Diving

The Bible says, A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul…and friends, this was sweet.

But I learned a couple things, too:

  1. Life is meant for DOING, not watching. For years, I’d dreamed and imagined what it would be like to SCUBA dive. But doing it opened a new world to me. I had to ask myself…was I willing to be brave?
  2. As I descended into the depths, God was there. I crawled down this rope to the depths, equalizing my pressure as I went, trying not to give into the crazy panic filling my chest. And praying. With every handhold, I discovered just enough grace not to freak out.  Just enough courage to keep going.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

  1. I stopped thinking about my fears, and what I couldn’t do—or even that I WAS doing it, and just started enjoying. Yeah, it was an accomplishment, but really—the point was to get down there with the sea creatures and marvel. And as soon as I took my eyes off the scary stuff…I started to see the beauty of the ocean.  I swam about a foot from a sea turtle, covered in yellow fish. Found a tiny octopus. Followed a parrot fish.

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  1. And I forgot I was ever scared. In fact, when I came to the surface, my first thought was—when can we go again?

See, leaping out in faith is not only empowering, but it opens new worlds.

Have you ever taken a leap of faith, done something terrifying only to discover it was exactly what you’d hoped—and more?  That’s a little like it felt when I started writing, too…taking that leap of faith, hoping I didn’t lose my regulator and drown.

What is God calling you to be brave about right now?  What is holding you back?

Isn’t it time to fly?

smw sig without background

Susie May

P.S. I recently took a giant step of bravery and launched into a series about smokejumpers, an idea that go while visiting the Missoula Hotshots/Smokejumpers base a few summers ago.

Trilogy Covers SML

Since then, my brain has been peculating an idea about a series about smokejumpers, and a group of wildland firefighters who come together during one very hot summer to save lives, fall in love, and find faith.  The FIRST of this series Where There’s Smoke releases May 31st and kicks off a trilogy of epic adventure romances called the Montana Fire series.

Preorder now–and get it on your KINDLE at MIDNIGHT on Memorial Day! Just in time for summer.

 

 

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Smiles Can Be Found Anywhere by Tara Randel

My daughter and I were able to have a girl’s getaway recently and escaped to Epcot in Disney World. We always love roaming through the World Showcase to visit different countries. It makes you feel as though you’ve traveled the world in a single afternoon.

This year, the beautiful topiaries for the special garden show were outstanding. Of course, they feature beloved Disney characters, but I have to say, I got caught up in the whimsy of these iconic characters we’ve come to love.

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And of course, as a romance author, I love seeing these favorite couples. I’m partial to Beauty and the Beast, and a sucker for happy endings.

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I hope you enjoyed a few of the lovely sights I captures on our trip. If you’re  like me, these images put a smile on your face. And since we’re headed into summer vacation time, I hope you have a special trip planned with family or friends that will bring you lots of memories.

TARA RANDEL

Amazon

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of twelve novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Her next Heartwarming, The Bridal Bouquet, part of The Business of Weddings series, will be released in June 1, 2016. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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Ah, Reading! It’s good for the soul. by Maureen Lang

It’s been my happy pleasure to have met many readers over the years. Once we get to “talking books” we usually discover quite a bit of common ground, even if our reading tastes differ. There is something universal about diving into a well-drawn story world, connecting to the characters or immersing ourselves into a plot.

Sometimes, as a writer, I lose my fire for writing. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I know the remedy. It’s the very thing that made me become a writer in the first place: reading. It’s the fastest, most sure-fire way I know to rekindle what I love about the industry, because storytelling stirs the heart.

Reading does so many things! It not only enriches our life, it can teach us, challenge us,
comfort us, widen our horizons. I read Heather Gudenkauf’s Little Mercies and understood for the first time how a responsible, respectable mother could mistakenly leave her infant child in a hot car. It broadened my perspective. And many years ago, I wrote a book about a mother who tried to commit suicide—and take her medically fragile child with her into death. She failed on both counts, but it changed her life forever. That wasn’t an easy story to write or to market, but I received many notes from readers letting me know they had a new understanding as to why these horrific stories keep popping up in the news.

Reading not only preserves emotional sensitivity, but expands it—because reading is all about connecting with characters who can take us places we never thought we’d go. Of course, I prefer to read (and write!) happily-ever-after stories, always with a romance, simply because reading is an escape and I like escaping to happy places.

For whatever reason you read, or write, I know we have something in common. That delicious feeling created when a story world seems just as real as the one around us. We look up from the page and remember where we are and smile because life just got a little bigger.

Books

Books on my shelf!

As always, happy reading! Hope you can spare a little time for a good book today.:-)

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Beauty Secret by Hannah Alexander

2012-10-24 18.02.02

 

I’m letting the male side of Hannah Alexander’s personality shine today by example. He smiles a lot. That’s because he’s a happy person, but also because he’s a friendly person and was taught as a child that a smile would help him make better headway when interacting with others.

This smile seems to work for him. (It certainly works for me!) because he is well loved in our community. The smile you see here is his attitude in life.

I’ve never seen anyone as easy to be with (yes, he’s my husband, so what?) and he’s taught me the truth about a gentle answer turning away wrath. When we were first married the only one of us who ever started a fight was me. I was on the defensive because I’d been in some relationships that made me feel as if I was being forced to fight for my life. But the first time I yelled at my husband, I saw the hurt in his face. I never forgot that look, and tried to never see it again. As our marriage progressed I noticed an eagerness in him to make me happy, to get along, to be a peacemaker.

The attitude wore off on me. We don’t fight. We discuss, we debate, we see one another’s point of view, and we remain open to alternative options. We laugh a lot, we snuggle a lot, and we smile when we see each other–and working together in the clinic, that happens quite a bit during the day. That great attitude is because of my husband. He set the tone for our marriage, and over twenty years later it’s set in stone.

All I can say is if you want a happy relationship with anyone, try a smile, a kind word in place of an angry one, a tender heart. It takes practice. You might not receive the reaction you’d hoped for the first or second time you try it. Some people are simply toxic. In that case, I’d smile and avoid. But if you want good relationships, the more you give, I’ve found that with the right kind of people, the more you receive.

 

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My Way or the Right Way by Mary Alford

"Right Way, Wrong Way" Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

My Way or the Right Way

My Way Or The Right Way

By

Mary Alford

 

In John 10:14, Jesus tells us, I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

In church today our youth minister talked to the graduating seniors about putting God first in their lives no matter what their future plans may be. He said without God as your shepherd, all your plans can go astray. We all need the Good Shepherd to guide us.

This made me think about my writing career and the choices I made along the way to becoming a published author.

When I first started writing, I was torn between writing Christian fiction or secular, although I knew in my heart of hearts, God was calling me to write Christian fiction.

Still, I wanted to do it my way. After all, I knew what was best for my career, didn’t I?

Don’t get me wrong, I have many Christian author friends who write secular fiction successfully. I think the calling is different for each author. For me, even though all the clear signs were staring me in the face, telling me I was heading the wrong way, I chose to ignore them for the longest time.

I found myself struggling. I think God has a way of making life uncomfortable for us when He’s trying to get us to do His will.

After fighting with Him for way too long, I gave in and started writing Christian romance and Christian suspense. For the first time since I started my career, I felt as if I were doing what I was called to do.

Although it still took a little while before I was offered a contract by Love Inspired Suspense, and I can’t say the road to publication was easy, I can tell you this; I’m more at peace with myself and my choices because I finally let go of the reins and allowed God to lead me.

Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else and I learned a very valuable lesson. I don’t want or need to be my own shepherd.

So, no matter what your career choice is, there’s only room for one shepherd in our lives and He wants what’s best for us. Always. Sometimes it just takes a lot of bad decisions on our part before we finally accept this truth.

 

 

_______________________

MARY ALFORD

MARY ALFORD

Mary Alford was inspired to become a writer after reading romantic suspense greats Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. Soon creating characters and throwing them into dangerous situations that test their faith came naturally for Mary. In 2012 Mary entered the Speed Dating contest hosted by Love Inspired Suspense and later received “the call”. Writing for Love Inspired Suspense has been a dream come true. Now an inspirational romantic suspense author, Mary’s debut title, Forgotten Past, was released by Love Inspired Suspense in June 2014. Mary’s website: www.maryalford.netFacebookTwitterGoodreads

 

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He Knows by Elizabeth Goddard

by Elizabeth  Goddard

A month ago I lost my mother to diabetic complications. I knew it was coming. Eventually. We all know that no matter what we do in this life, we’ll come to the same end.

10629854_982976878379010_8574386065461977815_nThe Bible tells us, “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” Psalm 103:15-16 (NIV)

But is it the end or a new beginning?

Reading on, it says, “But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with his children’s children–with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” Psalm 103:17-18(NIV)

No matter how I prepared myself that I would lose my mother to this insidious disease, the shock of it still rocks through me–a month later. Part of me wants to continue to feel this pain because I don’t want to accept that she’s gone.

A dear friend shared that the devastation and ripple through my core I feel every time I remember she’s gone is normal, and that Jesus understands this pain. It’s the pain of separation–it’s why He wept when Lazarus died. (John 11:35)

Now when I hear that
Jeremy Camp song, “He Knows,” I can feel His love wash over me.

Death and separation are our enemies! That’s what He came to this earth to conquer–the separation of death.

So the good news is. . .

We are NEVER separated from His love in this life. . .or the next. But for a brief time, we are separated from each other.

HE KNOWS. . . . and I will rest in that, knowing that I will see her again.

If you’ve experienced loss, I pray these words comfort you too.

Blessings!

Beth

 

 

 

 

 

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When the Creativity is Epic by Julie Arduini

My last post I shared how May is a whirlwind month full of two book releases, an out-of-state wedding, and our son’s high school graduation. I thought today I’d share part of the whirlwind, an aspect we enjoyed during our wedding travels.

Our family had the honor of meeting our daughter’s “iRun4” runner, an amazing woman who works for a company called Epic Systems in Verona, Wisconsin. What makes it such a small world was when we were matched with our runner, we told her that our daughter’s older brother and sister live in Wisconsin. When we realized she worked in the Madison area, we laughed and said so does Hannah’s brother. Then one day I received a message from Cole, our runner. Turns out she works at the same company, same building as our oldest son.

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One of the floors in the Epic Ice Age theme.

 

Pretty “Epic,” right?

Well, meeting Cole and having her give us a tour of the amazing campus was beyond epic. All I knew going in was they are in the software business for healthcare. Our daughter uses MyChart, and guess where it comes from? Yep, Epic Systems.

Yet, touring the campus took everything I think about technical work and turned it upside down. My husband is a programmer and as long as I’ve known him, his life has been cubicles and sterile looking walls. Not a lot of excitement as far as visuals. Lots of meetings, but not a lot of connecting that I’ve been aware of.

Even his jaw dropped during the tour.

We learned that Epic started with a different name and a few employees, a start up funded with money from the CEO’s parents. The name was what you’d expect from a technical company, but it didn’t take long before everyone realized this was no ordinary company. A name change was suggested, and the rest was history.

They started in Madison but are now a multi-building campus in Verona. Each building has a theme and inside, the theme is everything. Art is everywhere, something the employees have the opportunity to have a say in/bring. There are many floors to each theme, and I believe it was Lord of the Rings that wasn’t even visible to the outside. Almost everything is connected underground so people don’t have to go outside. During the tour we were encouraged to take pictures. When friends saw, they wanted to know what this was and where. Some knew about Epic and admitted this tour was on their bucket list.

Everyone has an office and after five years of employment, they are encouraged to take a paid sabbatical. When I asked why there isn’t a daycare, Cole reasoned it most likely is because the CEO wants to make sure employees don’t live on campus. That they go home and be with their families.

Told you it was epic.

Our tour wasn’t even complete. We were on a timeframe so we only saw highlights. Yet, with my Fitbit I noticed we had over eight thousand steps in. We did so much walking that a virtual race Cole signed her and our daughter up for, they met the requirements and had an award ceremony on campus.

As an author, when I see a creative mind at work, I am so impressed. My technical husband and son wanted to drop our Ohio life and pick up resumes before leaving. I walked by productive meetings in a café. On swings overlooking the countryside. On the floor. Hardly anyone was in their office. The entire experience was inspiring.

I wish I were artistic and creative beyond connecting words together, but seeing everything I did at Epic made me want to try. They even had a chute to go from one floor to another. They are expanding, the new theme being whimsical stories like Alice and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It won’t surprise me if we plan a visit to go back and see the new buildings.

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An actual chute to go from one floor to another.

 

Oh, and to see Cole.

And right, our family.

What creative place have you been that inspired you?

P.S.

If you want to learn more about iRun4, visit here.

My releases are available on Amazon for Kindle, print coming soon. Check out my Amazon page to learn more about Entrusted and Entangled.

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Spellbinding by Kristen Heitzmann

I’ve recently been captivated by a (general market) Regency period mystery series. I might have purchased the first on Audible and finally got around to listening. Almost at once, I realized this is quality writing, the time period language, the rich sense of place, real and fascinating history. It has lots of action and both exterior and interior conflict growing organically from the era, the society, and the characters’ own situations.

All of this got and held my attention. I mean really. I’m now six books into the series and these things are holding true. Great storytelling is such a gift, to be transported, even transfixed! And I still haven’t talked about my favorite element in anything I read: characterization.

The people in these books are multifaceted, the relationships complicated, fluid, and evolving. One thing I expect of a series is growth in the characters. Some extremely popular series writers seem to think if they mess with the formula people won’t like it. They set up characters whose traits and behaviors hold true book after book after book until it’s clear that none of the ordeals are ever going to produce change. Arrrgh.

But more than all these elements, why have these books gripped me so completely? It came as I was describing the books to my daughter. The lead has many wonderful characteristics, some serious sorrows, dogged determination in the face of these, but one thing that sank in and moves me more than anything else.

Nobility.

Yes, he’s a Viscount, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about a noble soul, a goodness that recognizes its own failings yet never stops seeking to do right. Not merely honorable or gallant or generous but the noble, self-sacrificing center of a character is what makes a story spellbinding for me. What trait or element does that for you?

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Why Morals and Values are Important–Part 5 by Vicki Hinze

Why Values and Morals are Important, Part 5, Vicki Hinze

 

Why Values and Morals are Important

Part 5 

By

 Vicki Hinze

 

 

NOTE: This is Part 5 of a 6-part series of posts. If you haven’t yet read Part 1, 2, 3, or Part 4, you can read them now: Part 1   Part 2 Part 3    Part 4

Why Morals and Values are Important Part 4, Vicki Hinze, Christians Read, patience, loyalty, kindness

In this series, first we talked about why we need morals and values and we learned they’re important to us and others for our whole lives. Then we talked about how we treat ourselves and others so they know we appreciate them and they are important to us. Next we talked about what happens when we hurt others, about responsibility, and about respect. We also learned why patience, kindness and loyalty matter so much.

All these things make a big difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Today, let’s look at other things that make a big difference in the kind of lives we live and how they affect us and others. Let’s look at courage, discipline, and civility.

COURAGESome say courage is facing something scary without fear. It’s not. Courage is having the good sense to be afraid in scary situations but to do what you believe is right even though you’re afraid.

If you don’t know there is danger or a risk, you aren’t afraid. You don’t have to be very brave if you aren’t afraid. But when you know there is danger or a risk, and you must choose to act or not act while you’re afraid, that takes courage.

When you believe in something and others do not and they make fun of you for it, that hurts. But if you respectfully stand up for what you believe anyway, that’s showing courage.

Sometimes not doing something takes more courage than doing something. Did you know that? It’s true. Let’s say that you have a friend who wants to cut class at school. You know you shouldn’t. Cutting class is wrong, and dishonest. But if you refuse, your friend is going to give you a hard time about it. Maybe even call you chicken or a wimp. Maybe make fun of you in front of your other friends to embarrass you or try to make you feel ashamed. You know this friend is going to push and push you and make you uncomfortable unless you cut class. What are you going to do?

Think before you act.

If you cut class, you’re in trouble. This friend, who isn’t acting like a friend, will know that next time he wants you to do something wrong, he just has to push you and you’ll do it. That’s not good. It means more trouble lies ahead.

If you don’t cut class, you’re going to have to endure the hard time he and maybe others will put you through, but you’ll do it knowing that you did what you believe is right. That’s a very powerful thing—doing what you believe is right regardless of how others act toward you. That is your courage in action.

It’s easy to be courageous when you have nothing to lose. When there are no consequences for your actions. But it’s when you know tough things could happen and there could be uncomfortable consequences and yet you do the right thing anyway that you know you’re a person with courage.

Have you ever heard someone say, “He has the courage of his convictions?” That means you live what you believe. You don’t say one thing and do something else. That too takes courage. And it isn’t what we do when everyone else is watching that most reveals whether or not we’re courageous people of character. It’s what we do when no one else is looking.

When no one else is looking, we think we can do anything. When others are watching, we restrain ourselves because we don’t want others to think badly of us. So what we do when no one is looking is when we are most honest and reveal who we really are deep inside. That’s why we must work to be courageous when around others or when alone. So we respect them and ourselves. If we do that—respect ourselves and others—then we understand the importance of courage.

Saying and wanting to do the right thing when it’s hard is easy. Actually doing the right thing when it’s hard is a lot tougher. But we can and should try. Fortunately, we have help. It’s called Discipline.

 

DISCIPLINEDiscipline is restraint. Restraint is when we want to say or do something but we decide not to because we know we shouldn’t.

Discipline might be to clean our rooms or rake the yard. It might be to not ride our bike to the park because we’re not permitted to do so alone.

Discipline could be exercising every day even though we’d rather be playing a video game. We know our body needs the exercise to work properly so we do it—even though we don’t feel like it.

Discipline is doing things we should do, but it is also not doing things we shouldn’t do. It’s controlling ourselves. Our actions and deeds, and also our thoughts. If we let ourselves, we think bad things. But we have a choice. We can turn those bad thoughts into good ones.

Once, I heard a grownup explaining why she’d done something she shouldn’t have done by saying, “I can’t help it.” Well, the truth is, she could help it. She could have made a wiser choice. She could have exercised self-control and not done the thing she knew was wrong to do.

“I can’t help it” was an excuse. It was a way to make herself feel better for the choice she had made. But a bad choice is a bad choice. And the only way we teach ourselves to make better choices is to admit our bad choices and learn from them.

We learn that a choice isn’t a good one and we take responsibility for it. Then we go on, wiser because we know now that choice in that situation is bad. We then look harder for a good choice when we’re in that situation. We don’t want to make the same mistake again! That’s being disciplined and it’s learning wisdom.

You see, learning what doesn’t work is just as important as learning what does work. We discover what not to do and what to do that works out well.

Now, people don’t always agree on what is right or wrong, or good or bad. People have different ideas and opinions. That might sound like a bad thing, but it isn’t. It does show us why the way we react to disagreements makes a big difference in how we get along with others.

We can and do disagree on all kinds of things. But that doesn’t mean we yell and argue and fight. Those reactions seldom work out well for anyone. We resolve our disagreements and conflicts with civility.

CIVILITYCivility means we discuss our differences. We talk through them and seek answers that respect everyone involved. Even when we don’t agree, we can and should be respectful—and others should be respectful to us.

We can hear what they have to say and listen with our minds open. We can learn from those with whom we disagree—and they can learn from us.

Often in disagreements, we compromise. That means both sides agree to a little less than either wants. They meet in the middle so the solution to the disagreement is fair to everyone.

Let’s say there are two parks in your neighborhood. The decision is between you and a friend as to which park your group will use for ball games and practices. You want the park closest to your house. Your friend wants the park closest to his house. The group is torn. Some want your park, some his. How do you settle this dispute?

You could argue and yell at each other, but that won’t fix the problem. When people are yelling, no one is listening. So things just don’t get fixed then.

You fix things through civility. You tell the group your reasons for using your park. Your friend tells the group the reasons he wants to use his park. Someone suggests using both parks. Your park one day, his park the next. You both have good reasons and you listen respectfully.

Using his park every other day isn’t what you wanted. Using your park every other day isn’t want he wanted. But you compromise, and both of you get some of what you want. Without arguing and fighting, you listened and heard what each other had to say and you both acted with civility in accepting a solution that met in the middle. The disagreement is over and you both were fair with each other and with the group.

And no one is mad. No one has hard feelings. No mean or nasty things were said. And no one is bitter because their ideas weren’t heard. That’s part of being civil, too. You treat others’ thoughts and ideas with respect because you know they are as important as your own thoughts and ideas.

It isn’t easy to always have courage or discipline or to be civil. When we’re angry or upset it’s honestly difficult. But we must try because we rely on others and on ourselves. How well we control ourselves shows how well we understand the significant impact our morals and values have on our character, and how much our character shapes our lives.

The older we get, the more we realize we create our life by the choices we make. If we want to be treated well, then we must choose to treat others well. Much of the life we live, we create. That means we must conduct ourselves in the way we want our life to be lived.

You see now why courage and discipline and civility are important to you. I hope you’ll join me in three weeks for Part 6 of Why Morals and Values are Important.

We’ll talk about justice, judgment and forgiveness then so you have time to think about what we’ve discussed today and to talk it all over with your mom and dad and see what they think.

If you missed Part 1, Part 2, and/or Part 3, you can still read them. Here are the links to those articles: Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

 

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Scrolls, Books and EReaders by Tara Randel

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When my daughter and I were at Disney last week, we went to an attraction called Belle’s Enchanted Tales. Being a total Beauty and the Beast fan, I love the story of the brave girl who takes her father’s place in the dark, scary castle and eventually wins the heart of the gruff beast. Yes, I’m a romantic and love a happily ever after, but I think it’s more.

Maybe it’s because I relate it Belle. I love to read. I have all my life. Even today, you can find my nose in a book. My husband can’t understand how I can work on a manuscript all day, then relax by reading a novel before bed. For me, there are too many books, too little time. I have a vast reading interest, everything from romance to mysteries and thrillers, to suspense, historical and young adult novels. My to-read pile never gets small and I always manage to find new authors to add to my fav list.

I see so many kids face down looking at their phones or playing video games and I can’t help but remember those long, sultry summers spent reading books during the school break. Yes, I get it. Times have changed. For the better, I hope. But for me, nothing takes the place of a solid book in my hands.

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I guess the ancients might have liked modern civilization if they didn’t have to rely on scrolls for their information. I have to agree, reading a book on a scroll would be tedious. And I will concede that pulling out my phone to pull up a book as I’m waiting in the doctor’s office is easy. I suppose no matter what age we live in, the way we read will change. As long as there are still good books to read, I’m not going to complain.

So whatever mode of reading you use, enjoy the experience. Find a new author. Tell your friends about current authors you already love. Scroll, books or an ereader, it doesn’t matter if you love getting lost in a good book.

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Pre-order: Amazon

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of eleven novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Her next Heartwarming, part of The Business of Weddings series, will be released in June 2016. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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A Place of Peace by Hannah Alexander

Peace to You

Peace to You

This picture reminds me of a place we explored a few years ago. It’s near Lake Tahoe where the hiking trails never seem to end, where we saw our first black bear in the woods–it was a baby bear. Quite frightening since we realized mama bear had to be somewhere nearby in protection mode. Those bears can be dangerous.

Mama bear didn’t show up before we made it back to our car, but we sought out some of the locals the next day to reassure us that it was safe to hike in those mountains. We saw another bear on that trip to Tahoe, but after being reassured, we tried to pretend we were just passing another hiker along the trail. We did, however, allow that “other hiker” to take the main trail and we took a side trail, according to the advice of a wise man.

I’ve found that tactic works well when making friends. There are people who might be fine when you pass them on the street, but you can usually tell by watching them for a while if they are the kinds of people who are peace-loving, or if they’re prone to strife. I’m sure it’s just my introversion showing, but I tend to seek relationships with peaceful, easy-going people who don’t make a habit of gossiping or making snide remarks about someone who isn’t there–or even someone who is there. I avoid those with anger issues because I’ve been wounded by them before.

Do you remember the old series The Incredible Hulk? In several of those episodes, it seems to me Bill Bixby found himself warning people, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like it if I became angry.” I’ve discovered there are a lot of hidden Hulks in our world who can only be pushed so far before they show the true beast within. To keep the peace, I leave people like that alone.

Oh, sure, some people are wounded and need help. That’s a different kind of bear. Sometimes we take the chance necessary to help that wound heal. It isn’t easy, but we’ll have to decide if it’s worth the trouble. Those wounded bears might even someday become friends–once they’ve healed.

So it’s always a good idea to smile at those who walk our paths, who speak to us now and then, who might even need a gentle word of encouragement, but I’m pretty sure it’s still wise not to poke a bear with a stick, not to set up camp in the area of a bear, or even feed the bear until you know it’s safe. I keep the peace by keeping my distance from the bears in this world, and it saves me a great deal of stress.

May you have a week of peace.

 

 

 

 

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Manly Readers by Kristen Heitzmann

#ManlyBookClubNames

Brewskies & Books, followed by manly yoga, aka broga.

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I admit I laughed hard at this example from a recent trending Twitter hashtag #manlybookclubnames. It was spurred by a New York Times article http://nyti.ms/1rvsEeC about men’s book clubs. One such club declares it was founded to proclaim that “yes, we too, are intellectuals.” And it hit home how far we’ve come from the days when only male authors had standing, a time when Mary Ann Evans became George Elliot in order to publish in the Victorian era, an era when men were expected to read.

Now, in spite of male authors who sell bucket-loads of novels, the belief is that their readers are women. Some of these femmes might foist a book on their guys to lure them from the TV or sporting event, golf course, or video game, but modern men have somehow lost the desire—and maybe the ability—to read. I hear there are statistics that support this.

Manly men don’t read…do they? Well, check out Instagram’s hot dudes reading. https://www.instagram.com/hotdudesreading/?hl=en Oh yeah. Men in public, reading books in one form or another makes them hot dudes.

I think digital readers have played a part in getting men reading in greater numbers. Having a library on you as you go about your day just works.

My husband is a voracious reader, almost exclusively fiction with a smattering of baseball biographies. He reads male and female authors equally. He loves good characterization, great dialogue, good action, and touching scenes. Half of the prereaders for my novels are men. They not only read, but give me feedback—insightful comments, suggestions, and encouragement.

But, say we dispel the myth and agree men read, what about book clubs? Christian men’s groups gather to study, to discuss topical books, non-fiction faith builders etc. But what about stories? I’m frankly loving the idea of men reading fiction—literature or pulp—and talking about it, discussing how the characters impacted them, what they took away from the plot and conflict. What did the book mean? Was it any good? Why?

This should not be a jaw-dropping concept. Sure the hashtag had fun naming the book clubs. And yeah, those broga dudes are eye-catching. But, seriously, I’d love to hear from guys on this topic. Interesting? Appealing? Why or why not? (Ladies can chime in too. It’s not: No Country for No women)

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Feed an Author. Write a Review. by Elizabeth Goddard

 

I’m beginning to wonder if giving away books in all the contests and blog interviews has been a good idea, generally speaking. I think it can certainly win a new fan if a book winner reads and enjoys your book and then decides to purchase all the rest.

But the bigger picture is telling—most authors are struggling, even the big authors are seeing lackluster sales. Is it because the market is saturated with too many books? Or perhaps we have introduced the idea of free books and readers don’t want to pay for books when they can get them free by simply entering the plethora of free book drawings at innumerable blogs meant to promote authors.

Have we created a culture of readers who feel we should give our books away? Even if we have, there’s no turning back now. What’s done is done. But there a way to thank authors for their free books and perhaps turn the tide.

I’ve seen quite a few memes around social media that repeat the same message. Here’s one:

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And another:

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The best way to thank an author is to write a review. Whether you received the book as part of a giveaway or you purchased the book, authors need those reviews, and we need others to share with friends and families so that we can all be happy and well-fed and most importantly–we can afford to keep writing!

 

Blessings!

Elizabeth Goddard

Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than twenty-five romance novels and counting, including the romantic mystery, THE CAMERA NEVER LIES–a 2011 Carol Award winner. She loves writing  romantic suspense stories filled with action and adventure! To receive news and updates about her latest releases, sign up for her Great Escapes newsletter!

 

 

 

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