Emphasizing a Word by Nancy J. Farrier

800px-The_Lord_is_my_Good_Shepherd

 

Have you ever heard someone talk about how your perspective changes depending on which word is emphasized in a sentence? I’ve heard it done with questions and the result can be very interesting. For instance, if you ask – Did she steal the bracelet? – and stress a different word each time, the whole focus of that sentence changes.

 

I have been doing something like this with phrases from the Bible. I am not changing the focus of the sentence, but instead gaining a deeper understanding of the meaning of the phrase. I find it a fascinating way to study, although certainly not the only way. I don’t do it all the time, but once in a while.

 

Let me share the process with you. For this example I’ll take the first phrase from the 23rdPsalm, The Lord is my Shepherd, a beautiful statement and one that we’ve said so many times we can forget to plumb the depths of this verse fragment.

 

  • THE Lord is my Shepherd – THE is an article used as a function word before a noun. THE and not “A” tells me a lot. This is THE Lord. He is not one of many but the only one. “Now see the I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me…” (Deut. 32:39 NKJV) The One and only God is my Shepherd.
  • The LORD is my Shepherd – LORD or Jehovah, Eternal God. “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Ex. 3:14 NKJV) God exists through time and for all time. He is the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and the end. (Rev. 22:13) I have trouble wrapping my head around Jehovah, the eternal God, and I am awed that He would choose to be my Shepherd.
  • The Lord IS my Shepherd – IS, one of my favorite words to ponder. IS means present tense or happening right now. This phrase doesn’t say He “was” or He “will be” my Shepherd, but He IS. Right now. This very moment and every moment. Such a powerful meaning that gives me such comfort.
  • The Lord is MY Shepherd – MY is getting personal. I love it. God is a personal Shepherd to each one of us. God is omnipresent, able to be there for each person. Proverbs 15:3 tells us, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place…” He can be there for each of us as our personal Shepherd. I love this, and love taking the time to consider all this means to me.
  • The Lord is my SHEPHERD – A SHEPHERD cares for sheep. The Bible tells me I am one of God’s sheep and He is my Shepherd. A Shepherd is available to his sheep. He cares for their needs and makes sure those needs are met. He sees that they remain healthy. He keeps away predators. What a promise. What a word to ponder. In John 10:14, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” All I need I find in Jesus. He provides and He protects. He is there for me. Always. Forever.

 

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD. Such a simple phrase. So easy to read it quickly and not consider the true depth or meaning in the words. Yet, when you stop and think about each word in the phrase, these five words shine with God’s glory and promise.

 

I don’t always do this exercise in my studies, but I’ve found it’s an interesting way to focus on a scripture portion and get more meaning than when I read quickly. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and will try it on your own.

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Why I Read and Why I Write

Opinion by Jim Denney

[An apology: I should have posted this piece early this morning instead of late this evening, but I’ve been on the road this past week and just arrived home. Next week, I hope to post on-time. —Jim D.]

I once had a conversation with a fellow writer who told me, “I used to love to read, but I never read anymore. I’m too busy, too many deadlines. Who has time to read anymore?” I hope it didn’t show on my face, but I was very sad to hear that. How can a writer not read?

As a writer, I have to be a reader. Pardon the double-negative, but I can’t not read.

When I read, I find out what I’m really thinking. Sometimes, reading brings me into a collision with ideas I’ve never considered before. And this is equally true whether I’m reading fiction or nonfiction. Maybe the author (or a character the author has created) has an idea or belief or conviction that clashes with my own. Reading forces me to reconsider and refine my own opinions. Books and stories help me test my own ideas and perceptions against those of other people.

George_R._R._Martin

George R. R. Martin, author of A Dance with Dragons, at Comic Con 2013 in San Diego, photo by Gage Skidmore, licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

A friend of mine is a voracious reader — but he never reads fiction. He only reads books on history or leadership or business and finance. He can’t understand why anyone bothers to read “made-up stories.” When his wife takes a novel to read at the beach, he kids her, “Enjoy your storybook, honey.”

I pity my poor friend. Trying to explain to him the joys and benefits of a good novel is like trying to explain the color green to someone who’s been sightless since birth. He simply lacks the capacity to appreciate a well-crafted, imaginative tale. In his mind, if the story didn’t happen in real life, why waste time reading it?

As a child, I read to explore the world, and to learn about places and cultures I had never experienced. By identifying with heroes in perilous situations, I vicariously tested my own courage and explored the dark reaches of my own insecurities and terrors. The countless books I lugged home from the library showed me what I could become, if I dared to take the risk.

When I grew older and became a writer, I realized I wrote for the same reason I read: to challenge myself and measure myself against the world. I identify with the words of Joan Didion: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

My favorite books are worlds I love to inhabit. They’re people I enjoy spending time with. They’re mentors who deepen my thinking and my faith. They’re counselors who encourage me to persevere through the stormy seasons of my life.

I wrote my Timebenders science fantasy adventure series for my own children, for thousands of children I’ve never met, and for the child in me. I wrote Battle Before Time and Doorway to Doom to give children the same thrills, terrors, and joys I found in A Wrinkle in Time, The Martian Chronicles, The Hobbit, the Narnia tales, and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

I write to expand a child’s universe, to inspire a child’s sense of wonder, and to deepen a child’s faith. When a child reads a story, he or she becomes the characters in that story. That child learns character traits of courage, determination, perseverance, loyalty, and faith by vicariously experiencing the character’s triumphs — and failures. That child also learns empathy by learning to understand the motivations, longings, fears, and sufferings of fictional characters.

We read, in short, because books and stories enable us to transcend the limitations and the loneliness of being only one person with but one life to live. George R. R. Martin perfectly expressed the reason we read in this passage from A Dance with Dragons:

“Do you like to read books, Bran?” Jojen asked him.

“Some books. I like the fighting stories. My sister Sansa likes the kissing stories, but those are stupid.”

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.”

Find a good book to read, and the time you spend in its pages will never be wasted or idle. That book will not only entertain you, but it will show you who you are and it will teach you how to live.

“Those who will not read are no better off than those who cannot read.”
—Jim Rohn

“Jesus used stories when he spoke to the people.
In fact, he did not tell them anything without using stories.”
—Matthew 13:34 CEV

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

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

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

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Oh Look – There I Am! By Mary Alford

magnifying glass

I’ll let you in on a little secret…most authors put pieces of themselves into their books. Whether it be in the hero or heroine’s personality traits or the setting for the book, if you look close enough, you can see the author throughout the story. It can be kind of fun searching for the hidden clues hidden.

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For instance, In Forgotten Past, the heroine Faith McKenzie, loves coffee. She drinks it all the time. You guessed it, she got that from me. Although I have tried to cut back through the years, I love coffee and can drink it all day long.

 

silverton colorado

 

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The idea for Jase Bradford’s mountain home in Rocky Mountain Pursuit came from a mixture of Silverton and Creede, Colorado. Both are small and rugged mountain towns with breathtaking views of the mountains surrounding them.

mountain roads

On one particular visit to Silverton in October, my husband and I were caught unexpectedly in a snowstorm. The road we were traveling on was covered with snow and very narrow. We were forced to back up, then turn around, and it was very harrowing, much like the scene in Rocky Mountain Pursuit, where Reyna Peterson tries to find Jase. She’s alone at night on a narrow mountain road in a snowstorm. Reyna ends up running off the road. Luckily, Jase saves here. After what we went through, I could definitely feel Reyna’s terror.

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A scene in Deadly Memories when we see the small country church where Ella Weiss’s father once pastored was taken from a church my brother pastored when I was just a teenager. It was a small congregation, but the people there were so encouraging. I played the piano and my sister led the singing. Good times.

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Framed for Murder hero and heroine, Aaron Foster and Liz Ramirez share a breakfast of bacon and eggs, one of my favorite meals to have at any time of the day.

grave peril cover from harlequin

Grave Peril is my latest release from Love Inspired Suspense. It features heroine Jamie Hendricks’s somewhat eccentric Uncle Paxton. Uncle Paxton is a combination of my spunky Aunt Mabel and my prickly Uncle Bud. Growing up, Aunt Mabel was a force to be reckoned with most times, never settling into the mold of what people thought she should be. I admired her so much and miss her terribly. Uncle Bud, well, he said what was on his mind and had no filter. I took the interesting traits from each of them and made Uncle Paxton.

So, next time you pick up a novel from one of your favorite authors, know that you are getting more than just a great story. You are getting a glimpse into that author’s life. Happy hunting!

 

About Grave Peril:

 

Mountain Ambush!

Reunions can be deadly…

Jamie Hendricks always believed her late father was innocent of murder…and now her uncle claims to have proof. But when she arrives in her hometown, her uncle has vanished—and someone wants her dead. Jamie’s ex-boyfriend, CIA agent Gavin Dalton, is the only person she trusts…even if he believes her dad killed his father. But can he help her uncover a deadly conspiracy that goes deeper than anyone expected?

 

All the best…

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

 

 

 

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Breaking Down Barriers by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Christians Read, Breaking Down Barriers 

As a writer, for years, I was told essentially to “color within the lines.” Make no mistake that is solid advice for those seeking to build a career.  Readers read a book by you and they expect more of the same kind of book. So you can see that it wasn’t bad advice.

It was, however, advice that didn’t fill my vision of what I was supposed to do.  You see, I wasn’t interested in just building a career.  I was interested in also building a life.  That required more from me, and I knew that only some readers and publishers would understand the difference from a personal perspective.

So I did that.  I set one writing rule.  I will not write a book I don’t love.  But beyond that, I venture and explore and write about things I’m having trouble understanding in real life.  I also write about issues that I find appalling or terrifying, as I did in some of the military novels about chemical and biological warfare and poisoned water supply and dirty bombs crossing our borders and human trafficking and corruption. Things that captured my attention in real life and scared me half to death—for myself, my children, and eventually, for my grandchildren.

 

I couldn’t believe then and frankly I don’t believe now that all women, wives, mothers and grandmothers don’t weigh these challenges.  We do, and we vote on all these things and more.

Those who attempt to reduce our voting preferences to a single issue or two are dismissing our equally important concerns—we are concerned about any and everything that impacts us and our families, our communities and our country.  The big point that gets missed along those lines is we recognize that everyone—every single person—is someone’s baby. Someone’s son or daughter, grandchild, great-grandchild, cousin, aunt or uncle.  We are truly all connected.  It allmatters.

Writers write for many reasons.  I write for many reasons.  Each book is written for a specific purpose.  For me to love a story, I must see a purpose in the story.  Now I wrap conventional novel elements around that purpose—that’s where the suspense, mystery and/or romance come in—but it is the purpose that drives me to write and keeps me writing.  Telling the story is my attempt, frail and feeble as it might be, to make a difference.  To give readers an opportunity to see something in a different way, to see something at all, and to not only notice that something but to feel the effects of it as the character feels them.

I started writing political essays for discussions with my dad when I was tiny.  Every night at dinner, we talked about the stories on the front page of the newspaper. The essays were written about those topics.  It was a way to teach me to think about bigger issues from different points of view, and to be mindful of how those things impacted people, individually and in groups. From there, I moved into poetry, but I needed more space, and so short fiction and then novels became my vehicle of choice to explore.

While I hope the stories entertain and awaken, most of all I hope they fulfill their individual purpose.  Because at the core of every book is a healing theme.

I’ve been writing books since the late eighties, but I’m relatively new to Christian fiction.  Six or so projects are classified as Christian fiction.  But for about thirty years, I’ve written books in almost every genre with healing themes.  I’ve written some books in genres that didn’t yet exist, trying to strike that balance between purpose and genre dictates.  Ones like the group of military romantic thrillers.  That type of book hadn’t been done before.  Now it’s a sub-genre.  So there are unexpected and unimagined perks to seeking balance in purpose-writing.  But you aren’t seeking them.  You’re just doing everything you can to assure that those who might find merit in the stories get an opportunity to read them.

Many times I’ve been asked why I continue to write clean read books or Christian fiction in collections with authors writing for the secular market. The reasons are simple.  If those who could most relate to or benefit from the message are there, why wouldn’t I?  Does a Christian doctor only treat Christian patients?  Do people of faith only mix and mingle with other people of faith?

As Christians living in a world with all kinds of people of all faiths and of no faith, if we have the opportunity to touch lives to help others, then shouldn’t we do it?

I’m not on a high horse, and I have no illusions (or delusions) of grandeur about what I do.  I’m not out to demand dictates in the world.  I’m a simple woman trying to help others get through tough times constructively.  If they read a story and relate to a character who has been through a tough time or goes through a tough time, the reader knows a way through whatever tough time the reader is experiencing exists. Simply put, I try to offer hope.

And it’s a funny thing.  Well, not funny as in ha-ha funny, but noteworthy, I should say.  It’s noteworthy that in trying to offer hope, I usually find it.  And some reader somewhere, I pray, does, too.

Barriers exist.  They always have existed.  Different people need different things at different times.  We are charged with helping one another, loving one another. It seems self-evident that in executing our charge, we have to break barriers, step outside our comfort zones and follow what we know is right for us.

It is not for the feint of heart.  It is not an easy career path.  At times, it wreaks havoc on your career. But following your purpose works well on building a life, and the career has a way of working itself out.  You are in a constant state of flux, struggling, building and rebuilding, but it all works out.  I can’t explain that part, I just know even the rough parts are good. Even the struggles are softened by the solace of knowing you are where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

Every writer has to choose.  Many do what they feel drawn to do. Many don’t.  They have different aspirations or ambitions.  That personal choice, whatever the choice is, is the right one for that writer at that time.

I’ve made my choice, and I’m content in it.  So I’ll continue to get a few nasty reviews now and then about works I wrote before I turned to Christian fiction.  And I’ll continue to get a few nasty notes about being a Christian writer and writing in joint secular projects, and a few will comment that they no longer read my books but when my “Christian phase” is over, they’ll be back.  I’ll keep taking the hits, and the barbs, and I’ll keep getting some emails and snail mails containing less than repeatable remarks.  But that’s okay.

It’s all okay.  Because all responses prove that people are being touched enough to speak up and reach out. They are not reading and walking away indifferent.  Indifference would mean they hadn’t been affected.

If people who read my work are unaffected, that means I’ve failed.  Only in affecting people do we have a chance to break down barriers.

Blessings,

Vicki

Note:  I have a new book out.  So Many Secrets.  You can read more about it here.

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Did History Class Bore You? By Lyn Cote

History class often left out the “stuff” I find fascinating. How did events affect the people living then? History is just the story of life. I always end every historical with a Historical Note that tells the reader what was true history and what I made up within the real history. Here’s the one from my new book, Chloe’s story, Meant for Me.

Historical Note

 

“Wars are the locomotives of history” is a truth that can’t be denied. Wars force humans to make advancements in weaponry and medical technology. And they put the fighting-age generation through a fiery furnace that forever changes them and, hence, their society. To me, the twentieth century started with WWI and not the arbitrary date of 1900. A living example, Chloe led a completely different life before WWI than she did after it.

Also, two new amendments to the Constitution at the beginning of the twenties—women’s suffrage and prohibition–ushered in vast societal changes. Women started voting—a good thing. But the prohibition amendment actually had the opposite effect on society than it was supposed to—it closed the male domain of the old-time saloon, but the nightclub took its place and made cocktails popular for women as well as men. The generation that had been told they were fighting in the “War to End All Wars” returned from that first brutal modern conflict—with air battles, mustard gas, machine guns, and tanks—disillusioned and ready to drown their sorrows in bathtub gin. So criminals organized and reaped huge profits from speakeasies while the FBI grew stronger, trying to stop the illicit trade.

The “Lost Generation” of the twenties took nothing seriously if it could help it and flaunted its new freedom with bobbed hair, rouged lips, short skirts, and automobiles. For the first time, the name of Freud and the word sex worked its way into modern conversation. Couples stopped courting and started dating —shocking their elders by kissing people they had no intention of marrying. They danced the wild Charleston and the Black Bottom to honky-tonk jazz. Chloe, Roarke, Kitty, and Drake all portrayed the different ways Americans coped with this new age.

Finally, WWI was the first war in which American black men were drafted in larger numbers as citizen soldiers. Both the South and North were rocked by racial unrest when black men donned uniforms and shed a servile manner. Of course, Minnie portrayed the hope of the disenfranchised black population. She was born into poverty and Jim Crow, but Minnie had dreams and the will to make them come true. Go, Minnie! In the new century, Chloe and Minnie found a way to break through the barriers that had separated their families for generations and Chloe found her greatest joy in seeing her friend’s success.

In the subsequent stories in The Carlyle Women series, these many themes—tyranny, injustice, freedom, equality—will repeat, since they were the great struggles of the twentieth century and continue today. Just check the evening news

To read the first three chapters of Meant for Me, Book 1 of “The Carlyle Women,” click here.    To purchase, click here.

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The Wedding Chapel

I recently finished reading The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck. This was a captivating story, intertwining two different couples, as well as two different timeframes. One is a modern-day account of a couple – Jack and Taylor. They recently eloped, but now seem to be having second thoughts. They are having a hard time communicating with each other and everything is off in their new and tender marriage. Neither one of them is good at opening up and sharing their true feelings. Rather, they either walk on eggshells or argue when they are together. We can see how this is pulling them away from each other.

Also, throughout the book, we jump back in time approximately sixty years. Here we see a different couple – Jimmy “Coach” and Collette. Jimmy built a wedding chapel for Collette with his own hands. But due to various circumstances and big life decisions, the two are dragged apart. The wedding chapel has been standing vacant for decades when Jimmy finally decides to let it go. Meanwhile Taylor is asked to take photos of the chapel. That is when the two stories come together and drama unfolds.

This book had me thinking about daily choices we make. Sometimes we make good decisions that have lasting effects. And other times our poor decisions can also follow us for a long time. However, many times these are subconscious choices, yet they still leave an impact. We can’t change the past. But we can change the present and the future. Consider, what things can we do differently today? God gives us a fresh start each and every day. If we did something yesterday that we regret, instead of fretting over it, we can use that as a stepping stone to make better choices today. And when we are intentional about the choices we make, that can ultimately lead to lasting peace in our relationships and our walk with the Lord.

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Waze Accountability by Julie Arduini

Waze Accountability Julie Arduini_edited

Recently I re-installed the driving app Waze after I noted what great time my sister and brother-in-law made traveling to and through Baltimore. I’d tried it before but didn’t really understand how to use it beyond finding funny voices to use for direction.

This time has been different. I’m able to sync with my calendar, so I receive a notification when I should leave, when it’s time to leave, and I can have my event mapped out as a planned drive.

I’ve also enjoyed annoying our teen daughter by surprising her with the “Boy Band” navigational voice. You can even record your own voice to use for directions.

Imagine by surprise when a Waze feature spoke to me.

Through drives I’ve learned what different sounds mean by experience. There’s a hazard notification, construction ahead, and even police sightings. It took awhile to realize the ding I heard when I disregarded the app directions and went my own way was the re-route in action. The other sound it took awhile to discover? I was over the speed limit.

My speedometer works in increments and I’m bad in math sitting at a table, forget trying to figure out my speed as I’m trying to keep up on the highway. The little Waze ding that tells me I’m speeding keeps me in check.

I realized I get the same reminder from the Holy Spirit.

I’ve done a lot of reading this year on the Holy Spirit and hearing from God. Over the years I’ve been asked as a mentor how do I know what voice is God’s and what is the enemy of our soul. Quick tips I’ve shared is God will chastise and grow us, but He will never, ever condemn us. The enemy can’t handle praise, nor will He ever suggest anything that’s going to advance God’s Kingdom. If I have a vivid dream, I tend to take it seriously and go to Him in prayer about it if I keep remembering those details long after I wake. Sometimes I have had pizza before bed or something that gives a weird dream, and often those details are forgotten. Those are things through the years that have helped me navigate my prayer life.

The Holy Spirit is called a comforter, encourager, and is my friend. I’ve learned to know His voice because in love, He’s spoken up when I’m the proverbial child about to steal a cookie from the jar before dinner. When I want to say something sassy, be dishonest, or hold a grudge, I’ve often received a check in my spirit and what I call a “burn in my belly.” He doesn’t go away, but He isn’t nagging me, either. His special name for me that no one, no one has ever called me is Darling. So when I hear, “Darling, do you really want to say that?” as I’m about to go off, it’s the equivalent of Waze making a sound when I’m over the speed limit.

Like Waze, I have a choice. I can ignore the ding and keep pressing the accelerator. Waze doesn’t deal with the consequences, I do. Same for my faith walk. The Holy Spirit can give me nudges, but I have to decide if I want to stay in God’s will or go solo. Hard lessons and blessings have proven to me it’s best to listen and to obey the nudges.

If you’re struggling with making a right choice, or are wondering if you’ve heard from God in a situation, I hope this encourages you!

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Now available!

34407923_10216331446343900_1957097669142773760_o (1)A Christmas to Remember is a boxed set of Christian romances to help you celebrate the season. Featuring Kimberly Rose Johnson, Valerie Comer, Elizabeth Maddrey, Ginger Solomon, Lindi Peterson, Deb Kastner, Janet W. Ferguson and myself, it is free for Kindle Unlimited or .99. The collection is only available for a limited time.

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Wild Horses (by Hannah Alexander)

You know the old saying? “Wild horses couldn’t keep me away!” I’m not actually sure what that means. The picture above shows a herd of wild horses. They never tried to keep us away from anything except themselves.

We were never closer to these horses than maybe fifty feet. They ran. None of them charged us and they didn’t even come after me when I walked out amongst them. They would only allow me to get so close and then they prepared to run. When they did that I stopped and withdrew. There was a wild horse roundup taking place that day and we didn’t want to interfere.

Mel and I went horse hunting here in Wyoming last week–with binoculars and camera. It was something we’d been meaning to do for a while because I’ve always wanted to see herds of wild horses and Wyoming has a lot. We drove for quite some time in the two-track areas of the Red Desert of the south-central part of the state. It stormed, we got lost. It was an exhilarating experience!

In the middle of our hunt–in the middle of the storm–Mel saw something I would never have seen, and they were much closer to us than the horses. You’ll have to look closely to see it.

Do you see it? There was a flock of them less than fifteen feet from our car, and yet they blended so well with the sagebrush around them that Mel didn’t see them until one of them moved. Mel thought they were partridges because they looked very much like that bird. I asked around, and locals call these Sage Chickens. I tried to find sage chickens on Bing and all I found were recipes for cooking chicken with sage seasoning. So I looked further and discovered that these are called Greater Sage Grouse. They are as big as chickens, some even as big as wild turkeys, and they are game animals. We weren’t even looking for these and they just popped up from the desert for us to admire. So much wildlife to see in and around the Great Divide Basin–where the water neither runs to the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, nor the Gulf of Mexico, but remains in the basin so that wildlife in the Red Desert can stay alive.

You see the two-track here past these horses? This is do-able for our all-wheel drive. These tracks crisscross the Red Desert, and because Wyoming is the least populated state in our country, these pretty much suffice for roads in much of the wilderness. I’m so thankful for them. But this a good section of this track. Other areas are so bad that we often have to turn around and go back the way we came.

I had a friend ask me yesterday if the stallions in these herds didn’t come after me when I walked out toward them. They did not. Two of them did rear up and face-off with one another, but typically the wild horses did what they do best–they ran. And they do it so beautifully.

So the only thing wild horses can keep us away from is themselves. They cannot keep us away from the love of God. Neither can death nor life, angels nor demons, present nor future, height nor depth, nor any power, nor anything else in all creation separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ.

We saw probably a total of thirty wild horses on this day. I look forward to more evidence of God’s creation in this wild place. We have not been disappointed yet. I’ll let you know when we discover more.

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Early Christmas Giveaways by Tara Randel

I know it’s only the beginning of October and we’re all settling into autumn, but Christmas is right around the corner. One again I’m excited to invite you to Christmas Town, Maine. This is the fifth year of delightful Christmas stories set in our favorite town.  If you’ve read the previous heartwarming Christmas Town books, I hope you’ll look forward to the 2018 addition.

This year, October not only brings a change in weather, but also the 12 Days of Heartwarming Christmas. My book, Our Christmas Promise, is part of A Christmas Wedding Story, available October 9, 2018.

If you haven’t read the prologue, A Christmas Carousel Proposal, here is a link. Instafreebie

Mark your calendars because the authors of the 12 Days of Heartwarming Christmas are holding two different giveaways. You can enter to win goodies at either our our Facebook Hop or Facebook Party.

First, the 12 Days of Christmas Hop. Just visit my author page, Tara Randel Books, on Facebook Monday, October 8 through Wednesday, October 10, 2018. I’ll be offering a prize package there. At the end of the post, you click on the link to the next authors page and then follow the links through with all 12 authors! Learn how you can win one of 12 $10. Amazon gift cards.

The Facebook Party will be held at the Heartwarming Christmas Town Facebook page on Tuesday October 9, 2018, from noon to 4 pm PST on our release day! ( 3pm to 7pm EST).

Each author will be posting and offering special giveaways you can enter to win by leaving a comment. The Grand Prize is 12 signed Heartwarming books in a tote and a $25 Amazon gift card!

Visit our Heartwarming Christmas Town website to find out about previous books and how to sign up for our newsletter.

I’ll also have a special giveaway at Prism Book Tours on October 8-12, 2018

Here’s a peak at OUR CHRISTMAS PROMISE.

Melissa Upton and Justin Caswell have been best friends since they were kids. Now, they’re all grown up and things have changed, for Melissa at least. She’s content running the family bridal shop, Candlelight and Lace. Excited about an upcoming wedding. She doesn’t even mind attending weddings with Justin, until he dubs them wedding buddies. And now that he’s back in Christmas Town, Melissa realizes she wants more. If she goes after her heart will she lose her best friend?

Justin is back home to take care of business for his estranged father while he recovers from a heart attack. He’s launched his own successful career, is happy with his single status. Until he feels the distance Melissa has put between them. What’s up with his best friend? The more time they spend together, involved in Christmas Town holiday preparations, the more he realizes she’s hoping for more in their relationship. Can Justin see that being in love, and remaining best friends, is the best of both worlds?

EXCERPT:

Jaycee tossed a paper towel in the trash and met Melissa’s gaze in the mirror over the sink.

“When are you going to tell him?”

“Tell who what?” Melissa asked as she dug in her bag for lip balm.

“Tell Justin you have feelings for him.”

Melissa froze. Blinked a few times and glanced at Jaycee. “What are you talking about?”

Jaycee rested her hip against the counter and crossed her arms over her chest. “Don’t play dumb with me. I see how you look at him, especially when he doesn’t know it.”

“He’s my friend and I’m glad he’s home.”

“Really? That’s it?”

Melissa shrugged and resumed her searching. “What more could there be?”

“You tell me.”

“There’s nothing to tell.”

“Then why don’t you date?”

Melissa gripped the tube of balm in her fingers. “I date.”

“Name the last time you went out with a guy.”

She racked her brain but came up empty. “College, maybe?”

“That was six years ago.”

“No…it can’t be that long.”

Jaycee arched a brow.

“Wait. I went out with Roger Pierce for a while.”

“Until he moved away.” Jaycee shook her head. “I’m telling you, you have it bad for Justin.”

Did she? Did that explain the tingles she’d been trying to ignore? Or had she been without a significant other for too long now?

Slowly spreading the balm across her lips, Melissa met her own gaze in the mirror. Clear brown eyes peered back, but a rosy red had crept into her cheeks. She recognized the look, had seen it on dozens of bride’s faces through the years.

Good grief, was she in love with Justin?

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nineteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her Harlequin Heartwarming romance, THE LAWMAN’S SECRET VOW, available now and her Christmas Town story, OUR CHRISTMAS PROMISE, available October 9, 2018.  Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks.

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October Release: Moments with Billy Graham OUR MOMENTOUS JOURNEY

 

            When I was in my twenties, Billy Graham’s radio message encouraged me to reach out to the world. I was busy with my world of church work, husband, and infant daughter, but decided to volunteer a couple hours a week at Shriner’s Hospital. That led me to write an article for Baby Talk Magazine about the blessing and appreciation of having a healthy baby. That was my first published article, although I didn’t write it as a writer, but as a grateful Mom.

In my thirties, after some disappointing events, I became disillusioned and considered leaving the church. Fortunately, after six months of pondering, I rededicated my life to the Lord, seeking direction. Then I noticed an ad in Decision Magazine about the Billy Graham School of Christian Writing. Attending that conference opened up a whole new world to me and I began my writing journey. That journey was not like singing and skipping along a yellow brick road, looking for a desired destination. It was trusting the Lord to be the light along my path, even when I could see no more than one step at a time.

Eventually, that led to my founding the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference where faculty reached out to thousands during the twenty-five years of my directing and continues now under others’ direction.

Over the decades my journey continued as 50+ of my novels were published. Then the nonfiction world opened up to me with the opportunity of compiling articles for the Divine Moments books, such as this one, and ten others now published. Hundreds of authors have shared their personal stories, humorous and serious. Readers have been entertained, faith has been strengthened, lives have been changed, and families have been reunited. All royalties go to Samaritan’s Purse, the organization founded by Dr. Graham’s son, Franklin, that provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Each writer is touching lives throughout the world, directly or indirectly.

Billy Graham’s ministry has touched millions with one sermon. And yet, the preaching of one man led to Billy Graham’s surrendering his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. What a difference one person can make in this world.

How blessed I’ve been by Billy Graham’s life and words, beginning when I was just a young Mom and heeded the words God gave him.

His words reached me – one person – and all I had to do was surrender, take God’s hand, let him lead along the smooth or rugged paths.

God, through Billy Graham, has given me a blessed life I couldn’t have imagined –including being allowed to compile and edit a book about the world’s most famous evangelist.

In this book are 45 articles by people from all walks of life recalling special moments experienced through the ministry of Billy Graham.

 

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS Contest by Vicki Hinze

From the ACFW Website

ACFW is sponsoring the First Impressions contest.  It is now open and accepting entries until October 15th.

Judging occurs Oct 18 – Nov 12.

If you’re an unpublished author, consider entering your project.  You can get more information at:  www.acfw.com/first_impressions

First Impression is an ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) competition.  ACFW has chapters 31 chapters in 23 states, plus an online international chapter, Beyond the Borders.

Good Luck to all entrants!


For Readers:

New Amish Romance series by Leslie Gould, PLAIN LEAVING.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Stasi Eldrege’s BECOMING MYSELF.

 

 

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A New Release For October!

A new month and a new release! Yesterday, my 6th Love Inspired Suspense released. The new book has me thinking about the crazy way how I started out writing for Love Inspired Suspense in the first place.

In 2012, I entered the Speed Dating Contest that editor Emily Rodmell hosted and I was one of the lucky ones who got an appointment to chat with Emily. On the day of the pitch, I was on vacation in Colorado. At our cabin, internet service is nonexistent. I could have given up and said, well, that’s it, better luck next time, but I didn’t. My husband and I drove into the small town of Pagosa Springs where I did the entire chat on my laptop in the parking lot of the Ace Hardware Store.

Emily was kind enough to request a synopsis although I was so nervous she probably didn’t understand anything I told her. I promptly sent the synopsis out to her. Then she requested the first three chapters followed by the full manuscript. With each request, I tried not to get my hopes up.

forgtenpast

In December 2012, Emily called. To this day, I can’t tell you what she said to me other than that she wanted to buy a FORGOTTEN PAST for Love Inspired Suspense. It was a surreal moment. One that still hasn’t fully sunken in yet. It’s a great feeling to have your dream become a reality and even greater to hold your book in your hands.

FORGOTTEN PAST – LOST MEMORIES

Faith McKenzie was the only survivor of a brutal home invasion. Viciously attacked and left for dead, Faith can’t remember anything about that night—including the identity of the killer. All she knows is that he’s stalking her from every place she flees and has tracked her to a small Maine island. Her neighbor, private investigator and security specialist JT Wyatt, rescues her twice. Now JT is insisting on the whole story—a story that Faith can’t remember. Desperate to feel safe, Faith puts her trust in the handsome P.I. Yet a killer is dead set on ensuring that Faith’s memory never returns.

 

Now, SIX years later, Grave Peril is out.

Grave Peril cover-12

I’m so proud to be part of the Love Inspired family, and so blessed to have six books with them. I can’t wait to see what the next six years bring.

GRAVE PERIL

Mountain Ambush

Reunions can be deadly

Jamie Hendricks always believed her late father was innocent of murder…and now her uncle claims to have proof. But when she arrives in her hometown, her uncle has vanished—and someone wants her dead. Jamie’s ex-boyfriend, CIA agent Gavin Dalton, is the only person she trusts…even if he believes her dad killed his father. But can he help her uncover a deadly conspiracy that goes deeper than anyone expected?

All the best…

 

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

 

 

 

 

 

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Disaster: First Response by Nancy J. Farrier

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There are times I feel like my life is one disaster after another. I know I’m not alone, but it’s still not easy. Many of our bigger disasters have involved water—even though we live in a desert.

 

Earlier this summer we moved from California to Arizona. We had our house in CA up for sale and finally received an offer. We were ready to put in our counter-offer when our neighbor across the street in CA texted a picture of our house with water pouring out from under the garage doors.

 

Turns out a faulty hose broke in one of our bathrooms. This wouldn’t have been quite the debacle it is if we had still been living in the house and caught the water leakage right away. Instead, the water may have run out for a couple of days, reaching the whole house except for the back two bedrooms. The wood flooring my husband installed, some of it brand new, was ruined. The walls had to be cut down to the studs two feet up from the floor. What a mess.

 

We have good insurance, so when we traveled to CA recently, they put us up in a motel because the house isn’t livable while it’s being repaired. On the day we were checking out, I headed down to the car with my suitcase, computer briefcase and another bag. As I walked across the lobby toward the exit, some of the hotel personnel were coming inside. I could see the consternation in their faces and knew something had happened. As I walked outside, I noted the firetrucks and a taped off area. Then I saw the flames shooting up in the trees at the edge of the parking lot—about twenty feet from our van.

 

As the firemen sprayed water on the brush and trees, I raced to the van dragging my suitcase. Amazed they let me approach when the fire was so close, I threw open the doors, tossed my bags inside, hopped in and moved the car as fast as possible. Disaster averted, or so I thought.

 

My husband wanted to check the fluid levels before we began the long drive home. He raised the hood and called me over. An ant den must have been close to where we parked. Hundreds of the little ants were swarming over and around our engine. Hundreds!

 

By the time we drove to our daughter’s house, a few miles away, the ants were gone, or so we thought. On the trip home, I had several ants join me inside the car. I was glad the whole bunch of them didn’t find their way inside.

 

So, what is my first response to these disasters? If you remember, my word for the year is Thanksgiving. God has given me a multitude of opportunities to learn to be thankful in the past months. He’s taught me to remember to: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thess. 5:16-18)

 

There have been times the only thanks I can give in a situation is to thank God for Who He is and for His love. That is enough. This time, I was thankful for the going to the car at the right time. For getting to move the van before it caught fire. For the firemen and their fast response. For those stinkin’ ants not biting me when they crawled on me. JFor peace over the whole situation. For a safe trip home. And the reasons to be thankful continue.

 

I’ve found that my reaction in a disaster is like a litmus test for my faith. My first response shows how close I am to God. Do I panic first? Do I get angry? Do I pray immediately? (Or at least pray as I run to move the car.) What is my first response? It should be one that always includes God and an element of thanksgiving. Even when the pipes break and the ants swarm. What is your first response?

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Learning to Savor the Moment

By Marilyn Turk

It seems like I’ve spent most of my adult life in a hurry.

Raising three sons born within four years and working full time in the big city corporate world forces you to hurry. Looking back, that time seems like a blur of activity.

My sons were involved in different sports which meant they were usually in three different places, often at the same time. In addition, school work had to be done in between their other activities.

I worked in sales for twenty-five years and “lived” in my car, driving all over Atlanta and North Georgia. If you’ve ever driven in Atlanta, or any big city for that matter, you know how hectic it is. Traffic races through and around town, then suddenly grinds to a halt when there’s an accident. And there’s always an accident somewhere. You pray you won’t be in it, yet your stomach is in knots because you have to get to an appointment.

Competition is fierce, and company politics are frustrating, yet you must endure and rise above because the job is important to your family’s income.

Then one day the children are gone, and life takes a turn, but not a dead end. When retirement is possible, some people want to pursue dreams they carried for years. For me, the dream was writing, and soon I found myself in another race—the race to get published.

So another set of activities took over with conferences to attend, proposals to create, blogs to post, social media to keep up with, and even books to write. Competition exists in the writing world as well, as writers vie for the attention of publishers and readers alike.

This past weekend I attended another conference, but this time with my author-friend Lenora Worth, who’s been writing for over twenty years. While I was hurrying to get to the scheduled events, she was less concerned. Even though she’ll quickly say one can always learn, her main focus was seeing old friends and enjoying her time away from working (writing full time).

We stayed at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, which is one of the most unique and beautiful hotels I’ve even seen. The center of the hotel is a giant atrium filled with flowers, trees and shrubs set among myriad waterfalls and waterways.

Lenora kept telling me how beautiful the scenery was and how she had found other routes to our events, but I wanted to keep to the route I knew that bypassed the scenic route so I wouldn’t get lost.

Then it happened. One night after an event, Lenora invited me to join her and her friends somewhere in the atrium. I was undecided and lingered behind, visiting with a couple of other writers until they left to go to their rooms. My watch read “nine o’clock,” which wasn’t late, and I wasn’t tired.

So I embarked on a journey to find Lenora. As I meandered through the lovely atrium accented by special night lighting with the sound of waterfalls all around, I realized I had no idea where I was. I was lost. But I didn’t care. I wasn’t in a hurry. The atmosphere was so beautiful and relaxing, I just stopped along the paths to enjoy the scenery and take pictures.

I unwound. I relaxed. I savored the moment, not worried about getting anywhere at any particular time. As I pondered my situation, I realized I’d been too busy. I’d let the frantic pace of work take over and I’d allowed stress to once again enter my life.

I don’t want to be like that anymore, and I don’t have to be. Yes, I have deadlines, and stress wants to steal my peace. But nobody forced me to let my life become so demanding—I allowed it to happen.

I realize it’s time to refocus on my priorities, why I do what I do. And the answer is because God gave me stories to write, stories to inspire others. God doesn’t promise wealth or fame if I follow His call to write. All He asks is that I’m obedient to the call and write what He has laid on my heart. I have no competition if my focus is purely to do God’s will to the best of my ability.

 

Despite the demand to develop my marketing platform with busyness, I’ll take the advice of beloved Liz Curtis Higgs who said that Christian writers shouldn’t worry about their platform because God is in charge of it. And if God only wants one certain person to read my book, then that’s okay. But He never intended this journey to be another rat-race. Rather, writing should be like eating a delicious, tall milkshake on a warm day, savoring each bite slowly until it’s finished.

 

Let the savoring begin.

 

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What Does Your Heart Desire?

Take a moment to pause and consider – What does your heart desire? Do you have a dream, a wish, or a goal? Perhaps there is something tucked deep inside your heart, and you are afraid to even speak it out loud?

That’s how I felt about becoming a writer. I always wanted to be a writer, for as long as I could remember. But it seemed like a huge dream. It was like saying that I was going to become an actress or an astronaut.

Yeah right! That could never happen. Those were thoughts I had. I didn’t always think them consciously. But in the back of my mind, that’s how I felt.

When I was in high school, I got a job at the public library. I loved my job. So when I looked around for colleges, I looked at those which had library science as a major. However, when I went off to the college, I was told that I shouldn’t major in library science, because my college was not accredited. So I was at a loss on what I should major in. Meanwhile, I got a job at the college library, and I enjoyed it as well. (Notice how both jobs dealt with books?)

The following year I took a computer class and enjoyed it. This particular class fell under the major of business, with a concentration in management information systems. So that’s what I chose to go with.

At this point in my life, the dream of writing was pushed so far back into the recesses of my mind, that I never even considered taking that route in college.

After graduating college, I had a series of programming jobs. I did like the work that I was doing. But the dream of writing was still tucked deep inside my heart. I voiced this dream only to a select few, such as my husband. But I never mentioned it to most people that I knew. I honestly thought it would never happen. And if I told someone that I wanted to write, then I would look like a failure when it never transpired.

At different times in my life, I sought programs that might help prepare me. I took a non-fiction writing class. Later I took a novel writing class. I subscribed to writing magazines. I paid good money to join various writing groups. But fear kept me at arm’s length. And I gradually bowed out of each of those programs.

As the years passed, I allowed different doubts to enter my mind: I don’t have what it takes, I don’t think anybody would want to read anything that I wrote, I don’t have an English degree, I want to write in the Christian industry and I am not a Bible scholar. I pretty much had given up completely. So I set aside my writing and allowed fear to keep ruling my life.

Then one day, I was tired of it all. I was tired of not writing. I was tired of my dreams going down the drain. I was tired of living a mediocre life.

I told my husband that I needed a desk, so that I would have a dedicated place to write. Within a week, he acquired a desk off of Craigslist.

desk

I sat down to write every day. In about a month, I completed my first book, Every Day is a Gift.

I am still a bit stunned that this dream actually came to fruition. But I give God all the glory. He knew what my heart desired, and He helped me get there.

So tell me, what does your heart desire? Do you have a dream that seems too big to accomplish? If so, there are two steps you need to take today.

(1) Get the tools you need to accomplish your dream. Ask yourself, what is one thing you can do today to set the wheels in motion?

(2) Most importantly, pray about it. Tell God what your dream is. He cares about you and the things that you long for. He can help you accomplish your goals, no matter how big they seem.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” – Psalm 37:4

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