Monday, November 30, 2009

Today's Daily Devotional


“Everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23

05/14/09 Belief in Christ is the key! But I feel that this verse is speaking about something slightly different. The word used here for “believes” means to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in. This verse says that everything is possible to him who believes. Believes what? That such a thing is possible with God! I love it when God puts me in a position where the next step I must take is to simply BELIEVE THAT HE IS ABLE! He brings me to a point where I must take a leap of faith right to Him. There’s nothing I can do. I must wait and trust Him to act. In those moments, God is so vivid, so colorful, so huge, so creative. It’s awesome to see how He will do a thing in a new way. And it’s a real privilege to be a part of it!

Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas by John Blase

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of the The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




John Blase’s work includes Living the Questions and Living the Letters Bible-study series, the Worldviews reference book (TH1NK), Real Life Stuff for Couples, and The Message Children’s Bible. A former pastor, John currently edits by day and writes by night. He and his wife, Meredith, have three children and make their home in Colorado.


Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764656
ISBN-13: 978-1434764652

AND NOW...an excerpt:


Three

Angelic Visitor


Luke 1.26–38


In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:


Good morning!

You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,

Beautiful inside and out!

God be with you.


She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.


He will be great,

be called ‘Son of the Highest.’

The Lord God will give him

the throne of his father David;

He will rule Jacob’s house forever—

no end, ever, to his kingdom.”


Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”


The angel answered,


The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

the power of the Highest hover over you;

Therefore, the child you bring to birth

will be called Holy, Son of God.


“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”


And Mary said,


Yes, I see it all now:

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.

Let it be with me

just as you say.


Then the angel left her.


Gabriel


The theologians have rendered us mindless God-slaves, wisps of cloudy wings, doing nothing but the bidding of the Mighty One. Theologians. There is so much they do not know.


I found her just as He said she would be found: sitting on her bedding, barefooted, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her knee-tops. I saw why she had gained the favor of the Mighty One. I liked this daughter-of-Eve-to-bethe-mother-of-God.


“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”


I expected this. But unlike that old priest’s, hers was not the doubting of a skeptic but rather the wondering of a child.


“But how? I can’t see it.”


“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you. Mary, you have nothing to fear.” The Mighty One had expressly said, “Herald the news, Gabriel. Don’t report it.” I would have liked to elaborate further, but Mary would have to live out the details of my news in days to come. Truths unlived are not truths.


Then she paused and looked away. I have spoken to many of God’s children, and their eyes are always transfixed on me. They should be. I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God. But Mary’s gaze wandered for a moment. But what I initially took for a distracted mind was rather a devoted heart.


Her eyes returned to me. “Let it be with me.” Ah, the Mighty One had chosen well. Her words were not

resigned, but faith-full. The faith of a child. Of such is the Mighty One’s kingdom.


“Cousin Elizabeth? Really? Old Elizabeth? But how?”


I laughed.


“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God. Mary, you have nothing to fear. I have told you all you need to know for now. You are more ready than you realize, stronger than you know. God is with you. Now I must go.”


But I did not want to go. Faith is rare, at least true faith. Yes, the word is often used, but the reality is hard

to find. Yet here I found it, in an earthen vessel surrounded by an earthen room. I liked Mary.


I left her just as He said I would: barefooted, sitting on her bedding, knees pulled up to her chest, arms

wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her kneetops. She looked older now. Human eyes would not

recognize this, but mine have seen much.


The Mighty One had revealed glimpses to me, what days ahead would hold for this glorious girl. Her cousin’s leaping womb. Joseph’s broad shoulders. The back of a borrowed burro. Herod’s jealous-red face. The cries of the innocent. The breath of stable animals. The agony of pushing the Mighty One out into this world.


I found myself praying for the favored one. Mary had so much to carry.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Touching Wonder by John Blase. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.


First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to John Blase and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

“Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas” by John Blase is an unexpected surprise. Twelve chapters that are formatted like devotional reading will draw you completely into the wonder of Christmas at any time of the year. Scripture from The Message translation of the Bible meticulously sets the stage for the heart-felt interpretation of the scene by the author. Frankly, I was surprised at the depth of emotion in Mr. Blase’s writing – not just in the commentary, but also in the prayers he includes at the end of each chapter.

This is a wonderful book that will grip the heart and woo the reader back to the manger where God entered the world in human form because He wanted humanity to feel His touch. Nothing takes the place of the Bible, but this book will help you to feel that touch of God.

The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson



Enjoy the excerpt below:






Here is my review of this touching Christmas tail - I mean tale:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Melody Carlson and her publisher for sending me a copy of "The Christmas Dog" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

Melody Carlson’s “The Christmas Dog” is a sweet story about an elderly woman who has forgotten how to be a loving neighbor. Through changes in circumstances and the progression of time, Betty has lost touch with the loving person she once was. She thinks the worst of her young neighbor, Jack, who seems to be systematically (and very noisily) destroying his house. And now this man’s neglected dog keeps finding his way into Betty’s yard.

Will this tiny ball of fur rekindle the spirit of Christmas in Betty’s heart in time for her to make a difference in Jack’s life by walking the talk she hears in church on Sunday to love her neighbor? Will this tiny terrier help to heal the brokenness of Betty’s granddaughter, Avery, and restore her relationship with her parents? Or will this pup tear the family apart? How could something so small have such power?

This beautiful Christmas story will make you smile and giggle, sigh and tear up. It will make you think of people you need to be more neighborly toward, and motivate you to call or visit those who you just need to let them know that you love them. This is a wonderful holiday read.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Today's Daily Devotional


Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts His people. Isaiah 49:13


05/12/09 Why are the heavens shouting for joy? Why does the earth rejoice? Why are the mountains bursting into song? Because the Lord comforts His people. Are you one of the Lord’s people? Have you experienced His comfort? If you have, you know the exhilaration! You know the absolute joy that feels like the heavens are shouting with you. In fact, the angels probably are cheering you on. If God has calmed you as you’ve repented, you are aware of the earth rejoicing. Perhaps as flowers blossom and bloom in an explosion of color like the fireworks on the 4th of July. When God has wrapped you in His everlasting arms and quieted you with His love, you know the majestic power of mountains bursting into song! Maybe the hills really are alive with the sound of music!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Today's Daily Devotional


Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

05/07/09 Ezekiel 36:26 supports this verse beautifully. It tells us that God will give us a new heart and put a new spirit within us. He will replace out heart of stone with a heart of flesh. He will trade our hardened heart for a softened one. By replacing our heart, God replaces our inner self. He replaces our mind. He gives us the ability to choose His will. Our understanding increases. He fills us with courage. He fills us with His power. In Jeremiah 31:33, the Lord says that He will write His law on our hearts. This got me thinking. Since the Author of scripture lives within us, shouldn’t we already know scripture? Isn’t it incredible how this becomes the case as we get closer to God through His Word?!?!

Friday, November 27, 2009

REVIEW: Beloved Disciple by Beth Moore

I have just finished Beth Moore’s Bible study “Beloved Disciple” for the second time. This time around, I was fortunate to study with a group using the video materials. It really adds a lot to the study experience. But this is a terrific Bible study even if you just do the workbook by yourself. The subject matter is Jesus, of course, but with a unique twist: getting to know the Lord through the eyes of the disciple who Jesus loved, John – one of the “sons of thunder”. John has always been my favorite apostle – probably because I identify with him so well. After doing this study, I feel even more closely associated with John.

Beth Moore takes the student on a fascinating and life-changing journey through the gospel of John, the apostle’s three letters: 1-2-3 John, and the book of Revelation. If possible, do the study with the videos and a group. If not, do the study anyway. Beth Moore is gifted in the area of teaching and inspiring. I am thankful that she has been one of my teachers.

Bible Study: As It Was In The Beginning - Genesis - Chapter 4


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Genesis. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Genesis Chapter 4. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



4:14 – Cain realized that living without God was a punishment.

4:25 – Adam was about 130 years old.

4:26 – the beginning of prayer.



What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?

Today's Daily Devotional


May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. 2 Thessalonians 3:16


05/06/09 This verse calls God the Lord of peace. We have discussed previously that means He owns it. It belongs to Him. He can give it to whomever He wants. We have also talked about the true definition of peace is not a stagnant, motionless thing. However, it is calming in the sense that it is assurance of salvation through Christ. There is nothing to fear because we are promised a place in heaven when we accept Christ and invite Him to live in our heart. This is the same word used to describe the fruit of the Spirit. So, how can assurance of salvation manifest itself as an observable behavior? Have you ever watched a mature Christian go through a traumatic circumstance? It’s a beautiful thing. Sure there are tears and grief, but there is also quiet strength, acceptance and evidence that they’re holding tightly to the Lord.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

REVIEW: Honey, I'm Home by Linda Windsor

Linda Windsor’s “Honey, I’m Home” is the touching, tender story of a couple separated first by a pending divorce, then, by the husband’s untimely death in a volatile country. Before signing the divorce papers, Nick Egan takes a journalism assignment that cost him his life. Kathryn moved on with her life, raising her boys as a single parent. After 6 ½ years, when the doorbell rings on one of the biggest professional evenings of Kathryn’s life, Nick stands on the stoop and sends his wife’s world into a tailspin.

Will they move forward with the divorce? Or can Nick convince Kathryn that he is a different man, and he’d like to make up for lost time, hurt feelings, and win her heart all over again? This is a wonderfully romantic tale that will bring several smiles to your face.

Today's Daily Devotional


“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

04/20/09 Are you weary? I’m not talking about the kind of weariness that can be treated with proper rest, diet and exercise. This is not the sort of weariness that can be soaked away in a bathtub or rubbed out by a masseuse. The Greek word “kopaio” means, among other things, to grow exhausted with burdens or grief. Have you ever been that burdened or grief-stricken? This is talking about a state of weariness of soul. Regardless of how you get that way, the important issue is how do I get relief? Well, this verse says that we should spell relief J-E-S-U-S! We must go to Him, approach the throne. When we feel weary or burdened, we must run to the Lord. That’s all we need to do. Run to Jesus and He will give you rest!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today's Daily Devotional


“I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11


04/17/09 God has plans for YOU! The Hebrew for the word “plans” translates as thought, device, plan, purpose, invention. I find it incredible that God may have invented a specific task for me to complete during my time on the earth. He molded my personality, likes, dreams, talents and love for Him all together to create the absolute perfect thing for me to do to share the gospel and spread His Word like wildfire throughout the earth. He’s done the same for you. Are you faithfully performing that task? Are you persevering even though it seems that the task you’ve been given is bearing no fruit right now? Are you trusting God to use what He has called you to do? It is His plan. You don’t need to understand. You just need to obey. Plant the seeds and trust Him to make them grow.

A Novel Idea by ChiLibras

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:

ChiLibras
(contributions from best-selling authors including Jerry B. Jenkins, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt and more)

and the book:


A Novel Idea

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE BOOK:




Best-selling Christian fiction writers have teamed together to contribute articles on the craft of writing. A Novel Idea contains tips on brainstorming ideas and crafting and marketing a novel. It explains what makes a Christian novel “Christian” and offers tips on how to approach tough topics. Contributors include Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Angela Hunt, and many other beloved authors. All proceeds will benefit MAI, an organization that teaches writing internationally to help provide literature that is culturally relevant.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414329946
ISBN-13: 978-1414329949

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter 1: Plot

The Plot Skeleton

Angela Hunt

Imagine, if you will, that you and I are sitting in a room with one hundred other authors. If you were to ask each person present to describe their plotting process, you’d probably get a hundred different answers. Writers’ methods vary according to their personalities, and we are all different. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.

If, however, those one hundred novelists were to pass behind an X-ray machine, you’d discover that we all possess remarkably similar skeletons. Beneath our disguising skin, hair, and clothing, our skeletons are pretty much identical.

In the same way, though writers vary in their methods, good stories are composed of remarkably comparable skeletons. Stories with “good bones” can be found in picture books and novels, plays and films.

Many fine writers tend to carefully outline their plots before they begin the first chapter. On the other hand, some novelists describe themselves as “seat-of-the-pants” writers. But when the story is finished, a seat-of-the-pants novel will (or should!) contain the same elements as a carefully plotted book. Why? Because whether you plan it from the beginning or find it at the end, novels need structure beneath the story.

After mulling several plot designs and boiling them down to their basic elements, I developed what I call the “plot skeleton.” It combines the spontaneity of seat-of-the-pants writing with the discipline of an outline. It requires a writer to know where he’s going, but it leaves room for lots of discovery on the journey.

When I sit down to plan a new book, the first thing I do is sketch my smiling little skeleton.

To illustrate the plot skeleton in this article, I’m going to refer frequently to The Wizard of Oz and a lovely foreign film you may never have seen, Mostly Martha.

The Skull: A Central Character
The skull represents the main character, the protagonist. A lot of beginning novelists have a hard time deciding who the main character is, so settle that question right away. Even in an ensemble cast, one character should be featured more than the others. Your readers want to place themselves into your story world, and it’s helpful if you can give them a sympathetic character to whom they can relate. Ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” That is your protagonist.

This main character should have two needs or problems—one obvious, one hidden—which I represent by two yawning eye sockets.

Here’s a tip: Hidden needs, which usually involve basic human emotions, are often solved or met by the end of the story. They are at the center of the protagonist’s “inner journey,” or character change, while the “outer journey” is concerned with the main events of the plot. Hidden needs often arise from wounds in a character’s past.

Consider The Wizard of Oz. At the beginning of the film, Dorothy needs to save her dog from Miss Gulch, who has arrived to take Toto because he bit her scrawny leg—a very straightforward and obvious problem. Dorothy’s hidden need is depicted but not directly emphasized when she stands by the pigpen and sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Do children live with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em if all is fine with Mom and Dad? No. Though we are not told what happened to Dorothy’s parents, it’s clear that something has splintered her family and Dorothy’s unhappy. Her hidden need, the object of her inner journey, is to find a place to call home.

Mostly Martha opens with the title character lying on her therapist’s couch and talking about all that is required to cook the perfect pigeon. Since she’s in a therapist’s office, we assume she has a problem, and the therapist addresses this directly: “Martha, why are you here?”

“Because,” she answers, “my boss will fire me if I don’t go to therapy.” Ah—obvious problem at work with the boss. Immediately we also know that Martha is high-strung. She is precise and politely controlling in her kitchen. This woman lives for food, but though she assures us in a voice-over that all a cook needs for a perfectly lovely dinner is “fish and sauce,” we see her venture downstairs to ask her new neighbor if he’d like to join her for dinner. He can’t, but we become aware that Martha needs company. She needs love in her life.

Connect the Skull to the Body: Inciting Action
Usually the first few chapters of a novel are involved with the business of establishing the protagonist in a specific time and place, his world, his needs, and his personality. The story doesn’t kick into gear, though, until you move from the skull to the spine, a connection known as the inciting incident.

Writers are often told to begin the story in medias res, or in the middle of the action. This is not the same as the Big Incident. Save the big event for a few chapters in, after you’ve given us some time to know and understand your character’s needs. Begin your story with an obvious problem—some action that shows how your character copes. In the first fifth of the story we learn that Dorothy loves Toto passionately and that Martha is a perfectionist chef. Yes, start in the middle of something active, but hold off on the big event for a while. Let us get to know your character first . . . because we won’t gasp about their dilemma until we know them.

In a picture book, the inciting incident is often signaled by two words: One day . . . Those two words are a natural way to move from setting the stage to the action. As you plot your novel, ask yourself, “One day, what happens to move my main character into the action of the story?” Your answer will be your inciting incident, the key that turns your story engine.

After Dorothy ran away, if she’d made it home to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em without incident, there would have been no story. The inciting incident? When the tornado picks Dorothy up and drops her, with her house, in the land of Oz.

The inciting incident in Mostly Martha is signaled by a ringing telephone. When Martha takes the call, she learns that her sister, who was a single mother to an eight-year-old girl, has been killed in an auto accident.

Think of your favorite stories—how many feature a hero who’s reluctant to enter the special world? Often—but not always—your protagonist doesn’t want to go where the inciting incident is pushing him or her. Obviously, Martha doesn’t want to hear that her sister is dead, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a mother. She takes Lina, her niece, and offers to cook for her (her way of showing love), but Lina wants her mother, not gourmet food.

Even if your protagonist has actively pursued a change, he or she may have moments of doubt as the entrance to the special world looms ahead. When your character retreats or doubts or refuses to leave the ordinary world, another character should step in to provide encouragement, advice, information, or a special tool. This will help your main character overcome those last-minute doubts and establish the next part of the skeleton: the goal.

The End of the Spine: The Goal
At some point after the inciting incident, your character will establish and state a goal. Shortly after stepping out of her transplanted house, Dorothy looks around Oz and wails, “I want to go back to Kansas!” She’s been transported over the rainbow, but she prefers the tried and true to the unfamiliar and strange. In order to go home, she’ll have to visit the wizard in the Emerald City. As she tries to meet an ever-shifting set of subordinate goals (follow the yellow brick road; overcome the poppies; get in to see the wizard; bring back a broomstick), her main goal keeps viewers glued to the screen.

This overriding concern—will she or won’t she make it home?—is known as the dramatic question. The dramatic question in every murder mystery is, Who committed the crime? The dramatic question in nearly every thriller is, Who will win the inevitable showdown between the hero and the villain? Along the way readers will worry about the subgoals (Will the villain kill his hostage? Will the hero figure out the clues?), but the dramatic question keeps them reading until the last page.

Tip: To keep the reader involved, the dramatic question should be directly related to the character’s ultimate goal. Martha finds herself trying to care for a grieving eight-year-old who doesn’t want another mother. So Martha promises to track down the girl’s father, who lives in Italy. She knows only that his name is Giuseppe, but she’s determined to find him.

The Rib Cage: Complications
Even my youngest students understand that a protagonist who accomplishes everything he or she attempts is a colorless character. As another friend of mine is fond of pointing out, as we tackle the mountain of life, it’s the bumps we climb on! If you’re diagramming, sketch at least three curving ribs over your spine. These represent the complications that must arise to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goal.

Why at least three ribs? Because even in the shortest of stories—in a picture book, for instance—three complications work better than two or four. I don’t know why three gives us such a feeling of completion, but it does. Maybe it’s because God is a Trinity and we’re hardwired to appreciate that number.

While a short story will have only three complications, a movie or novel may have hundreds. Complications can range from the mundane—John can’t find a pencil to write down Sarah’s number—to life-shattering. As you write down possible complications that could stand between your character and his ultimate goal, place the more serious problems at the bottom of the list.

The stakes—what your protagonist is risking—should increase in significance as the story progresses. In Mostly Martha, the complications center on this uptight woman’s ability to care for a child. Lina hates her babysitter, so Martha has to take Lina to work with her. But the late hours take their toll, and Lina is often late for school. Furthermore, Lina keeps refusing to eat anything Martha cooks for her.

I asked you to make the ribs curve because any character that runs into complication after complication without any breathing space is going to be a weary character . . . and you’ll weary your reader with this frenetic pace. One of the keys to good pacing is to alternate your plot complications with rewards. Like a pendulum that swings on an arc, let your character relax, if only briefly, between disasters.

Along the spiraling yellow brick road, Dorothy soon reaches an intersection (a complication). Fortunately, a friendly scarecrow is willing to help (a reward). They haven’t gone far before Dorothy becomes hungry (a complication). The scarecrow spots an apple orchard ahead (a reward). These apple trees, however, resent being picked (a complication), but the clever scarecrow taunts them until they begin to throw fruit at the hungry travelers (a reward).

See how it works? Every problem is followed by a reward that matches the seriousness of the complication. Let’s fast-forward to the scene where the balloon takes off without Dorothy. This is a severe complication—so severe it deserves a title of its own: the bleakest moment. This is the final rib in the rib cage, the moment when all hope is lost for your protagonist.

The Thighbone: Send in the Cavalry
At the bleakest moment, your character needs help, but be careful how you deliver it. The ancient Greek playwrights had actors representing the Greek gods literally descend from the structure above to bring their complicated plot knots to a satisfying conclusion. This sort of resolution is frowned upon in modern literature. Called deus ex machina (literally “god from the machine”), this device employs some unexpected and improbable incident to bring victory or success. If you find yourself whipping up a coincidence or a miracle after the bleakest moment, chances are you’ve employed deus ex machina. Back up and try again, please.

Avoid using deus ex machina by sending two types of help: external and internal. Your character obviously needs help from outside; if he could solve the problem alone, he would have done it long before the bleakest moment. Having him conveniently remember something or stumble across a hidden resource smacks of coincidence and will leave your reader feeling resentful and cheated.

So send in the cavalry, but remember that they can’t solve the protagonist’s problem. They can give the protagonist a push in the right direction; they can nudge; they can remind; they can inspire. But they shouldn’t wave a magic wand and make everything all right.

For Dorothy, help comes in the form of Glenda the Good Witch, who reveals a secret: The ruby slippers have the power to carry her back to Kansas. All Dorothy has to do is say, “There’s no place like home”—with feeling, mind you—and she’ll be back on the farm with Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. Dorothy’s problem isn’t resolved, however, until she applies this information internally. At the beginning of the story, she wanted to be anywhere but on the farm. Now she has to affirm that the farm is where she wants to be. Her hidden need—to find a place to call home—has been met.

In Mostly Martha, the bleakest moment arrives with Lina’s father, Giuseppe. He is a good man, and Lina seems to accept him. But after waving good-bye, Martha goes home to an empty apartment and realizes that she is not happy with her controlled, childless life. She goes to Marlo, the Italian chef she has also begun to love, and asks for his help.

The Kneecap and Lower Leg: Make a Decision, Learn a Lesson
Martha realizes that her old life was empty—she needs Lina in her life, and she needs Marlo. So she and Marlo drive from Germany to Italy to fetch Lina and bring her home.

You may be hard-pressed to cite the lesson you learned from the last novel you read, but your protagonist needs to learn something. This lesson is the epiphany, a sudden insight that speaks volumes to your character and brings them to the conclusion of their inner journey.

James Joyce popularized the word epiphany, literally the manifestation of a divine being. (Churches celebrate the festival of Epiphany on January 6 to commemorate the meeting of the Magi and the Christ child.) After receiving help from an outside source, your character should see something—a person, a situation, or an object—in a new light.

When the scarecrow asks why Glinda waited to explain the ruby slippers, the good witch smiles and says, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.” The scarecrow then asks, “What’d you learn, Dorothy?” Without hesitation, Dorothy announces that she’s learned a lesson: “The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard.” She has learned to appreciate her home, so even though she is surrounded by loving friends and an emerald city, Dorothy chooses to return to colorless Kansas. She hugs her friends once more, then grips Toto and clicks her heels.

The Foot: The Resolution
Every story needs the fairy-tale equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” Not every story ends happily, of course, though happy endings are undoubtedly popular. Some protagonists are sadder and wiser after the course of their adventure. But a novel should at least leave the reader with hope.

The resolution to Mostly Martha is portrayed during the closing of the film. As the credits roll, we see Marlo and Martha meeting Lina in Italy; we see Martha in a wedding gown (with her hair down!) and Marlo in a tuxedo; we see a wedding feast with Giuseppe, his family, and Martha’s German friends; we see Martha and Marlo and Lina exploring an abandoned restaurant—clearly, they are going to settle in Italy so Lina can be a part of both families. In the delightful final scene, we see Martha with her therapist again, but this time he has cooked for her and she is advising him.

Many movies end with a simple visual image—we see a couple walking away hand in hand, a mother cradling her long-lost son. That’s all we need to realize that our main character has struggled, learned, and come away a better (or wiser) person. As a writer, you’ll have to use words, but you can paint the same sort of reassuring picture without resorting to “and they lived happily ever after.”

Your story should end with a changed protagonist—he or she has gone through a profound experience and is different for it, hopefully for the better. Your protagonist has completed an outer journey (experienced the major plot events) and an inner journey that address some hurt from the past and result in a changed character.

What Next?
Now that we’ve reached the foot of our story skeleton, we’re finished outlining the basic structure. Take those major points and write them up in paragraph form. Once you’ve outlined your plot and written your synopsis, you’re ready to begin writing scenes. Take a deep breath, glance over your skeleton, and jump in.


Taken from A Novel Idea by ChiLibras. Copyright ©2009 by ChiLibras. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.



Here is my review of this aazingly helpful resource:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to the many authors contributing to this valuable book and their publisher for sending me a copy of "A Novel Idea" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

“A Novel Idea: Best Advice On Writing Inspirational Fiction” is a wonderful compilation of sage guidance from several powerhouses in the Christian fiction writing world. When I first cracked the cover on this book, I was both excited and apprehensive – excited at the possibility of learning how to take my writing to a new level where it would be marketable, and apprehensive about possibly learning that I don’t have the drive or talent to really make any headway writing a book!

What I found in the table of contents alone BLEW ME AWAY! Men and women whose work I’ve come to adore since I began reading Christian fiction have contributed treasured nuggets of proven techniques to help the reader become a better fiction writer. Jerry Jenkins, Sandra Byrd, Camy Tang, Brandilyn Collins, and many more offer advice on writing and getting published. I am still amazed that I have access to the advice of masterful novelists that I can revisit at any time.

Filled with tips from best-selling Christian authors on creating plot, writing dialogue, point of view, and characterization, as well as the behind-the-scenes business aspects of making a living as a novelist, this book is a must read for anyone who really wants to break into this career field.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's Daily Devotional


I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4


04/10/09 Since we are Christians, we will live for eternity in His presence. What do you think our primary “job” in heaven will be? You guessed it. We are going to praise God! We are going to spend an eternity doing this. So, why not start practicing right now? When we get to heaven, there will be nothing to hinder our praise. But now, there are obstacles and hindrances that keep us from feeling thankful or like we want to worship. I believe that is why it is called a “sacrifice of praise”. Rewards await those who are willing to sacrifice this way. A lot of those rewards are experienced right here on earth when we draw so close to the Lord that He knocks down the obstacles that attempt to hinder our worship of Him. What could you praise Him for right now? Do it!

REVIEW: Colonial Christmas Brides

“Colonial Christmas Brides” by Lauralee Bliss and Irene Brand is a charming collection of stories that takes the reader back in time to the days of America’s birth through the fictional accounts of settlers of Jamestown and Williamsburg. These stories are peppered with colonial history, and take me back to the stretch of time when I lived in the Tidewater area of Virginia, and spent every weekend exploring and soaking up the history of this incredibly beautiful place.

***“Jamestown’s Bride Ship” by Irene B. Brand tells the story of Susanna Carter, an Englishwoman who has been sent to live with her Aunt in Jamestown when her Grandmother tires of her refusal to marry wealthy Englishmen who don’t appeal to her. Susanna’s heart is set on a marriage like her parents had – one full of love. Joshua Deane is a colonial plantation owner who has lost his first wife and son in a native uprising. His compassionate gaze lands on a seasick Susanna, and he helps her get to her Aunt’s home, and from that moment, they are never far from each other’s thoughts. Can Susanna embrace life in the new world enough to overcome her homesickness for England? Hope of a life with Joshua seems to be swaying her to stay, but will Joshua be able to get over his anxiety over the loss of his family to love again in this untamed frontier? The story is sweet, but a bit rushed. However, I do love the descriptions of the land and the customs of the past.

****“Angel of Jamestown” is the tale of Paul Dodson, a blacksmith who just lost everything – his home, possessions and business – in a fire. By day, he seeks help from the Governor of the colony who refuses to help anyone. By night, he settles in with the other vagabonds around the fire to keep warm while they sleep. During one confrontation with the Governor’s guards, the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen intercedes with them, saving him from a horrible fate. Who is she? She must be an angel.

****“Raven’s Christmas” by Irene B. Brand tells the story of Raven Maury, an orphan in the care of her uncle. When her uncle is called away, her less scrupulous uncle feels that the time is right to take advantage of Raven and proposes a marriage between her and a much older man in the hopes that she will forfeit her estate to him. Falling in love with a newcomer to Williamsburg will be a test since she cannot wed against her guardian’s wishes unless she gives up the inheritance. Will they be able to wait the five years necessary for Raven to have her inheritance? Or will she give up her home for love?

****“Broken Hearts” is the story of a young widow whose husband was murdered by Tories on his way home from buying his young daughter a gift. Lauralee Bliss’ tale surrounds the recovery of the head of the doll that was to be Kate’s present and her mother’s idea to have a body made for the doll to be a final gift from the girl’s deceased father. When Mary brings the doll head to town and shows up at the carpentry shop, she isn’t greeted as she expected. But what develops between her and the carpenter makes sparks fly until Mary learns of John’s link to her husband’s death. Can their young, budding romance survive?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Today's Daily Devotional


He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8

04/08/09 Who will keep you strong to the end? God will keep you strong to the end. He will empower you to do things you never imagined. Does the verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” ring a bell? How long will He give you strength? To the end. The end of what? Your life. We are given such a limited time to participate in His plan for mankind. And He has prepared specific tasks for us to do to fulfill that plan. He knows that we cannot do it on our own, and He is prepared to give us the strength to do whatever it is He has for us. But to accept His strength, we must admit our weakness, our inability to do things on our own. Can you do that? Everyday? And allow the King of the Universe to fill you with the same power that parted the Red Sea, dropped manna in the desert, brought water from a rock, healed the sick, raised the dead and promised you a place in heaven…

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Today's Daily Devotional


Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Psalm 150:1-2


04/07/09 How about on just plain blah days? It’s easy to praise God when things are going well. And you can work with Him on being able to praise Him when He’s the only thing left standing in your world. But what about praising God on an average Tuesday? You get up, eat, shower, dress, go to work, do your job, eat lunch, do your job some more, drive home, make dinner, eat dinner, hold your eyes open until 10 o’clock-ish, wash your face, brush your teeth, floss, go to bed, repeat, repeat, repeat. On days like this, when it is easy to forget about God, we must be deliberate about praising Him. Sing to the Lord. Verbalize your thanks for things you normally take for granted. Look for His activity where you are – we should all be doing this, anyway. Perhaps these things will get us into the habit of praising Him. He deserves no less!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fit For My King by Sheri Rose Shepherd


Discover the best health and weight-loss secrets found in God's Word!

In this 30 day journey, the bestselling author of His Princess shares how God healed her from an eating disorder, helped her conquer chronic fatigue, and gave her the strength and wisdom to lose over sixty pounds and keep it off. Today, at nearly 50 years old, Sheri Rose is healthy and free. More than a half a million women have been set free through this life changing teaching.

You can win this diet war once and for all! Sheri Rose Shepherd walks through each day with you, supporting you with 30 days of life changing devotions, heartwarming stories, creative cooking, and a daily dose of Scripture to keep you on track. The treasures of truth found in these pages will transform the way you see yourself forever.

It's time to get your girlfriends together and become the best version of you! God loves you and will be with you every step of the way.


Here is my review of this wonderfully encouraging book:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Sheri Rose Shepherd and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Fit For My King" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

“Fit For My King” by Sheri Rose Shepherd is not your run-of-the-mill diet book. This is a 30-day diet plan and a devotional designed to change the way you think about food and how to see yourself as God does through saturation in His Word. This wonderful book is appropriately loaded with scripture to bathe your mind. It is packed with practical wisdom and wit. And the back of this book is filled with lots of yummy-sounding recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and beverages.

I’m usually a bit apprehensive about Christian dieting and health books because I’ve read books that promote products that you can only buy through the author’s website. Although the recipes do talk about using specific products, it seems that the reader will be able to find the ingredients or make intelligent substitutions for some items. I definitely look forward to making some of these dishes.



“Available November 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana Tricia Goyer & Ocieanna Fleiss

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana

Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Her book Night Song won Book of the Year from ACFW in the Long Historical Fiction category. Her book Life Interrupted: The Scoop On Being a Young Mom was a Gold Medallion Finalist. Tricia has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Visit the author's website.



Ocieanna Fleissis a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer's historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. Connect with Ocieanna on Facebook!



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935416294
ISBN-13: 978-1935416296

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”



Here is my review of this beautiful story:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Tricia Goyer & Ocieanna Fleiss and their publisher for sending me a copy of "Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss combine their writing talents beautifully in their collaborative effort, “Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana”. This touching story of an orphan who found her life’s purpose in caring for others like herself by working in a New York orphanage is a triumph. Julia Cavanaugh is a young woman who has carved a comfortable place for herself caring for young orphan girls until the headmistress of the orphanage she calls home becomes engaged. The orphanage sold, and the children packed, Julia takes her final assignment to deliver the children safely to new families in the West on the infamous Christian Aid Society Orphan Train. Afterward, she plans to return to New York and her former employer, but is shocked to learn that she’s been sent West herself – as a mail-order bride.

I love fiction books that teach me something. And this one certainly did. This novel dispels myths of the West being a bustling metropolis constantly active with gunfights, stampedes and other attractions. These towns could be lonely places, and people needed people or they needed to resign themselves to being alone. Since God created us for fellowship (with Himself and others), we all need people sometimes. I learned a valuable lesson as Julia, though upset with her circumstances, was able to see that her former employer meant well by sending her West to be a stranger’s wife. Personally, I was just angry for Julia. I definitely need to ask the Lord to help me be more gracious to others.

The friendships that develop and the love that grows in this book are absolutely lifelike. Although the back cover calls this novel fiction, I am thoroughly convinced that this story had to be factual for someone because this town, its characters and the many life lessons contained within the pages of this beautiful, gripping novel breathe so deeply.

Today's Daily Devotional


The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

04/20/09 Heavenly Father, I come to You in the name of Your wonderful Son, Jesus, to ask that You would bless the people reading this right now. Keep them within Your perfect will, Lord. Watch over them because You love them. Manifest that love to them in tangible ways. Quicken the Holy Spirit within them to draw them ever nearer to You each day. Give them Your peace that flows like a river and surpasses all human understanding. Make each one into the person that You created them to be. Amen.

Friday, November 20, 2009

On The Mindless Menace of Violence by Robert F. Kennedy

Today, to commemorate the birthday of Robert F. Kennedy, I am posting a speech given by the man. At the end of the movie "Bobby", there is a wonderful speech by RFK that we hear as the credits roll. Here is that speech. As poignant today as is was when originally written and orated over 40 years ago...



This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.



It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours. Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.



Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.



"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs." Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire. Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others.



Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them. Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul. For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter. This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.



I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered. We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.



For all this, there are no final answers. Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence. We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land.



Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can. Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

Bible Study: As It Was In The Beginning - Genesis - Chapter 3


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Genesis. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Genesis Chapter 3. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



3 – “It wasn’t the apple in the tree that was the problem. It was the pear (pair) on the ground.” (Tony Evans – A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place – Beth Moore)

3:1 – serpent – as a creature, Adam and Eve should have ruled over him (see 1:28), but they allowed him to rule over them!

the words for “crafty” and “naked” are almost the same. (NIVSB) crafty – arum – means smooth. It’s a play on the word “naked” from 2:24-25. Together, these verses say, “the man’s skin was smooth and the serpent’s tongue was smooth.” (A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place – Beth Moore)

the serpent was craftier than the wild animals God created – Did God not create the serpent? Did God create the serpent as a domestic animal? Were other wild animals crafty, I wonder?

The serpent spoke – did the other animals in the garden speak? This would seem likely since Eve wasn’t scared out of her mind that the serpent was speaking to her!

3:2 – know God’s Word so you won’t be fooled. Also, don’t talk to strangers. (Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

3:3 – Eve added to God’s Word, “and you must not touch it.” (Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

3:1-5 – DO NOT debate with Satan! (Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

3:6 – “good for food…pleasing to the eye…desirable for gaining wisdom” – Three aspects of temptation. See Luke 4:3, 5, 9; 1 John 2:16. (NIVSB)

Adam was with Eve at this time. He could have stopped her.

3:8 – God immediately sought them. He’s sought us ever since.

3:10 – “sin always leads to guilt, shame, anger, and alienation.” (Explore the Bible, Winter 2007-2008, Genesis 1-27)

3:12-13 – they both blamed someone else! AVOID BLAMING. (Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

3:13 – God asks Eve what she has done. He isn’t accusing. He’s giving her an opportunity to confess.

3:14-15 – 1st prophecy of coming savior.

3:15 – Jesus is her offspring.

3:20 – Adam named Eve AFTER the fall. Her name shows his faith.

3:21 – 1st sacrifice to cover sin – skin garments – an animal was slaughtered.

3:22 – God is speaking to the Son and the Holy Spirit.

3:23-24 – 1st prison.



What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?

Today's Daily Devotional


“Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7:12


04/21/09 It was interesting to study this verse today. I learned that the Greek word used for thanks is “eucaristia”. It means thankfulness. And the Greek resembles the Catholic term for the communion bread, which is called the eucharist. I think it’s sweet that the Greek word for thanks should be used for the remembrance of Christ’s body when we celebrate communion. The Greek word for honor is “time”, which is the value one has by reason of rank and state of office which he holds, deference, reverence. There is no higher rank than the King of the Universe! He deserves the highest praise! How much value do you place on the Lord? Would others know that based on how you act? What could you do to be sure that others are aware of how highly you value God?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Today's Daily Devotional


Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7


04/01/09 By withholding forgiveness from those who have hurt you, you hurt yourself. The increase in anxiety and bitterness alone is a horrible thing to inflict upon yourself. If you don’t like it when others hurt you, why do you hurt you? I’m not sure, but I am guilty of this, too. I can hold a grudge with very little effort. But in this verse, God commands us to give our anxiety to Him. Let Him deal with our issues – with ourselves and others. Let Him be the judge since He alone has the right to do so! Let go and let God. We’ve all heard the phrase. Now, we need to put it into practice. Release yourself from the aggravation of keeping track of others’ wrongs. Allow God to lavish you with His love.

REVIEW: Kona With Jonah by Sandra Glahn

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Sandra Glahn and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Kona With Jonah" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

Sandra Glahn’s “Kona With Jonah” is an incredibly fun and fascinating Bible study in her Coffee Cup Bible Study series. In this four-week study, we travel with the disobedient Old Testament prophet, Jonah for some valuable life lessons in forgiveness. So don’t let the size of this study or its “too cute” cover fool you. It is absolutely loaded with Biblical lessons that are pertinent and extremely valuable to us today. The historical perspective that Sandra Glahn adds to these Bible studies is incredibly meaty and brings the scriptures to more colorful life and depth.

This is the second study in this series that I’ve done. I will DEFINITELY be on the lookout for Sandra Glahn’s other studies. They are truly life-changing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So You Want To Be A Work-At-Home Mom: A Christian's Guide To Starting a Home-Based Business by Jill Hart and Diana Ennen

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


So You Want To Be A Work-At-Home Mom: A Christian's Guide To Starting a Home-Based Business

Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (August 15, 2009)

***Special thanks to Jill Hart for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORs:



Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com. Jill is a co-author of the upcoming book So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom (Beacon Hill, Sept. 2009). Jill welcomes work-at-home questions at http://AskJill.cwahm.com/.


Visit the author's website.



Diana Ennen is the President of Virtual Word Publishing. Diana has worked from home for over 25 years and is passionate about PR, Publicity and Marketing & helping others Start their Own Virtual Assistant Business. Follow Diana on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dianaennen/.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (August 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0834124661
ISBN-13: 978-0834124660

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Making the Choice to Stay Home


Today’s moms are passionate women who want both careers and families without having to give up precious time with their children. They’re searching for ways to have it all, and they’re finding that it’s possible to work from home and at the same time balance a family.


It may sound like a dream, but it’s not. It does start with a dream, though.


A few fortunate women fall into a job or business that allows them to work at home, but it isn’t that easy for most women. To find a way to stay at home while still contributing to their family financially is something that many women long for but few know how to achieve. We hope to make it easier for you.


Being Content at Home


You might have expected us to immediately launch into a chapter about how wonderful life can be if you work at home. However, with the authors having worked from home many years, we realized that you first need to be content in your home life to make it work. The focus of your mind is where true happiness lies. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).


Before beginning your search for a career that will allow you to work from home, it’s important to remember that God has put you where you are for a reason. It may be for a season of your life, or it could possibly be long-term. Either way, trust that God will provide what’s best for you, and that may look a little different than what you think is best.


Being a mom and working outside the home can be incredibly challenging. Coordinating schedules, running kids to and fro, and being so tired by evening that you don’t have the energy to enjoy your kids take their toll. However, being a work-at-home mom every day, all day, presents its own unique challenges. It can become monotonous, even tedious. The kids, the house, the responsibilities—the list goes on and on. In either case, it can feel downright impossible to have an attitude of gratitude. The road can be hard, but in the end, your life will be less stressful and more satisfying if you can overcome discontentment. Following are some ideas for building contentment.


Be Grateful


One of the hardest attitudes to achieve is that of gratefulness. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives that happen each day. However, it’s important to be grateful for each and every blessing that God gives.


Make a list of things in your life that you’re grateful for. You can start your list with your family and the opportunity to work from home, and continue from there. Take the time to thank God for each of the things on your list. As you begin to develop a grateful attitude, you’ll begin to notice more and more things each day you can add to your list.


Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (1 Timothy 6:6-8).


Give Back


Changing your attitude is the first step to finding contentment. Reaching out and helping others is a proven way to change your attitude. When you extend help and graciousness to others, it can’t help but benefit you as well.


Find someone who needs a friend, and make a conscious effort to reach out to him or her every week or every month. Or find a ministry that you admire, and get involved. You’ll be surprised what investing something of yourself in others will do for your attitude. If you’re running a business from home, you may be able to bless others with a product they can’t afford or a special discount that will brighten their day. Maybe you can mentor someone. Be careful, though, that you don’t get so involved in helping others that you neglect your own business.


Choose to Accept Your Situation

A key component of contentment is acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean you don’t strive to better your life. It simply means that you make peace with where you are in life at this time.


There will always be more to attain—more money, more prestige. If you spend your life focused on what you don’t have or what you haven’t attained in life, you’ll be sad indeed. Celebrate each and every success, no matter how big or how small.


Examine your life and see all that is good in it. Each good thing is a gift from God. Accept that He is with you at this point in time. He’ll be with you in every success and every setback. Nothing you do will make Him love you more, and there’s nothing you can do that will make Him love you less.


We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).


Focus on Christ


This may sound like a cliché, but it’s easy to allow focus to move from the Lord to self. When moms work at home, the needs of family, business, and self can sometimes be all-consuming, leaving little time to meet spiritual needs. But focusing on your relationship with the Lord is what should come first. If your relationship with Christ is weak, all other relationships will be affected.


Here are practices that will help keep you focused on Him:


1. Read your Bible every day. Make the commitment to read at least one verse every day. The Book of Proverbs is a good place to start, or start with verses from the Gospel of John for a close look at the life of Christ. As you progress to reading more each day, consider purchasing a Bible that will guide you through reading the whole Bible in a year. There are also versions available that will lead you through the Bible in ninety days.


Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).


2. Cultivate an active prayer life. You can pray anytime and anywhere—when you’re driving, putting on your makeup, cooking, even as you drift off to sleep at night. Take advantage of these precious moments to spend them with your Heavenly Father.


Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).


3. Meditate on the Word of God. When you find a verse or verses that have deep meaning for you, allow your mind to dwell on them, and let them soak into your spirit. A good starting point might be Romans 8:38-39—“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Make note of the verses you’ve chosen, and jot down thoughts or ideas that they bring to mind. Keep your mind focused on Him, and be in prayer that He will open your eyes to what He would have you learn from the verses.


4. Wait. Contentment will not be attained overnight. Feelings of discontentment will push their way in. When they do, look through your life to bring to mind the ways God has changed you, the things He’s done to bring you closer to an attitude of contentment. Contentment comes in His timing, so allow Him the time to work in your life.


Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him

(Psalm 37:7).


If the temptation to wallow in discontentment continues to present itself, find someone who will hold you accountable—someone you can trust to be kind but firm who will speak the truth to you lovingly.


When you’re feeling dissatisfied or frustrated, give your accountability partner a call, and be honest about your feelings. Every mom gets frustrated; you’re certainly not alone. When you find someone you can talk with honestly, it will be an excellent help in overcoming negative thoughts and feelings. Accountability partners know each other on a very real and honest level and still accept and love each other. This allows both of you the opportunity to be supported as well as supportive.


Contentment may seem elusive, but with prayerful deliberation it can be achieved and will bring you more joy and peace than you can imagine. Start working toward an attitude of contentment today.


When your mind and heart are in a good place, it’s time to begin thinking about the choices that are available to you. Can you work from home? Should you work at home? And how in the world do you begin your search for success?


Setting Priorities in Business and at Home


Working from home, particularly if you’re running your own business, is a time-consuming endeavor—especially for moms. You’re responsible not only for the success of the business but for your family as well. You must be self-reliant, self-motivated, and self-disciplined in order to attain success in both areas.


When you work at home, it’s easy to let phone calls, e-mail, and paperwork keep you tied down and cause you to feel you don’t have time to take a break or choose to spend top-quality time with your family. Maybe you’ve noticed that you spend more time in front of your computer or on the phone than you expected to when you made the decision to work at home. Maybe you see your kids acting up and trying to get your attention. Maybe the work-at-home dream you envisioned isn’t happening.


You started out with noble intentions, but now the excitement of success in your business has caused you to lose sight of the primary reason you chose this path. It happens to many of us who work at home, so don’t worry. Help is on the way.


She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard (Proverbs 31:16).


Here are five tips for setting priorities in your life and business:


First, be honest. You probably didn’t start your work-at-home career to climb the corporate ladder. Spend some time in prayer, and ask the Lord to show you the things you need to change.


Take a few minutes to answer the following questions about how you’ve been handling the time commitment of owning a business.


• Are you spending too much time on the phone with clients?


• Do you think about business to the point that you’re distracted when you’re doing family activities?


• Is television getting more top-quality time with your children than you are?


• Do you snap at your children because of the stresses of your business?


Second, make a list. Sit down and write out a list of things you see that you would like to change. This can be a list of tasks you can do differently, such as limiting the time you spend on your business or ways you can reduce stress so you can deal kindly with your family.


Third, log your time. Buy a notebook or create a spreadsheet to log the time you spend on business. Make a column for each day across the top and a row of half-hour increments down the side. Time yourself every time you sit down at your desk by writing “in” in the box that corresponds to the time and day. Every time you leave your desk or complete a task, write “out” in the appropriate box.


At the end of the week, total up the hours you’ve spent each day on business tasks. Take special note of how much time you spend on e-mail and things that aren’t billable. Are you surprised, or is it about where you thought it would be? This can be a real eye-opener and show you in black and white if your priorities have gotten off track.


Fourth, take a break. If you’re in shock after examining your time log, it’s time to take a break. If you normally work during the weekend, make it a point to take this weekend off. Shut down your e-mail, turn off the ringer on your business phone, and shut the door to your office.


Plan ahead and schedule your time. Prioritize your workload, and have the work that will require the most effort and concentration scheduled for your peak time. Try not to get sidetracked; stay on task and focus on what you need to do. For example, you’ll be amazed by how much more you can accomplish by changing the way you handle e-mail. If you answer it only at scheduled times, you’ll find you have more time to do the tasks at hand.


Reevaluate the ways you’re spending your time. Try to plan when you can work on your business without losing time with your children. If your children are in school, make it a point to stop working when they get home. If your children are still small, try to plan your time accordingly. Perhaps a babysitter for several hours or days a week is necessary. Another possibility would be to have a grandparent or neighbor watch them once or twice a week to allow you time to work without interruptions.


Fifth, plan an activity. Now that you’re ready to make a change in your routine, why not plan an activity once a week? This can be an outing with your children or something simple, like setting aside time to make cookies together. You’ll notice that when you plan for these times, they actually happen.


If possible, find another work-at-home mom, and hold one another accountable to keep to your new schedules. Make a weekly play date for your children to spend time together. You and your friend can talk business if necessary, or you may decide to make it a “no business talk allowed” time.


Remember that the years you can work at home and have time with your children are a gift; your business is a gift also. How that will work for you and your family will take a little time to determine and will be different for each family. Take the time to find what works for you, and set your schedule accordingly. Reevaluate your priorities every few months to make sure that you’re making the best use of your time. The rewards will be well worth it. Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him (Psalm 127:3).

So You Want to be a Work-at-Home Mom, by Jill Hart and Diana Ennen © 2009 by Jill Hart, Diana Ennen, and Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO. Used by permission of Publisher. All rights reserved. Visit http://www.beaconhillbooks.com/to purchase this title.

I would have loved to review this book for you, but I never received a copy.