Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An Amazing Olive Branch



An intriguing topic came up recently. A fun puzzle of sorts.

The olive tree produces a fruit that is eaten straight off the tree. It is also squished into a fine olive oil.

Olive trees grow in Italy (I know because I saw them on my visit there.) They also grow in the middle east and a gazillion other places.

Now, step into a time machine, and travel back to Noah's time.

The rains are falling from the heavens in torrents. The storm is so bad it floods the entire planet.







Days pass. Eight people are hiding in a boat floating in rising water. They feed animals. Eat meals. Talk. Listen to the storm. 

Then one day, to test if there is dry land to place their put feet, Noah sends out a bird. The bird flies back to him. There is no place for the bird to land. Noah waits then repeats the test two more times. The third time the bird comes back with

Wait for it


An olive branch.

How is it that an olive tree survived the flood?  A time when salt and fresh water mixed together. 

Could it be that God offered this olive branch to Noah and his family and all the people who would be born after him?

Peace.

A sign that Noah and his family could safely come out of the boat.

Olive oil was a primary tool used to make bread and cook foods. It was extremely valuable. So much so, the Bible tells about a widow who didn't have money to pay her bills and would lose her sons. She was told by the prophet to borrow pans from all her neighbors then fill them with the meager oil remaining in her container. She pour and poured, filling every pan. She had so much oil she was able to pay all her bills and have food for herself and her sons.

Olive and it's oil appears many times in the Bible

A story of peace. A gift from a God who loves us.

This post has been brought to you by the one word-Peace.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Leaping off a Cliff to Avoid God--Not Recommended



Fay Lamb is my guest today. She fought against the very career that would bring her happiness until one day after her grandmother passed away.


Not Recommended: Flinging Yourself Off a Cliff 
to Avoid God's Will


God does work in mysterious ways, but one secret He has never kept from me is His plan for me to write for Him. Well, let me rephrase that…I’ve never doubted I would write. Even when I wanted to throw it all away, I understood that words were in my blood and characters were my best friends. And then one day following the loss of maybe the dearest person in my life—my grandmother, God whispered in my ear and said, “You will write for Me.”

I hadn’t been living a life that would make Grandma proud, and I surely wasn’t glorying God with the choices I’d made and even those I would make afterward. My life was filled with sorrow, pain, and grief, but God had a purpose for me, no matter how much I railed against it. And I knew it.

God didn’t use a big fish to swallow me whole and spew me out. Nothing that simple. Instead, He allowed me to rush headlong toward a high cliff and to plunge over it. But God often provides a way out of the dilemmas in which we find ourselves. I’m convinced the limb sticking out from the side of the rock face was there only so that I’d have to hold on and gaze upward to see the hem of Christ’s garment. I hung there for a while, wondering how I could both cling to the limb and take hold of the safety Christ afforded.

Faith, though, required my release of what I considered my safe hold in order to grasp the hem of my dear Savior’s garment. He pulled me up, placed me on solid ground, and began to walk away from the cliff with me securely tucked in His loving arms. I didn’t look back, and I surrendered my words to Him.

However, deciding to write for the Lord doesn’t mean the journey became an easy one. I struggled, wondering if I’d ever see publication, and why God would call me to write for Him.

For so long, I was stuck on the thought that I’d never really done anything, never been anywhere, and what could I truly write about that would be interesting to anyone.

Writers who declare, “Write about what you know” weren’t being flippant. The advice runs deep into the core of why Christian fiction authors write. You have to look beyond the surface of those words. I did, and God led me to the perfect scripture that put it all into perspective for me.

Romans 8:28 says, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

What things work together for good? All things? Do you mean, Lord, that my self-inflicted wounds, my losses, my grief, my happiness, my triumphs and my failures…All those things that I know about, those are what you want me to share?

Yes. To write what I know as a Christian writer is to offer balm for a hurting world—both those who know Christ and those who do not. In the process, too, God covers my wounds with his healing power.

I don’t recommend you try to sail away from God in stormy seas or fling yourself off a cliff to avoid His will for your life. Writers, more than most, cannot escape their calling. Words ring in our ears. Characters play in our minds. Accept the fact that God has placed them there. And write about all the things that God has allowed you to experience…the good and the bad and know that God has always purposed in your life for all things to work for good—for you and for others that your life—your words—may touch.



To contact Fay:

Website: www.faylamb.com
  

Thank you Fay for joining us this weekend!


This post has been brought to you by the one-word: NoEscapingGod

Reader, What event/s have deepened your faith in your journey? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Splashing the World With Love


Remember the school Valentines Day party? Your mom bought Valentine cards she thought you'd like. She gave you something to write with and had you print the names of your classmates on the cards. The next day, the cards were delivered to homemade boxes sitting on each students' desk. The only part we as kids really cared about was the treats.

As an adult, Valentines Day takes on a different light.

Summer in Traverse City, photo by Mary Vee

Hubby sat at the dining room table yesterday and said, "How would you like to go to Traverse City on Tuesday?" 

Well, well, the man has learned to speak my love language: Time with him. Travel. Nature. Boats, water, sand dunes, groves, vines, light houses, yeah. God's creation. Score ten for hubby.

So while you are reading this post, I will be  out. At the lake, in the woods, on the sand dunes. But....

I have some idea starters for your Valentines Day. 

One friend said she has a birthday on Valentines, which make this an extra special day for her. She sends out Valentines to everyone she can think of, like most people do for Christmas. Her thought: Everyone should know they are thought of and cared about on Valentines. Hmmm. A good adaptation of the Elementary School Valentines celebration. 

I imagined how I would feel if my snail mailbox had a ton of valentines cards. Hallmark, brace for big sales, because I think this is an amazing idea. 

See the problem is, we usually wait for someone to think of us on Valentines. We girls expect our man, and even if they don't admit it, guys expect their woman to do or give something special. Show they were thought of and cared about on Valentines. My friend's idea takes the focus off of us and puts it on to others.

It may be late to blitz the planet with snail mail Valentines cards, but...

Ooo Here is an idea: Handing out Valentines cards along with a sandwich to a homeless person. Or.. my creative juices are moving, are yours?

Who could you real quick fire off a Valentines card to? Don't think mushy. Think care, concern, value, God's creature. A neighbor? A church family? A shut in?

Ooo so if you want to add your own fun, you could make a Valentines card for your pet and leave them a treat. 

Yah, know this could be a really fun day....and it wouldn't take any deco...little planning. BUT YAH GOTTA DO IT NOW!

And if you're reading this on Wednesday or Thursday, it's never to late to tell someone they are important, cared about, have value, and God loves them.

Now, here is one last idea. Author Courtney Walsh somehow got her hubby to help her make this incredible Valentines short You Tube Video. Want a laugh, an aww, a "oh that's sweet"? This is for you.





You are important. You have value. God loves you so much.
Happy Valentines
from
Mary Vee



Friday, February 10, 2017

Tackling Social Issues Through Stories


Writing about social issues meets an important need. We see how characters deal with bullying, addictions, abuse, and other issues in the safety of our home. We garner ideas to tuck away. God forbid any of you should face some of these issues. Whether you do or someone you know has, today's post is one to tuck away.

Today's guest is an author who has plunged into this field.



Tackling Social Issues Through Stories

In the past few years my faith has deepened. Actually it has grown quite a bit through the years I've written for the Christian market.

God led me to write inspirational stories in the late 1990s.

At first I ignored the nudge, but as the Lord so often does, he kept nudging me until I took up the challenge. And of course, he was so right. I found my writing home in the Christian market.

Several times in the past few years I've seen God actively working in my life. First, he gave me a story I had to tell. It became the first book in The Men of the Texas Rangers Series. The story is about human trafficking, and I knew it would be a difficult sale, but I didn't give up hope because there was someone out there who needed to read it.

I have felt that way about all my books in The Men of the Texas Ranger Series. The second book, Shattered Silence, is about bullying. He has given me passion about certain social issues and the desire to tackle them in a story.

When I ran for the president of American Christian Fiction Writers, I did because He wanted me to run. I did out of obedience, not really expecting to win. I had books contracted and I was already serving on the board as Volunteer Officer. I didn't envision myself as the president. I hated getting up in front of large crowds and giving a speech. But I won, and He assured me He would help me with giving the speeches. And He did. He is amazing.

My most recent journey with the Lord has me working on giving control over to Him. For so many years I tried to do everything by myself. I loved the Lord, but I didn't need Him. Or so I thought.

What has come home to me is that I can't do it alone anymore. That I can't do it without the Lord. Even knowing that, it has still been hard to give everything to Him. Not to worry. Not to forge ahead without considering what He wants me to do. As I've told people, I'm a work in progress, but with the Lord on my side, I can't go wrong.


For more information about Margaret go to her website:  www.margaretdaley.com



Thank you Margaret for joining us this weekend!

Reader, As Margaret said, we can't go these issues alone. We've all come across someone suffering from one of these issues. Perhaps they need a comforting word, and listening ear, a story. Perhaps the person is you. What issues can I pray for you? I have a listening ear, and God has answers. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Unawares


Spring break is soon approaching. 

Hard to believe on these chilly days of winter, but it is.

Teens, men, women, and families head for the beach and snatch as many sun rays as they can before heading back to their snowy homes.



Like everyday life, even the most prepared can be caught unaware.




A few weeks ago a man and his wife visited a Californian beach. They were excited to swim in the Pacific ocean.

The waves roared, stirred by the wind. A soft blue sky draped the heavens above. Birds flew overhead. Sand squeezed between their toes. The water invited them to swim. 

The man and women set up their beach chairs. She sat down and took his towel. He walked to the water's edge allowing the water to cover first his toes then his legs. He had long been a good swimmer and couldn't wait to dip his head under the salty water. 

He prepared his goggles and fit them snug against his eyes then walked deeper. He stood in five feet water enjoying the waves rocking against his body. He looked to the shore and waved to his wife who had looked up from her book.

Suddenly a large wave struck him from behind. It slammed into his head and pulled his feet out from under him. His goggles flew off his face as he tumbled around and around in the wave. 

Fright consumed him. He moved his arms and tried to right himself in the water but couldn't. In his panic he prayed.

He thought for sure he would see God at any moment. 

Then, just as fast as it sucked him into the water, the wave returned him to the shore.  

This happened only three weeks ago to my Sunday School teacher. 

The power of the experience came through his telling of what happened.


Just as the wave came upon him, an experienced swimmer, and caught him unawares, so also can temptation or trials.

So this was his point to our class:

At any and every moment, we must keep our eyes on God. Our protector. So many times we don't see when Satan is ready to attack us. God is ready and willing to help us through temptations and trials if we only call on Him.





Each reader, including myself will have a unique takeaway from this post. May God show you what is to be yours.

This post has been brought to you by the one word-Unawares


Friday, February 3, 2017

The Very Real Story






Today I welcome my friend, an accomplished author who is giving, gracious, and gifted with humor: Janice Hanna Thompson. 


The Very Real Story

As a child, I instinctively knew how to entertain folks with my antics and my exaggeration. From the time I could offer a curtsy or a bow (anticipating that others would applaud my efforts) my mother labeled me a “ham.” She wasn’t far off in her description. I ended up going into theater, starting as an actress and eventually directing.

One thing served as the glue in all of my endeavors: story.

Story fueled me as a youngster while I persistently scoured the shelves at our local library for something I hadn’t already read. Story intoxicated me as I picked up the pen and crafted my first novel in sixth grade. Story propelled me as I took on roles in high school plays, pouring heart and soul into each performance.

Story lit a fire in me during my college years and pacified me when I had to leave school after my sophomore year. Story nipped at my heels in my early twenties when my father asked me to help him pen a screenplay—Liar’s Moon—which was eventually made into a movie. Story made a playwright out of me in my middle years, when the arts academy where I taught needed performance materials.

Story—specifically, Christian fiction—grabbed hold of my heart, twisting and turning, when I neared my empty nest years. At this time, I truly “felt the call” to publish my first novel. It took years to accomplish this feat, but God eventually opened a door. From that day until now, I’ve been blessed to publish over eighty books for the Christian market—mostly light-hearted romances, loaded with humorous elements. 

I’m probably best known for my quirky Weddings by Bella series, but I’ve also been given the opportunity to write stories like my latest—Queen of the Waves—an intense drama set aboard the Titanic. Though I’m a comedian at heart, I enjoy writing the serious stuff too, because it challenges me as a writer and offers me the opportunity to further develop my skills.

No matter what I write—comedy, drama, devotions, plays or skits—I will remain a storyteller at heart. Writing for the Christian market is perfect for me, because I have the opportunity to incorporate the greatest story ever told into each of my tales. And hasn’t story always been the tool that God has used to touch the hearts of His people?

Consider. . .The Prodigal Son. The Lost Coin. The 99 Sheep. All stories, told by the Master Storyteller, intended to teach, to nudge, to uplift, and to provoke. I pray that my stories will compel people to search out the Ultimate Author and to read His bestseller. (Talk about a great book!) 

These days, as I look back on the stories I’ve published, the plays I’ve written, the articles I’ve penned, I see them all as a whole—part of a bigger story. My story. My legacy. Something I leave behind, not just for my children and grandchildren, but my readers, as well. I hope they see a little of my story in every novel, in every character, in every setting.

Beyond that, however, I pray they see the very real story of a God who loves them so much that He was willing to split heaven wide open to send the ultimate hero into this world to rescue, redeem and revive.

In short, I will cherish every moment, pen in hand, ready for whatever tales—fun, serious, or otherwise—the Lord lays on my heart.  

So, what about you? What’s your story? I pray it’s one filled with joy, peace, and blessing. . .and lots of laughter. 

Connect with Janice:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Coffee Shop has Taken over the Golf Course



Who knew what all could happen at a coffee shop?

Is it weird that two totally unrelated events came to my attention, having basically nothing to do with coffee, took place at a coffee shop?

The first I just sorta blew off, but for some reason it stuck in my head revving up the importance of the second.

A friend met a group at a coffee shop. They talked, chatted, conducted business, shared ideas, and went forth armed to take care of whatever they talked about. After the meeting, my friend stayed and wrote some of her story.

While she was there, another group formed around tables across from her. This was a class on serving beer. My friend joked she now knew the rules and customs for serving beer.

Okay. 

Not too interesting other than the coffee shop served as a meeting place for a group of writers, a place for a writer to work, and a place to learn the proper way to serve beer.

THEN

A guest speaker spoke at my church. He is a missionary who oversees, answers questions, meets needs, coordinates the missionaries in all of Asia for his mission. He lives in Australia but spends time in places like Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, etc. 

Two places that he spoke about caught my attention. First, and a bit off topic but worth sharing, was the work in Cambodia. There is a city where Cambodian descendants who had grown up in America, committed crimes, and were deported now live. These men were accustomed to the American life style since they basically lived their lives there. 

Missionaries formed a church in this city to help these men move forward with their lives. To learn their Cambodian culture and learn there is a God who loves them. This I found to be a unique idea.

The second place he talked about that caught my attention was a coffee shop in Japan. A few missionaries opened a coffee shop. While workers took orders, a few sat at a table and held a Bible study. At a nearby table, a woman sat drinking her coffee. She could hear the men. After a short time she asked if she could join them. She was welcomed and after the study she asked if they had a church she could go to. 

The church was new, barely a room with only a few people. I have a feeling it won't be small long.

Once again, missionaries had an idea that met the needs/wants of the people in the area where they served.

All kinds of meetings use to be held at golf courses...today, the coffee shop offers a cozy place to sit, chat, and talk and share...and even get to know the God who loves. This is an idea we could do. Coffee shops are a nice place to meet. And consider this...there are people close to your table who can hear you. So...use the moment!!

Do you go to coffee shops? Take a friend, have a conversation about God, and see who listens around you.


This post has been brought to you by the one-word: Easy-Way-To-Share

Friday, January 27, 2017

The People Who Keep Us On Our Toes

Sometimes we feel alone. We may have a job in a cubical, are a work at home person, a traveler, even a cashier, server, or basically any job can have that alone feeling to it.

Potential friends cross our path more than we realize.

Author Keli Gwyn sensed this problem as well. Here is how she tackled the issue:

When New Friends Cross Our Paths

The stereotypical writer sits at a keyboard, alone for hours on end with no one but a cast of characters for company. When I embarked on my writing journey nearly nine years ago, that description fit. I wrote in virtual isolation for two years. Although I had the support of my family and local friends, I knew no other writers.

I have a feeling musicians, artists, cooks, and others do the same.

And then the Lord began showering me with even more blessings.

How did it happen?

He brought some awesome people into my life. People like you.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the many people we meet on our journeys are one of the biggest blessings.

Contest judges were the first people I met. A friend of a friend suggested I check out writing organizations. I joined one, learned about the numerous contests held and its many chapters, and began entering four of the five stories I’d written. (The first remains hidden on my hard drive.) Those generous judges taught me a great deal about writing.

Next came friends with similar interests. Discovering the blogosphere and the wonderful world of writers online was a huge blessing. I realized I wasn’t alone. They, too, heard voices in their heads, had story ideas wake them in the night, and got excited when a plot point fell into place. I was so excited to meet blogging buddies and make Facebook and Twitter friends.

Some of my writer friends became writing partners. My critique partner, Anne Barton, and I met at a conference and have been together nearly five years. Not only does Anne help me improve my stories; she is also a treasured friend and confidant.

I’ve attended nine writing conferences, where I've learned a lot. Sure, there were great workshop leaders imparting their wisdom, but the lessons didn’t stop there. I learned from my fellow conferees, too. And had oodles of fun in the process.

Publishing professionals have played an important part in my journey. My agent, Rachelle Gardner, offered me representation in December 2009, after having judged my story in a contest. She went on to sell the story to Barbour Publishing, which released it as my debut novel, six and a half years after I embarked on my journey.

When the book hit the shelves, I was blessed beyond belief by friends, bloggers, and book reviewers eager to serve as influencers and reviewers. I couldn’t keep up with the generous offers to serve as a guest blogger that flooded my inbox. To say I was grateful would be an understatement.

Then came readers! What a delight it’s been to have others read my story and enjoy it.

What follows the thrill of one’s first release? The return to reality. I won’t sugarcoat things. There can be a bit of a letdown when the month is over, a bunch of new of books hit the shelves, and your story becomes old news. The high can’t last forever, although the memories made can be treasured for years to come.

Which means we need to keep reaching out to others, right?

One thing remains the same. The friends I’ve made along with way are still there, supporting and encouraging me.  Friends like, Mary, who graciously invited me to share my writing journey with you readers. Thank you for this opportunity.

• • •
I’d like to end with a question for all of you. Who are some of the people who’ve blessed you as you’ve worked toward your goals?





Keli Gwyn writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life. A California native, she lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, set in the heart of the Gold Country where she lives is currently available.



To learn more about Keli, you can visit her Victorian-style cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, where you’ll find her parlor, study, carriage house, and more, along with her blog and her social media

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Crossing the Rubicon-A Saying With A Big Meaning


Photo Courtesy
For my regular readers you may wonder what happened to the part two post I said I would do today.

Sorry. It is postponed.

Something incredibly shiny popped up that had to be shared and discussed. I think you'll be interested, too.



While satisfying a huge curiosity of mine about the time between the Old and New Testaments, I bumped into the saying, "Crossing the Rubicon" and learned the significance of these words.

You may be aware that the Romans controlled Jerusalem during the New Testament days. I had long wondered how the city went from restoration under Nehemiah and Ezra, to being overtaken by the Greeks, and ending up with Roman power--all between Malachi and Matthew. One page in my Bible. A page that lasted four hundred years.

Good stuff to learn and if you are interested in following my research in easy story form you can go to my ministry blog God Loves Kids and search for all posts "Time in between Testaments"

Fast forwarding from Nehemiah past the Greeks and the Hasmoneans, two Roman generals are in power. One took his armies north and west conquering France, the United Kingdom, etc. His name was Julius Caesar. The other marched to the east conquering what is now Turkey and east then south to Jerusalem and around to Egypt, his name was Pompey. 

Caesar and Pompey had agreed to let a three man committee rule the Roman empire while they were off conquering. The committee died out leaving Caesar and Pompey to fight over who would be in control. 

Petty fighting took place. Caesar marched his men to the Rubicon River. At that time, there was a Roman law stating the generals could not cross the Rubicon River.

Caesar ordered his army to cross the river, which was an act of war. A declaration. A point of decision that could not be reversed. He had committed himself and his army to this war and there was no turning back.

Caesar led his army in pursuit of General Pompey. General Pompey and his men fled east around the Mediterranean and south around to Egypt where Caesar conquered him. Caesar then proclaimed himself emperor.

And that is how the saying, Crossing the Rubicon came to mean: a point of no return. A decision with no way to turn back. A commitment. Firm. Binding. 

We are coming to the end of January. Many resolutions have faded. Perhaps we slumped back into habits we'd hoped to have conquered this year.

But hopefully there are some things for which we have Crossed the Rubicon. I'd say my faith in Jesus Christ is a definite Crossing of the Rubicon. In all these years, I have not gone back on this decision. I'm not perfect. Have much to learn. But God knows that and continues to teach and work with me every day.

Another is my marriage vows. Many, many moons have passed with this commitment firmly intact. 

My love for my children. Ah yes. Binding. Unstoppable. 

Help me think of some more.

What Rubicon's have you crossed?

Just a thought, while in Italy this October, we crossed the Rubicon. The tour guide probably pointed it out without me understanding the significance. Now I know.

This post has been brought to you by the one-word: Commitment 

Friday, January 20, 2017

I Could Have Avoided the Topic of Inauguration Today BUT...


I could have avoided the topic of Inauguration today. 


But I decided not to because the United States of America, and other countries as well, were formed by a group of people who came together to unify a culture, a way of life. These people felt their cause worth separating from others. Whether a person agrees or disagrees with who was elected, some or all of their views, some or all of their policies, Inauguration Day is still the day that represents the installation of an elected individual to this self governed country.

I make it a firm policy to never say who I voted for, and I won't today either. I have that right. There have been many presidents in my lifetime, some I voted for, some I did not, but I cast a ballot every time. Some I didn't agree with their policies or agendas or actions, some I did.

But on Inauguration day, respect for the office is crucial.

This said I'd like to pose a question to you. It will yank your thoughts from current times. A question that will hopefully create discussion. 



If George Washington, the first president of the United States, a man who said he was an independent, (although historians call him a federalist which is defined: for a strong national government that promoted economic growth). He believed in a balance of powers. He also saw that he would have continued to be elected, so rather than become another King George, he stepped down after eight years. His other accomplishments and views are available on line.




Ran against Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, a Republican. But Republican's were different in Lincoln's day than they are today. Here is Lincoln's platform: that slavery would not be allowed to spread any further into the territories. The Republicans also promised to support tariffs that protected Northern industry, a Homestead Act granting free farmland in the West to settlers, and the funding of a transcontinental railroad. His other accomplishments and views are available on line





Who would you vote for?

Consider all you've learned in school, news, your impressions, your current thoughts, your desires for your country. 

Which would you vote for?

And why.

These two men are know for creating great change in the country. Change is not something most people like, but during their time, the issues at hand seemed to call for their leadership.


Let's celebrate the right to free thinking.

The right to free speech.

The right to vote.

The right to express our views.

Would you vote for George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? One year I assigned a project to my third grade class. The class was divided in two, one group to campaign and promote Washington, the other Lincoln. They made posters and received permission to post them all over the school, made buttons, researched, and campaigned in all the classes Kindergarten through twelfth grade. They stated their cases and rallied their candidate. An election date was set. The kids ran the election inviting the entire school including teachers and staff then counted the ballots. 

The school wide winner? Abraham Lincoln. 


Today there are many people crowded in Washington D.C., and/or huddled around their media devices. There are those who are avoiding all contact with the inauguration. 

Because they can.

So, who would you vote for? Washington or Lincoln?


This post has been brought to you by the one-word: Freedom