Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Come to the Banquet-Israel Virtual Travel



Photo by Mary Vee taken in Venice, Italy

Each morning we have an opportunity to come to a feast.

We wake.

Perhaps exercise.

Shower off the sleep.

Maybe have a hot beverage.

Then comes...and actually this can be before any of the steps above, the opportunity to feast at the banquet.



What banquet is this?

One that offers delicacies that are sweeter than the honeycomb.

Food that brings more than strength to the body and brightens the eyes.

Nourishment that does more than sustains life. It invigorates life.

Gives more comfort than any chocolate or other "comfort food"

This banquet has a menu that exceeds expectations of every palate whether spicy as in Indian, Asian cuisine, southern American, Italian, French, Hungarian, or Russian. 

It satisfies the greatest hunger.

And best of all, everyone is invited... including you!

The location is easy to find and requires no help from Siri, Google, or Map Quest.

Are you interested?

Our Host is well known. 

The wealthiest. 

Gives freely to all in need. 

Sends invitations out to all through messengers. Today I am the messenger.

Come, feast with me. 



Jesus: The kingdom of heaven is like a king whose son was getting married. The king organized a great feast, a huge wedding banquet. Matthew 22:2

The servants went out on the streets and rounded up everyone they laid eyes on, good and bad, regardless. And so the banquet was on—every place filled. Matthew 22:10


You are given God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet   Matthew 23:4

And Mary said, I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened— I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet   Luke 1:46-54

He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love. Song of Solomon 2:4

It will not be just the children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob who celebrate at their heavenly banquet at the end of time. No, people will come from the East and the West—and those who recognize Me, regardless of their lineage, will sit with Me at that feast  Matthew 8:11

Sadly:

But there was, of course, still a wedding to celebrate. King (to his remaining servants): The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited didn’t rise to the occasion. Matthew 22:8




This post has been brought to you by the one word: ComeToTheBanquet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The countdown is in serious motion for the Israel trip. 

Can I be so bold as to ask for good weather? Yes, I will. Because it is difficult to experience all that is to be if the temperatures are cold. Rainy is not a problem, cold is. So if you will, please pray that there will be good weather in Israel.

I'd like you to come along, as a virtual tourist. If you want, join the group on Facebook: Click on this link not the photo: Inspired in Israel  




Friday, February 24, 2017

Cinderella's Influence





Julie Lessman is my guest today and her Cinderella story is one for all of us.



Cinderella's Influence

My journey as an author actually came LONG before my journey with God. It happened the moment I read Gone With the Wind at the age of twelve. The instant that Scarlett seared Rhett with a look on the winding staircase of Twelve Oaks, I was hooked. 



Fast forward almost forty years later—I was sitting in a beauty parlor reading a Newsweek magazine cover article about Christian entertainment. It said Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. My heart jumped, and something in my spirit said, “It’s time to finish your book.” 

Now, I have to be honest with you—up until that moment, I had never seriously considered writing a book. But the pull was so strong I started writing and ended up selling the book to Revell. 

Happily ever after, right?



My journey to God? Not so pretty. I was a twenty-three-year-old hardnosed agnostic from a devout but dysfunctional Catholic family of thirteen kids. Suffice it to say I was pretty angry at God. 

According to the world’s standards, I had everything going for me—a hunky boyfriend with a Corvette and a boat, a great job, my own apartment, and acing an advanced writing course at Washington University. 

But I wasn’t happy. I felt like Peggy Lee singing, “Is that all there is?” One day at work, this annoying gal approached me. She had a lesser job than me, was divorced with a kid, and had no boyfriend in sight. I hated her because she came in humming every day, happy as a lark while I was utterly miserable. 



When she and I were alone, I looked up from my typewriter and said, “Just what in the heck (except my language was a bit stronger back then) makes you so happy all the time?” She said, “I’ve been praying you would ask.” Oh, no, a Jesus freak, I thought to myself. At first.

I found myself going to lunch with her, badgering her with questions and accusations. I don’t remember now if it was a week or a month, but either way, I met Jesus Christ through the remarkable patience of a God-sent angel by the name of Joy—pretty appropriate name, eh?

Since then, my life has been a journey of “joy,” because EVERYTHING with God at the center is joy! 

He is the one who takes us on this amazing journey, which is really just a U-turn to lead us back to Him
                          in a deeper, 
                                                 more passionate way than ever before. 

Through God’s grace, I’ve encountered so many “significant” things during my publication journey: the “good” things I did to get published, all the “bad” things I did, and all the “really ugly” things to avoid.



For me, in my life and my writing, God’s close and intimate presence is as natural as breathing. I think of Michael W. Smith's song, Breathe –“This is the air I breathe, Your holy presence living in me.” 

Jesus Christ transformed me, a hard, cynical agnostic into a person of joy and hope and love. This is a story I never tire of telling, and hope to do so in all the books I am privileged to write. You might say the book series, The Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change are my love letters to a God. He whose love took me from the dark into His glorious light. 

I hope and pray they bring Him—the One Who is the true passion in my life—the glory He so richly deserves.


Julie Lessman


“Passion with a Purpose"
Daughters of Boston Series
A Passion Most Pure--ACFW Debut Book of the Year, Holt Medallion Merit  
A Passion Redeemed--Inspirational Reader’s Choice Finalist
A Passion Denied--Borders Best: Your Favorite Fiction
Winds of Change Series
A Hope Undaunted--Booklist's Top 10 Inspirational Fiction 2010  
Family Fiction magazine 2011 and 2012 Readers Choice Awards
#1 Romance Author of the Year, #1 Historical Fiction Author of the Year, 
#3 Series of the Year,  #3 Author of the Year, # 4 Novel of the Year


Thank you Julie for joining us this weekend!



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

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: