Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THIS is what God Can Do!!

On my trip to Israel, I met several wonderful Christians in my tour group. One night, one of them shared his testimony. It is a story of God's passionate love for all the lost souls.

Grab a cup of coffee and read what Gary has to share.




I am Redeemed and Free Indeed 

Gary in Jerusalem - Photo by Mary Vee

My name is Gary Spillman and this is my testimony to God's glory.

I grew up without a father. There were a lot of wannabe substitutes for him, except for Bob Spillman who adopted all six of my mother’s children before having one of his own with her. I felt like he would be the one to help me grow up into a man, but the Lord took him with cancer less than two years after being married to my mom.

With no father, again, and being sexually abused by my older brother and sister at age nine, I pretty much gave up on God. A God who allowed all that stuff to happen to me was a God I didn't want! Jesus loves me... Right!   

At the age of twelve, I was locked up in a boy’s industrial school. At seventeen, I was incarcerated at Hutchison prison. By the time I turned twenty-one, I was doing two life sentences. My heart was so dark and black. I didn't care about anyone or anything. I took and did whatever I wanted to fill the empty void inside me. But nothing did.


My mom died in 1987, and I made a promise to her that I would not hurt anyone physically anymore. I've kept that promise, although my words have hurt and killed some people.

I got out of prison after doing twenty years and thought that if I had a place to stay, a car, and a good job, I could go fishing anytime I wanted and finally be satisfied. Well, I had all that, but something was still missing, and I really wasn't satisfied.

I got arrested again for manufacturing meth and a whole bunch of other charges in Missouri and Kansas and was sent to Ellsworth in 2002. All I could think about was escaping. I was 45 years old and thought I was gonna die in prison. I came up with two different schemes to get out: take one of the bikes the guards used to patrol the compound, build a ramp, and jump over the two cosseting wire fences; or make a rope, lasso a light pole, then swing off one of the buildings to freedom.

Some buddies of mine suggested I join a program called the Interchange Freedom Initiative, now called Brothers in Blue. It is a faith-based Christ-centered program. I laughed at them. But I realized there were banquets with people who came in from outside, and I saw I could take one of the people in the bathroom, knock them out, put on their clothes, take their ID, and escape. So, I joined the program. Low and behold, after three months of having to study God's word and hearing about God's word, the Holy Spirit started working on me.

One day during class, Don Raymond taught about the Gospel of John. He read the Scripture John 8:36 Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

I wanted to be free!

So, I ask him how I could be free. He said, “Well you need to go back to John 8:31 -32 that says, 'if you are truly my disciples you will follow my teachings and then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.'

The truth? What was the truth???

Don said, “You have to study that out.”

Gary on the road from the Mt. of Olives
to Gethsemane Photo by Hank Vee 
So, I did. I found out that Jesus did die for all my sins and that if I accepted Him as my Savior, my personal Savior, I would be set free. One night, during a Wednesday evening revival, I accepted Christ into my heart and told God that if Jesus set me free, I would never forsake Him or leave Him. But I had accepted Christ for the wrong motives. I figured He was going to set me free physically because I was still going back to court on charges at that time.

Later, at a Brothers in Blue weekend I surrendered myself to the leading of the Holy Spirit and knew I was truly set free.

I still had to serve ten more years in prison before I got out. During those ten years, I didn’t see prison bars, walls, or guards to keep me locked up. I saw that time as being in the kingdom of God. I studied and memorized God's word.


To this day, I've been out of prison for four years, am off parole, and have travelled to Israel. I still go back into the prisons, which I never thought I would ever do again, to minister to men and tell them about being set free from the bondage sin has them under.


Wow! Thank you Gary for sharing what God did!

Reader, as you can see from Gary's testimony: God SO loves the world that He gave His only Son that WHOEVER believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Good News As Sweet As Spring Flowers


Confession-This post is one day late. You may not have noticed, but I did. It's the crazy planner in me. 

Confession-I only feel a tad guilty because yesterday a project leaped forward...I'm talking the distance of the Sahara Desert leap.

I'll tell you about the project in a moment. First let's chat about leaps.

Spring time is planting time. A time to move forward with projects. No matter what your ability is or your limitations are, this is a time to get something done then celebrate the progress or completion.

I know. Sleeping in sounds good.

I know, it's nice to sit back and watch a TV program.

But, let me tell you about the fireworks that burst inside  when a project is moving forward. It doesn't take much. Plant a seed, pat the dirt over the opening, pour water to wake the seed from sleep. Next day, water the seed again and keep weeds from stealing nourishment from the soil. 

Did you know a smile pokes on your face when you're working on a project and it is moving forward? You probably don't even realize it...but others see it. Sometimes we hum. We might take a silly dance step across the kitchen. The fireworks bursting inside show. People around us see. 

Guess what happens next?

Those who see ask why we are happy. 

We tell them. As we speak, we can't help but show the fireworks in our words and expressions.

Guess what happens next?

Those we told want to have the same experience. So they do something that makes them happy. 

It becomes a viral Pollyanna!

All right. Are you ready to hear about my project? 

This one has collected a lot of dust. Ah six years at least worth of dust.

First the incentive:  A drama teacher from a Christian school in Kansas contacted me last year. She said she enjoyed reading my Gladys Aylward stories on my God Loves Kids blog. She asked permission to use the material to make a play for her students. The play is scheduled for this Friday and I have been invited to attend. AND I AM GOING!! I am so excited. It will be an eleven hour drive, BUT I AM GOING!!

The drama teacher is also a second grade teacher. I wanted to show her my book suitable for her to read to her students, but it wasn't finished. 

Second the project: I have spent long days editing the story then designed the cover.

The story is called William Worthington Watkins and the Cookie Snitchers. It is a story for elementary children about truth and forgiveness and has a boy for the main character.



The release date is set for May 5, 2017. 

So, what do you think?

What project to you plan to do this spring/summer?


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






Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Juanita's Song






When I was young, there was a lady in my church named Juanita who had a sweet soprano voice. You know the kind, the sound that a young trained soprano makes. Not harsh or overly powerful.


Juanita was my parent's age. So when I was young, I thought she was old.






It always surprised me that no matter how old I became, her singing voice never took on that harsh, older sound that happens to many sopranos. And her voice never deepened, as happens to some sopranos in later years.

She loved to sing at church and it showed. I loved hearing her sing.

Then one day, I learned that Juanita was tone deaf. 

No. Couldn't be. I knew music pretty well and could easily pick out a singer who struggled to stay on pitch. She never had that problem.

But she really was tone deaf.

She had an arrangement with the music director whereby he would tell her far enough in advance when she was scheduled to sing for a church service. She then met with someone (I really don't know who that person was), and practiced each note, one by one, until the note was perfect pitch. Once she had the notes learned in sequence, she remembered them.

At a moment's notice, she could even sing a song she'd learned in her past and still remember the pitches. 

I've often thought about the immense amount of work she put into learning a song. Tirelessly tweaking a sound until told the pitch was correct. One by one.

I've often thought about the first time she might have sung in front of church. Did she feel nervous? Did someone have to encourage her? Or did she simply resolve to just sing for Jesus? I don't know.

It's amazing how we remember people from our past. The special something about them that had an influence on us. A treasure from God.

So now it's your turn. Try to think back to someone from your past. Someone you haven't thought about in a long time. What is it about that person that God helped you think of him or her just now? What influence did he or she have on you that you've forgotten...and need to remember?


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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Two Gardens-The Moment God Intended in the Beginning




It's difficult for me to imagine what the Garden of Eden looked like. I have seen so many beautiful gardens both natural and tended by man. But none of them had lions, coyotes, or giraffes roaming. 

Photo by Mary Vee (representing Eden is this view from
the Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee)

The Bible tells us a bit about that garden. Adam and Eve didn't have to weed. There were edible plants and trees baring fruit. God walked with Adam and Eve, talking with them. Teaching them. Listening to them. Soliciting their opinions and discussing with them.

All of time was perfect.

Until they ate fruit from the one tree God said not to eat.







You know what happened from there. The sin committed, the deceiver revealed, the punishment proclaimed, and the first announcement, made by God, that a Redeemer would come.


Fast forward thousands of years to a different garden. One most likely located south of the first garden by one hundred or so miles. The name of this garden is Gethsemane. Following three years of teaching, listening, discussing, and showing God's true way, Jesus took his disciples to this place to pray.

Photo by Mary Vee - Garden of Gethsemane

The garden was much bigger giving a sense of seclusion. There wasn't a church next to it. 

Gethsemane has flowers, fruit baring trees (olive), and is beautiful to see. 


Jesus and His disciples weren't that far from the city walls, or the city gate He'd passed through on a donkey a few days earlier. 

The disciples were full from their meal and sleepy from their wine. He asked the disciples to keep watch and pray. Jesus went off alone to speak with His Father.

He prayed with His whole being. Sweat pouring down His neck and forehead. His muscles tight. He audibly groaned His concerns and uttered not fears but an unfathomable sorrow what would happen yet that night. No one had carried such an affliction in all of time, because no one ever could. Tears fell down His cheeks with each word He spoke with His Father. Blood seeped through his pores.

He knew what was coming.

He knew what had to be done. Without Him, everyone would remain in the hands of the Evil One.




Mankind changed time in the first garden, bringing destruction.

The Son of God changed time in the second garden changed time offering redemption to any who would believe.

So..

This week, I challenge you to walk in a garden. Any garden. Only you and God. Make this a moment God intended in the beginning. A place where you long  to walk and talk with Him. The living God who loves you.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Stopped in My Tracks


Photo by Mary Vee, Amman, Jordan

9 Days until Easter

Today I will take you to the land of Jordan. The capital city is Amman.

We stayed one night in the city in a hotel specializing in hospitality for tourists. It had all the amenities of four or five star hotel. 

After breakfast the next morning, we traveled north to a town called Jarash.




Our guide took us to a place where we walked up a hill. From there we walked through this gate. Our guide showed us ruins of two temples one for Zeus and one for Athena/Diana. In between the two temples was a theater.

After the explanation of the architecture and ruins, our guide let us walk around the area. We had fun climbing the steep hills, walking through Roman and Greek columns, then on the way up to the farther temple, something happened that made me stop.

Photo by Mary Vee - Jarash, Jordan
Down the valley and up a higher hill a ways to the right, the call for prayer came from a mosque speaker. The sound permeated the air. Words I could not understand, yet they stirred terrible agitation inside of me. A sensation of deep remorse.

Others from the group kept walking toward the temple for historical reasons, but a second sound held me in my tracks. A higher pitch, distinctly a different voice calling for prayer from a high hill a ways to the left. 

The calls were not stereo. They were different messages being proclaimed from the speakers. 

I covered my ears yet the sound permeated the block. My sole desire was to leave. To get far away and inside the bus.

This was not a sensation of safety. 

It was a sensation of heavy, soggy, dank, despair.

It was not even a spec of the sensation Jesus felt when he bore our sins. 

Not even a spec.




Thank you, Jesus. We did not deserve your gift. 

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


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Remember Me



















12 days to Easter.

This particular coming Easter is already proving to be more personal to me. The trip to Israel awakened and illuminated God in ways I could not have experienced otherwise.

Perhaps I can help you just a bit. My goal is to provide sensory images to help you engage in remembering what God has done for you.  Because He loves you.


Let's start with a ride on the Sea of Galilee. 




The water smelled like lake water with a bit of fishy. I would best compare it to Lake Michigan in scent because I have been there. 

The Sea of Galilee is not huge. At the time of translations there wasn't a distinction between a sea and a lake. Only one word was used for both.

Watch the video again and imagine stepping out of the boat we are riding in and walking on the water.

Imagine seeing Jesus appearing from the fog or storm clouds walking on water.

Imagine nets so full of fish that reeling them in cause the boat to take on water.

Imagine being served a fresh fish breakfast by Jesus on the shore.

As you have time, read these passages and imagine yourself there, with Jesus. Here are what these four disciples of Christ reported. By reading them all, you will have a more complete understanding.

Matthew 8:18-27 
               14:22-35
Mark 4:35-41
         6:45-56
Luke 8:22-25
John 6:16-21



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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Mole-Like Anonymity



I met Mary Connealy through ACFW and through my friends at the Writer's Alley.  She truly has a gift for writing romantic comedy. I laughed through the pages and couldn't wait to pick up another of her books.  So, I asked Mary to be my guest today








God Gives Seasons of Life

I am a big believer that God gives us seasons of life.

I couldn’t see it while I struggled to get published but now, looking back, I realize that God waited until exactly the right time in my life to let me be published.

I sat down to write a book, a full length novel, with the intent of getting it published, the year my baby, the youngest of four daughters, went to Kindergarten. 

I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published. At the end of that ten years, I had twenty finished books on my computer. That is; twenty full length romance novels. I had other, shorter works, Middle Grade novels, short stories, children’s books, novellas, even a few poems and songs, in addition to the novels. 

All that time I was writing along in what I think of as Mole-like Anonymity, I was seriously pursuing publication. It’s not like I was just patiently writing and expecting an editor to come to my door and say, “I’ve heard rumors of your greatness and I’ve been searching for you, please may I buy your book.”

It’s not like I would type up my story thinking with sublime confidence, “God will send my books to the right publisher at the right time.”

Oh no.

I was entering contests, querying agents, mailing partials into publishers, using my Writer’s Market Guide and my Romance Writers Report Magazine, to hunt down editors and agents and contest where ever I could find them.

Through all that writing and querying and rejection, I always got just enough encouragement to carry on. I was a finalist in a contest with the second book I wrote. I’d get a occasional request for a full followed by a ‘nice’ rejection.

I got some short plays published and made actual tidbits of money.

It all kept me going. 

When I finally sold, my first book, Petticoat Ranch hit the shelves in February and my baby graduated from high school in May.

I worked so hard promoting Petticoat Ranch. I did book signings and gave talks in any place that would let me in. Bookstores, libraries, churches. I attended conferences and went to ICRS. I was crazy busy hustling around selling that book. I had no idea just how demanding it would be. 

To me it was a light going on. The season of my life that I could devote to being a published author came when I had time to be a published author. I could give myself whole-heartedly to it without neglecting my children because they were grown.

I just couldn’t see this when I was struggling all those years. But I needed those years. I needed them to get my daughters raised and also to get a back list of books because, once Barbour Publishing bought my first book, they wanted more and more of them. I published nineteen books with Barbour in four years. Of those nineteen books, eight were already written. I would never have been able to keep up that pace if I hadn’t had those years to write all those books. And it was really good for my career to be able to say YES every time Barbour asked for another book. 

That was God’s plan. I try to remember that when I’m impatient with anything, not just writing. Wait on the Lord. Embrace and enjoy the season of life I’m walking through with Him.


Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist. She is the author of the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series: Out of Control, In Too Deep, Over the Edge, Lassoed in Texas Trilogy, Montana Marriages Trilogy and Sophie's Daughters Trilogy. Mary is married to a Nebraska rancher and has four grown daughters and two spectacular grandchildren.

To Contact Mary check out these places:



Thank you Mary for joining us this weekend



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