Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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:


Whitaker House (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Born and raised in western Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. After graduating, she traveled, then married one of her childhood friends, and together they raised two ldaughters. Now happily retired after teaching elementary school for over 30 years, “Shar” enjoys reading, singing in the church choir, traveling, and spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren—and, of course, writing. Her novels include Through Every Storm, Long Journey Home; the Little Hickman Creek series, the acclaimed historical trilogy, The Daughters of Jacob Kane, and the first two books in her latest series, River of Hope: Livvie’s Song and Ellie’s Haven.





Visit the author's website.




SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


 The River of Hope Series, set in the 1920’s, continues with the story of Sofia Rogers who is pregnant, unmarried, and guarding a secret. Nobody in Wabash, Indiana seems to know her real story and Sofia isn’t about to share it. She’d rather bear the shame than face the threat of consequences. When Eli Trent, the new doctor in town, gets involved, trouble escalates in the form of thievery, arson, and death threats. Nevertheless, Eli remains determined to break down the wall of silence behind which Sofia hides her secret. He is out to convince her she is not alone and to help  her come to the realization that trusting him—and God—is the only thing that makes sense.


Product Details:

List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (October 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 160374214X

ISBN-13: 978-1603742146






AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:







The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
—Psalm 51:17
June 1930
Wabash, Indiana
The blazing sun ducked behind a cloud, granting a smidgeon of relief to Sofia Rogers as she compressed the pedal to stop her bike in front of Murphy’s Market and, in a most inelegant manner, slid off the seat, taking care not to catch the hem of her loose-fitting dress in the bicycle chain. She scanned the street in both directions, hoping not to run into anyone she knew, then parked the rusting yellow bike next to a Ford truck. These days, she dreaded coming into town, but she couldn’t very well put off the chore much longer if she wanted to keep food on the table.
Her younger brother, Andy, had won the race to their destination. His equally corroded bike leaned against the building, and he stood next to it, his arms crossed, a burlap sack slung across one shoulder. As she approached, a smug grin etched his freckled face. “Didn’t I t-tell you I’d b-beat you?” 
“That’s because you had a full minute head start on me, you rascal.” Sofie might have added that her present condition did not permit the speed and agility she’d once had, but she wasn’t about to make that excuse. “Just you wait. I’ll win on the way back home.”
“N-not if I can help it.”
She pressed the back of her hand to her hot, damp face and stepped up to the sidewalk. “We’ll see about that, Mr. Know-It-All.”
Andy pointed at her and laughed. “Now your face is all d-dirty.” 
She looked at her hands, still soiled from working in the garden that morning, and frowned. “I guess I should have lathered them a little better when I washed up.” She bent over and used the hem of her skirt to wipe her cheek before straightening. “There. Is that better?” 
He tilted his face and angled her a crooked grin. “Sort of.”
“Oh, who cares?” She tousled his rust-colored hair. “Come on, let’s get started checking those items off my shopping list.”
They headed for the door, but a screeching horn drew their attention to the street, where a battered jalopy slowed at the curb. Several teenage boys, their heads poking out through the windows, whistled and hollered. “Hey, sister! Hear you like to have a good time!”
At their crudeness, Sofie felt a suffocating pressure in her chest. With a hand on her brother’s shoulder, she watched the car round the bend, as the boys’ whoops faded into the distance.
“Who were those guys?”
“Nobody important.”
As if the baby inside her fully agreed, she got a strong push to the rib cage that jarred her and made her stumble.
“You alright?” Andy grabbed her elbow, looking mature beyond his eleven years.
She paused to take a deep breath and then let it out slowly, touching a hand to her abdomen. Even in her seventh month, she could scarcely fathom carrying a tiny human in her womb, let alone accept all of the kicks and punches he or she had started doling out on a daily basis. She’d read several books to know what to expect as she progressed, but none of them had come close to explaining why she already felt so deeply in love with the tiny life inside of her. Considering that she hadn’t consented to the act committed against her, she should have resented the little life, but how could she hold an innocent baby accountable? “I’m fine,” she finally assured her brother. “Let’s go inside, shall we?”
Inside Murphy’s Market, a few people ambled up and down the two narrow aisles, toting cloth bags or shopping baskets. Sofie kept her left hand out of view as much as possible, in hopes of avoiding the condemnation of anyone who noticed the absence of a wedding band on her left ring finger. Not that she particularly cared what other folks thought, but she’d grown weary of the condescending stares. Several women had tried to talk her into giving the infant up for adoption, including Margie Grant, an old friend who had served as a mother figure to her and Andy ever since their parents had perished in a train wreck in 1924. “The little one growing inside you is the result of an insidious attack, darling. I shouldn’t think you’d want much to do with it once it’s born,” Margie had said. “I happen to know more than a few childless couples right here in Wabash who would be thrilled to take it off your hands. You should really consider adoption.”
Because Margie had long been a loyal friend, Sofie had confided in her about the assault, including when and where it had occurred. As for going to the authorities and demanding an investigation—never! Margie had begged her to go straight to Sheriff Morris, but she had refused, and then had made Margie swear on the Bible not to go herself.
“That is a hard promise to make, dearest,” Margie had conceded with wrinkled brow, “but I will promise to keep my lips buttoned. As for adoption, if you gave the baby to a nice couple in town, you would have the opportunity to watch it grow up. That would bring you comfort, I should think, especially if you selected a well-deserving Christian couple.”
“I can’t imagine giving my baby away to someone in my hometown, Christian or not.” 
“Well then, we’ll go to one of the neighboring towns,” the woman had persisted. “Think about it, sweetheart. You don’t have the means to raise a child. Why, you and Andy are barely making ends meet as it is. Who’s going to take care of it while you’re at work?”
“I can’t think about that right now, Margie. And, please, don’t refer to my child as an ‘it.’”
The woman’s face had softened then, and she’d enfolded Sofie in her arms. “Well, of course, I know your baby’s not an ‘it,’ honey. But, until he or she is born, I have no notion what to call it—I mean, him or her.”
“‘The baby’ will do fine.”
Margie had given her a little squeeze, then dropped her hands to her sides and shot her a pleading gaze. “I sure wish you’d tell me who did this to you. It’s a crime, you know, what he did.”
Yes, it had been a crime—the most reprehensible sort. And it was both a blessing and a curse that Sofie couldn’t remember the details. The last thing she could remember was drinking her habitual cup of coffee at Spic-and-Span Cleaning Service before starting her evening rounds. She’d thought it tasted unusually bitter, but she’d shrugged it off at the time. Half an hour later—at the site of her job that night, at the law offices of Baker & Baker—she’d been overcome by dizziness and collapsed. She’d teetered in and out of consciousness, with only a vague notion of what was going on. When she’d awakened, it had been daylight, and she was sore all over. Fortunately, it had been a Saturday, and the offices were closed; no one had discovered her lying there, nauseous and trembling, her dress torn, her hair disheveled. A particular ache had given her a clue as to what had gone on while she’d been unconscious. As the sickening reality had set in, she’d found beside her the note that had haunted her ever since.
Breathe one word about this and you can say bye-bye to your brother.
It had been typed on the official letterhead of the sheriff’s office, making her even less inclined to go to the authorities. Whoever had assaulted her had connections to the law, and she wasn’t about to risk her brother’s life to find out his identity. Plus, without a name, and with no visual or auditory recollection, she had nothing to offer that would aid an investigation.
By the time she realized she’d gotten pregnant, two months had passed—too late to go crying to the authorities. Not that she’d planned to. Her attacker’s threat had been enough to keep her quiet. She could bear the scorn and the shame, as long as he left her alone. And the only way of ensuring that was to comply with his demands. No, she couldn’t say anything more about it to Margie.
“Margie, we’ve been over this. It’s better left unsaid, believe me.”
“But, don’t you know people are going to talk? Who knows what they’ll think or say when you start to show? If they learned the truth, perhaps they’d go a little easier on you.”
“No! I can’t. No one must know—not even you. I’m sorry, Margie.”
Margie had rubbed the back of her neck as if trying to work out a kink. A loud breath had blown past her lips and whistled across Sofie’s cheek. “You know I love you, and so I will honor your wishes…for now.” Then, her index finger had shot up in the air, nearly poking Sofie in the nose. “But if he so much as comes within an inch of you again, I want you to tell me right away, you hear? I can’t abide thinking that he’ll come knocking at your door. You must promise me, Sofia Mae Rogers!”
Sofie had hidden the shiver that had rustled through her veins at the mere thought of crossing paths with her attacker again. Why, every time she went to work, she couldn’t get the awful pounding in her chest to slow its pace until she was home again. She’d stopped drinking and eating at work—anywhere other than at home, really.
“Show me your list, Sofie.” Andy’s voice drew her out of her fretful thoughts. She reached inside her pocket and handed over the paper. When he set off down an aisle, she idly followed after, her mind drifting back into its musings.
***
Dr. Elijah Trent parked his grandfather’s 1928 Ford Model A in the lot beside Murphy’s Market. As he climbed out, he was careful not to allow his door to collide with a bicycle standing nearby. Another battered bike leaned against the building. It looked as if it could use some serious repair work. He closed his door and took a deep breath of hot June air, then cast a glance overhead at the row of birds roosting on a clothesline that stretched between two apartment buildings across the street.
When he pulled open the whiny screen door, an array of aromas teased his nostrils, from freshly ground coffee beans to roasted peanuts in a barrel. As he stepped inside, a floorboard shrieked beneath his feet, as if to substantiate its long-term use.
“Afternoon,” said the shopkeeper, who glanced up from the cash register, where he stood, ringing up an order for a young pregnant woman. Beside her, a boy dutifully stuffed each item into a cloth bag. The young woman raised her head and glanced briefly at Eli, who sensed a certain tenseness in her chestnut-colored eyes. Then, she shifted her gaze back to the clerk.
“Say, ain’t you Doc Trent’s grandson?” the man asked.
“That I am, sir. Elijah Trent. But most people call me Eli.”
The clerk stopped ringing items for a moment and gave him an up-and-down glance. “Heard you’re takin’ over the old fellow’s practice. That’s mighty fine o’ you. I understand you graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, an’ you worked at a Detroit hospital for two years, but you were itchin’ for small-town livin’. Timing’s good, since Doc’s retirin’. S’pose you two been plannin’ this for quite a while now, eh? Hate to see Wilson Trent retire, but most folks seem to think it’ll be good to get in some new blood. Get it? Blood?” He gave a hearty chortle, causing his rotund chest to jiggle up and down.
Eli smiled at the friendly man. “It sounds like Grandfather’s been keeping everyone well-informed.”
“He sure has. Plus, the Plain Dealer wrote up that article ’bout you.”
“Yes, I heard that.”
The woman shifted her narrow frame and fingered one of her short, brown curls, but she kept her eyes focused on the counter. Beside her, the freckle-faced youngster poked his head around the back of her and met Elijah’s gaze. They stared at each other for all of three seconds, but when Eli smiled, the boy quickly looked forward again.
As the clerk resumed ringing up their order, Eli reached inside his hip pocket and grabbed the short list his grandfather had scrawled in his somewhat shaky handwriting. In Detroit, he’d taken most of his meals at the hospital. Helping his grandfather in the kitchen would be an entirely new experience. At least it would be only temporary, until Grandfather’s housekeeper of twenty-odd years, Winifred Carmichael, returned from her two-week vacation out West.
“You lookin’ for anythin’ in particular?” the clerk asked.
“Nothing I can’t find on my own, sir.”
“Pick up one o’ them baskets by the door for stashin’ what you need. Name’s Harold, by the way. Harold Murphy. I’ve owned this place goin’ on thirty years now.”
Eli bent to pick up a basket. He hadn’t thought to bring along a sack in which to carry the items home. The store he had occasioned in Detroit had offered brown paper bags, but the trend didn’t seem to have caught on in Wabash just yet. “Yes, I recall coming here with my grandmother as a kid.”
“And I remember you, as well, with that sandy hair o’ yours and that there dimple in your chin.”
“Is that so? You have a good memory, Mr. Murphy.”
A pleased expression settled on the clerk’s face. “You used to ogle my candy jars and tug at your grandmother’s arm. ’Course, she’d always give in. She couldn’t resist your pleadin’. Seems to me you always managed to wrangle some chewin’ gum out o’ her before I finished ringin’ her order.”
“It’s amazing you remember that.”
“Well, some things just stick in my memory for no particular reason.” He glanced across the counter at the freckle-faced boy. “Young Andy, here, he’s the Hershey’s chocolate bar type. Ain’t that right, Andy?”
The lad’s head jerked up, and he looked from Mr. Murphy to the woman beside him. “Yes, sir. C-c-can I g-get one today, Sofie?”
Her slender shoulders lifted and drooped with a labored sigh. “I suppose, but don’t expect any other treats today.”
“I won’t.”
The brief tête-à-tête allowed Eli the chance to disappear down an aisle in search of the first item on his list: sugar. He found it about the same time the screen door whined open once more, with the exit of the young woman and the boy. Next, Eli spotted the bread at the end of the aisle. He picked up a loaf and nestled it in the basket, next to the box of sugar.
“Well, I think it’s plain disgraceful, her coming into town and flaunting herself like that. My stars, has she not an ounce of decency? And what, pray tell, is she teaching that brother of hers by not keeping herself concealed?”
“I must agree, it’s quite appalling,” said another.
Eli’s ears perked up at the sound of female scoffs coming from the other side of the shelving unit at the back of the store. He stilled, slanted his head, and leaned forward. If he could push a few cans and boxed goods to the side without creating a commotion, he might manage a partial view of the gossips.
“I always did wonder about her and that pitiable little brother of hers, living all alone on the far edge of town. No telling what sort of man put her in a motherly way. Why, if I were in her place, I’d have gone off to stay with some relative in another state. One would think she’d have somewhere she could go. She could have birthed the child, given it to some worthy family, and come back to Wabash, and no one would’ve been the wiser.”
The other gossip cleared her throat. “Perchance her ‘lover’ won’t hear of her leaving, and she doesn’t dare defy him. She always did come off as rather defenseless, wouldn’t you say?” 
“Yes, yes, and very reclusive. Never was one to join any charity groups or ladies’ circles. Why, she doesn’t even attend church, to my knowledge. As I said before, the whole thing is disgraceful.”
Eli shuffled around the corner and stopped at the end of the next row, where he picked up a couple of cans of beans, even though they weren’t on Grandfather’s list, and dropped them into his basket with a clatter. The chattering twosome immediately fell silent. Eli cast a casual glance in their direction, and he almost laughed at their poses of feigned nonchalance. One was studying the label on a box, while the other merely stared at a lower shelf, her index finger pressed to her chin.
When Eli started down the aisle, both of them looked up, so he nodded. “Afternoon, ladies.”
The more buxom of the two batted her eyelashes and plumped her graying hair, then nearly blinded him with a fulsome smile. “Well, good afternoon to you.”  She put a hand to her throat. “My goodness. You’re Doc Trent’s grandson?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Well, I’ll be. I overheard you talking with Harold, but I didn’t lay eyes on you until now.” She perused him up and down. “You sure are a handsome devil.” 
“Oh, for mercy’s sake, Bessie, mind your manners.” The second woman bore a blush of embarrassment. “Don’t pay her any heed, Doctor. She’s such a tease.” She extended a hand. “I’m Clara Morris, the sheriff’s wife, and this is Bessie Lloyd. Her husband owns Lloyd’s Shoe Store, over on Market Street. Welcome to Wabash, Dr. Trent. We read about your impending arrival in the newspaper. I hope you find yourself feeling right at home here.”
“I’m sure I will.” Eli shifted his shopping basket and extended a hand first to Mrs. Morris, then to the annoying Mrs. Lloyd. He would have liked to remind them that two upstanding women in the community ought to put a lock on their lips, lest they tarnish their own reputations, but he hadn’t come to Wabash with the intention of making instant enemies, so he restrained himself. “Nice meeting you ladies. You have a good day, now.”
He glanced to his left and, seeing a shelf with maple syrup, snatched a can and tossed it into his basket. Casting the women one last smile, he headed down the aisle in search of the remaining items.
“My, my,” he heard Mrs. Lloyd mutter. “I think it may be time for me to switch physicians.” 
“But you’ve been seeing Dr. Stewart for years,” Mrs. Morris said. “What about your bad knee?”
“Pfff, never mind that. I’d much rather look into that young man’s blue eyes and handsome face than Dr. Stewart’s haggard mug. Why, if I were younger….”
Eli picked up his pace and made it out of earshot before she finished her statement.
Several minutes later, he’d rounded up everything on his list, so he made his way to the cash register. As he did, the voices of the two gabby women carried across the store. Evidently, they’d found a new topic of conversation. “I went to McNarney Brothers yesterday,” Mrs. Lloyd was saying, “and would you believe they raised the price of beef by five cents a pound? Don’t they know times are tight? Before you know it, folks won’t be able to afford to eat.”
“She could afford to go a few days without eatin’,” Harold Murphy muttered. His eyes never strayed from his task, as he keyed in the amount of each item before placing it back in the basket.
Eli covered his mouth with the back of his hand until his grin faded. He decided it was best to keep quiet on the matter. Something else bothered him, though, and he couldn’t resist inquiring. He leaned in, taking care to keep his voice down. “That girl…er, that woman, who left a bit ago, who is expecting….”
“Ah, Sofia Rogers? She was here with her little brother, Andy.” Mr. Murphy rang up the final item, the loaf of bread, and placed it gently atop the other goods. Then, he scratched the back of his head as his thin lips formed a frown. “It’s a shame, them two…well, them three, I guess you could say.” He glanced both ways, then lowered his head and whispered, “Don’t know who got her in that way, and I don’t rightly care. When she comes here, I just talk to her like nothin’s different. Figure it ain’t really my concern. I know there’s been talk about her bein’ loose, an’ all, but I can’t accept it. Never seen her with anybody but that little boy. She takes mighty fine care o’ him, too.”
“She’s his guardian, then?”
“Sure enough, ever since…oh, let’s see here…summer of twenty-four, it was. They lost their ma and pa in a terrible train wreck. They’d left Andy home with Sofie for a few days, whilst they went to a family funeral somewhere out West, little knowing their own funeral would be three days later.” The man shook his balding head.
The news got Eli’s gut to roiling. Even after all those years of medical school, which should have calloused him to pain and suffering, his heartstrings were wound as taut as ever. He needed to learn to toughen up. Needed to accept that, thanks to Adam and Eve’s fateful decision in the garden, bad things happened to innocent people; that he lived in an imperfect world in which evil often won.
“Where do they live, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Somewheres out on the southwest edge o’ town. River Road, I believe, just off o’ Mill Creek Pike.”
Eli didn’t know Wabash well, but his grandfather certainly did, having driven virtually every street within the town limits to make house calls. But what was he thinking? He ought to bop himself on the noggin. He knew next to nothing about this woman, and the last thing he needed upon taking over Wilson Trent’s medical practice was a reputation for sticking his nose where it didn’t belong.
Eli paid the shopkeeper and took up the basket. He had a good feeling about Harold Murphy. “Nice to see you again, sir. I’ll bring this basket back next time I come in…or shall I return it to you tonight?”
Harold flicked his wrist. “Naw, you bring it back whenever it’s convenient. You give ol’ Doc a hearty hello from me.”
“I’ll do that.” Eli turned and proceeded to the door, shoving it open with his shoulder. The first thing he noticed when he stepped outside was the absence of the two bikes, and it occurred to him then that Sofia and Andy Rogers had ridden to and from Murphy’s Market on those rickety contraptions. A woman in what looked to be her seventh month of pregnancy, riding a bike clear to the edge of town? In a dress? And in this heat?
This time, he did bop himself on the head.
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Thursday, October 04, 2012

WANT TO HELP ME CELEBRATE MY 12TH RELEASE?


In the summer of 2000 I first got the "bug" to write a novel. Of course, I didn't start out thinking, hey, I'm going to write a novel. No, I started out thinking, hmm, let's see if I can write the first page. (That's how most novels begin.)

Back then, I knew nothing about font size, spacing, how to set a paragraph or do page numbers. Word processing meant nothing to me. However, I did know how to type, so, I sat down at my computer and my passion was born! God did plant a deep love for reading in my heart at a young age, but I didn't know He'd also planted a seed of passion for writing until much later in life - age 52 to be exact! It's rather ironic I think that 12 years ago I began this writing journey, and JUST TODAY my 12th PUBLISHED BOOK released and is hopefully filling store shelves even as we speak.

Listen, if I could tell you just one thing about walking a Christian life it would be this: Living for Christ is EXCITING! I'm not kidding! Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." What a promise, my precious friends. God makes a pledge to us that if we place our full hope and trust in Him He will NOT fail us. He has plans for you. You've all heard the phrase, God has a wonderful plan for your life. Well, I beg to differ. He doesn't have "A" plan, He has MANY plans. I'm coming down the hill (sort of fast) on the second half of my life, and I'm here to tell you that God isn't anywhere near done with me yet, not as far as I know anyway.

Do you trust Him with all of your life? Do you want to know what His next steps are for you? Are you standing in the window watching with expectant eyes - waiting for Him to round the bend, come up the drive, knock on your door, and give you your next life assignment? Do you have a willing heart for whatever that might be? If all of the above resonates with you, then get ready because HE HAS PLANS FOR YOU - plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Step out in faith and watch, wait, listen...and obey! THE LORD OUR GOD IS FAITHFUL TO COMPLETE WHATEVER IT IS HE HAS BEGUN IN YOU. He is a good and faithful Father.

Now, just because you were so sweet to indulge me by reading this sermon, ur, blog, I'm going to give you a chance to win my newest release, Sofia's Secret. All you have to do is make a short comment below. Easy-peasy. It can be as short as "Hi! Enter me in the contest." Or it could be something like, "Hey, you're awesome. Can I send you a pie a month?" Ha. Just kidding. Sort of.

Anyway, I'm going to give away THREE copies!!! So, yep, three blessed winners will be receiving a signed copy in the mail! I'll draw three names from a hat on...
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10.

READY. SET. GO! Leave a comment. Now. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

FROM SEED TO SPROUT...Part 4


10. EDITING – SCHMEDITING
For many, editing is their least favorite aspect of writing. I’m probably the weirdo in the bunch because it’s one of my favorites. I love the rereading, revamping, revising, reviewing, reconstructing, rewriting, re-, re-, re-, but perhaps the hardest “re-” of all for me is relinquishing. No writer ever feels quite “done”, but there comes a time to move on to your next project. In fact, a couple of years ago, I penned a poem on this very topic, and here it is:

Inside This Writer’s Head…

The second draft, oh what a blast!
The editing is here at last!
Crossing ‘t’s, dotting ‘i’s,
Reread, rewrite, rethink, revise.

The road to “Finish” takes awhile,
Research, outlines, setting, style,
Files full of worthless news,
Stuff I’ll never even use!

All this for that first, sweet copy,
Who cares if it’s a wee bit sloppy?
Because—guess what— no need to whine,
The editing will make it shine!

Some writers really hate this phase,
Fine-tune, tighten, trim, rephrase.
But me? I find it sheer delight
It means the end is within sight.

I approach it with an eye for fun,
Remembering it’s almost done.
And, then, I’ll finally stop my stewing.
But wait! Another story’s brewing!



11. LEARN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY.
Everybody’s looking for a shortcut. When you’re traveling from one place to another you want to know the shortest route, but sometimes taking the shortest route can lead you into unfamiliar territory—which can also lead to roadblocks—which ultimately slow the process even more. It’s best to know where you’re heading and how best to get there, even if it takes a little longer. This will mean researching the market, learning who publishes the genre you write, and what types of stories they’re looking to publish. Don’t send your work of fiction to a house that only publishes Bible studies. Read their requirements for submission then follow them. You’ll find them on their websites. If I could recommend just one book on this very topic, it would be The Christian Writers’ Market Guide. Here is a resource book that will teach you everything you ever needed or wanted to know about how the publishing industry works.

12. TAKE A DEEP BREATH – PRAY – SUBMIT – WAIT PATIENTLY.
SO, YOU’VE COMPLETED your first novel—or maybe even your second and third! And you’ve gained enough confidence to start submitting your work to an agent or directly to a publisher. (Again, know the publisher you want to submit to and note their requirements pertaining to solicited and unsolicited materials. Many houses will not accept your manuscript without an agent’s recommendation.)

Remember that seed we talked about nurturing? God planted it, but it’s your job to bring it to fruition. If you never water, feed, or care for it, it will wither away and never amount to anything. CARE FOR THAT GIFT OF PASSION GOD PLANTED IN YOUR HEART – and then WATCH IT GROW!


***Thank you for coming with me on this writer's journey. Be on the lookout for an upcoming session on "character development"!

Enjoy your journey, and make it count for God's glory and honor!***






Monday, October 01, 2012

FROM SEED TO SPROUT... Part 3



7. READ, READ, READ! (And not always in your genre.)
WHEN I FIRST acquired the bug for writing, I couldn’t read enough about honing my craft! I read books on writing fiction, how to publish your first novel, books on punctuation and grammar, books about the publishing industry itself, and my library grew to the point that my husband had to build more shelves. And that doesn’t even include the books I purchased pertaining to my story plots and themes.

Abbie Ann, the third in my Daughters of Jacob Kane series is about sailing and shipbuilding in the early 1900s, so I went in search of books about shipbuilding and sailing and bought a huge volume called Seamanship and Small Boat Handling. I think it’s about five inches thick, not to mention heavy. And when I wrote Maggie Rose, the second in that series, I had to find books about the orphan trains that ran for 75 years beginning in the mid-1800s. Most of my series are historical, so I have books about 19th Century clothing, Everyday Life in the 1800s, and I even have a book about the origin of hymns because if I write a church service into one of my scenes set in, say, 1850, I can’t have my congregation singing, My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine...because the writer of that old hymn, William R. Featherston, would’ve only been four-years-old at the time, and while he did write the poem at the ripe age of 16, it didn’t appear in The London Book of Hymns till the year 1864. So, beware, somewhere out there in the Kingdom of Readerdom there will be a reader or two who will catch a mistake like that and say, “Hmm, this author isn’t very versed on her facts. I don’t think I’ll be purchasing any more of her books.”

8. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
UGH! DID I just say, “Do your homework!”? I don’t know about you, but that word conjures up a whole slew of bad memories! Let’s change that to research. Research can be whatever you make of it, pleasant, unpleasant, interesting, grueling, time-consuming or, well, time consuming, fun or plain old hard work. The fact of the matter is whether you enjoy it or not, you can’t get around it, so live with it! In the end, you’ll be glad you did.

Our readers are not dumb; they are well read, well versed, intelligent, and sometimes, dare I say it, critical to the point of hurtful. But we learn from them; they teach us through their critiques and reviews when we’ve messed up. Yes, we write fiction, but that doesn’t give us license to change historical facts. So, in whatever era you happen to be writing, be sure you know who the president of the United States is/was, whether it was an election year, and whether something significant happened in that timeframe that would affect your story. If you’re writing in a contemporary genre, then know the lingo, stay up with the newest, latest and greatest fads and trends, know what’s happening in current affairs, not that you have to address politics per se, but if you want to keep your audience engaged you have to write from a contemporary viewpoint. This is one reason I enjoy writing historical fiction. At 64, I’m having a tough enough time learning to hit the right keys while texting, let alone write about everything else going on in the world of technology.

9. FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, DON’T QUIT!
AND, YES, I do mean for Heaven’s sake, because if you are called by God to write, then it is your responsibility to persevere.

I may have a passion for writing, but that doesn’t mean I wake up every morning and say, “Oh, goody, I get to write today! Yea!” No, some days I crawl out of bed and think to myself, I’d rather go catch snakes than write a single stinking word today. Of course, that’s a huge exaggeration, but you get the idea. Some days are like that. I tell myself I don’t have an ounce of creativity in me, I’m not especially motivated, I lack inspiration, and I’m feeling downright lazy. The thing is, when that happens there’s usually a reason behind it. You either do truly need to take a day off, or you’ve hit a great big roadblock that needs addressing. Maybe you’re stuck and can’t figure out where to go next, so instead of writing your way out of that tough spot, you quit for several days and tell yourself you’re “thinking”. By the time you finally get back to your computer, you’re no further ahead of the game than you were when you quit. Some call it writer’s block, some call it hitting a wall, and some call it brain freeze. Here’s what I call it – are you ready for this? A big – fat – excuse! When I find myself in that position, what helps the most is talking to someone. Brainstorming is an awesome way to pull one’s self out of a hole. Go over that scene you’re struggling to complete with your spouse, your best friend, a family member, or a fellow writer. Few people can write, but lots of people have great ideas! Don’t quit! Quitting leads to discouragement, discouragement leads to despair, and before you know it, you’ve lost your momentum. Don’t let that happen. Remember, you’re called to write, so persevere – all the way to the end! I ran across a quote just the other day that said this: Write from your heart; write from your soul; make the most of your talent, and don’t ever let it go – not for anything!


***Be sure to check back on Wednesday, October 3 for the fourth and final installment in this series of lessons***

Sunday, September 30, 2012

FROM SEED TO SPROUT...Part 2


4. WHEN YOU DREAM, DREAM BIG!
TRULY, MY WRITING did begin with a dream. I had no idea what it meant at first, this dream that I’d written a novel, and only years down the road did it finally make complete sense to me. I knew I was drawing near to retirement from teaching, and I prayed, rather, pled with God to give me a new direction for my life, something that would not only fulfill me, but would hopefully impact others. I didn’t know what that would look like, but I knew I wanted to complete my final years on earth making a difference in others’ lives.

Well, one night in the summer of 2000, I dreamt I’d written a novel. At first, I tossed it aside as perhaps one of the silliest dreams I’d ever had. But when it recurred three or four more times over the course of the next several nights I began to wonder if the dream had credibility. I don’t normally take much stock in dreams. They’re usually disjointed and nonsensical, but this one kept repeating itself, and when I recalled having asked God to give me a plan and a purpose and to lead me into something fulfilling for the second chapter of my life, I started taking the dream seriously.

5. READ GOD’S WORD AND PRAY, PRAY, PRAY – THEN ACT!
GOD NEVER DIRECTS us to do something without first equipping us. Listen to what 2 Chronicles 20:12 says. “Oh, our God . . . we are powerless . . . nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” Keep your eyes on Christ. If you’re feeling a call to write, then act upon that calling, start! Don’t just sit on it. Do something. Yes, there are times you and I feel utterly inept, worthless, incapable, even inferior, but we can do all things through Christ who not only gives us the strength, but provides inspiration, clarity of thought, guidance, encouragement, and support—everything we need to fulfill the task He has set before us. Pray about your plot line, your characters, your theme, the scriptures you can weave into your story, and what you want your readers to walk away with after having read your story. Don’t necessarily write to publish, because what you’re writing might not be the book that goes before an editor’s eyes, but write for God’s eyes—always God’s eyes. He will see to it your book reaches the right publisher at the PRECISE right time—when HE sees fit.

6. CREATE YOUR OWN SPACE.
EVEN IF IT’S just a little corner of the house, let it be known to your family that this is your spot for writing then warn them what will happen if they cross over into your territory! For instance, I’m fortunate enough to have my own office – with a door! And on the outside of my door is this sign: WARNING! NOVELIST AT WORK. BYSTANDERS MAY BE WRITTEN INTO THE STORY.

Of course, everyone knows it’s a joke, but it’s my subtle way of saying, “Hey, I’m a real live author, and I have a job to do, so please take me seriously and realize that I need time and space so that I can accomplish the goals set before me.” In time, your family and friends will begin to catch on that this ‘writing thing’ is more than just a hobby. I remember the day very well when shortly after starting to write I said to my husband, “This is not one of those things that I’m going to delight in for a while but then grow tired of doing. Nope. This is here to stay, and if I live to be 90, and God sees fit to bless me with a sound mind all the way up to the end, I will sit my little old wrinkled behind on a chair and write — crippled fingers and all!”

When creating your space, whether it’s an office or just a little corner somewhere remote, make sure it’s big enough to house a desk then try to surround yourself with things that inspire, a vase of flowers, a candle, familiar photos, your favorite mug, and all the supplies you will need so that you don’t have to keep getting up and running through the house in search of it. Then put a “Hands Off” sign on your desk—with a smiley face so people won’t start thinking of you as the grump of the household.


***Please check back on Tuesday, October 2, for Part 3!***

Saturday, September 29, 2012



FROM SEED TO SPROUT

On September 25 I had the wonderful privilege of teaching a couple of workshops on the writing craft at the 35th annual Maranatha Christian Writers' Conference on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. I'd like to share the information I taught and will break it up into segments. The first class is titled "From Seed to Sprout" and takes us on the writer's journey from the very beginning stages when God first plants that tiny seed of desire in your heart for writing to the final stages where one feels ready to publish. Ready to go on the journey with me? This class was broken down into 12 main points, so I'll teach this class in four stages, sharing three points per session.

And away we go!


FROM SEED TO SPROUT
Sharlene MacLaren


1. EVERY LIVING THING MUST HAVE ITS BEGINNING!
MY LOVE FOR writing began with a seed of passion. I don’t know exactly why God chose to plant that seed deep within the pit of my soul, but He did. In fact, He planted it at a very early age, but it didn’t truly begin to grow until I began to nurture, feed, and care for it. God did the planting, but I had to see to its care. It’s that way with any sort of gift God gives. It begins as a tiny seed, and we can either choose to ignore it, allowing it to waste away, or recognize it for what it is—a gift.

I recognized my gift in high school around 11th grade and began writing silly teenage romances, but after filling three or four spiral notebooks with stories, the school year came to a close, and my love for writing waned as fun-filled summer activities took its place. I then entered my senior year of high school, then college life, followed by a teaching job, and shortly thereafter, marriage, family, and church activities. On top of that, I had a great love for vocal music, another seed of passion God had planted in my soul from birth. Thus, God, family, teaching, music, and a myriad of other things completely washed away all time for sitting down to pen a story of any kind, although I loved reading it!

2. WRITING REQUIRES PASSION.
I ALWAYS KNEW I had a gift for writing. While in college if the professor announced at the beginning of the 10-week class period that we would be required to write a term paper I sighed with relief. This I could do. Or, given a choice of finishing out any given class with a multiple choice test of, say, 100 questions or writing a fifteen-page research paper, guess what I chose. I knew I could write my way to an “A” or “B” overall grade. Why was that? Because God had given me something others lacked, and that was a deep passion for words.

Yes, I had been given a passion, but I wasn’t much into feeding it yet. Far too many other things took precedence over cultivating my passion. So, I let it simmer on a back burner, mostly ignoring it and delving into other interests that also captured my heart, like falling in love, getting married, buying our first home, raising children, involving myself in church activities like choir and worship team, weekly Bible studies, teaching Sunday school, working in public education, planning family vacations, carting our children to and from school activities, and the endless list goes on. I had a passion for writing, don’t get me wrong, but like anything, if you fail to feed it, care for it, nurture it, it will just sit there and tarnish like an old piece of silver.

3. EMBRACE YOUR PASSION!
I DIDN’T TRULY recognize my writing passion as a gift from God and something that needed nurturing till I drew near to retirement from teaching. Yes, I had already lived out 50+ years of life before I began to see that God didn’t want me thinking that retirement from one career meant putting my feet up on a stool and lounging away the rest of my days. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Simply put, God ALWAYS has a job for us to do. He didn’t put us on this earth without a map so that we could wander aimlessly, never knowing our purpose. I love what The Message says about this in Proverbs 16: 1-3 “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you've planned will take place.”

So, embrace your passion! Watch what God does with it when you fully surrender that passion to Him.



***Stay tuned for the next installment on Monday, October 1!***




Wednesday, September 05, 2012

WHEN GOD HEALS...


It's a mystery why God heals some and not others, but the fact of the matter is 100% of us WILL die, so it goes without saying that He doesn't always choose to heal us...BUT...sometimes He does.

My Experience...

I was in my early twenties and still living at home when I became violently ill in the middle of the night. Extreme nausea and a raging fever awakened me and I quickly leaped out of bed and made for the bathroom. Halfway there, I fell into a dead faint. My dad heard me hit the floor and came running. Helping me up, he and my mom both guided me toward the bathroom, but before reaching the door, I fainted again with no warning. In the bathroom I spilled my stomach contents (no nice way of putting it, sorry), and then because my bedroom seemed a million miles away, my folks told me to lie in their bed and Dad would go to my room. In their room, though, I collapsed into another dead heap before making it to the bed, this time ramming my body against a cabinet and scraping up my elbow when I hit the hard tile. Awaking on the floor, I recall mumbling, "What's wrong with me?" I was so sick, and I've never experienced anything like it since.

I lay in the bed next to my mother trembling and shaken, my body so hot with fever I could hardly think straight, my temples reeling with pounding pain, and my stomach roiling with sickness. I couldn't get comfortable, as I tossed and turned. After a few minutes, I attempted to settle my whirling stomach by lying on my back and staring at the ceiling. That's when it happened. A sensation came over me difficult to explain, but it began at the top of my head and moved slowly down my body - like a warm, comforting wave on the seashore - ending at the soles of my feet. Beads of perspiration popped out on my skin, my fever breaking that very instant, and I immediately noted how my head had ceased hurting and my stomach had calmed. Hardly knowing what to think, I threw the covers off my sweaty body and turned to look at my Godly mother. "Did you - by some chance - just pray for me?" I whispered.

She looked at me as well, her countenance but a shadow in the moonlight. "Yes, I asked God to heal you of this mysterious illness."

I'm now 64, and while I've sensed God's wonderfully sweet presence on many occasions since, that particular experience stands out above the rest. In times of doubt and worry I've been able to look back, reflect, and say, "God is REAL, God is RELIABLE, God is RELATIONAL, God is REDEEMING, and I REJOICE because He REIGNS in me!"

Sometimes, all we need is a reminder of His past faithfulness to know He will see us through whatever lies ahead. Do you have a "standing stone" or memory of a time in which God proved faithful? If so, share it here. I'd love to hear your story!

Monday, July 30, 2012


LOVELY PINK HIBISCUS...


Oh, how I love God's creation, and looking at my beautiful hibiscus bush in my backyard is one of my favorite pastimes. Despite long, harsh winters and the fact that I cut this bush down to an an inch from the ground every spring so that it looks like I've KILLED it, it never fails to return in all its glory, tall, full, and sprouting the loveliest blossoms I've ever seen!

Oh, that we could all be like this bush - endure the harshest conditions, allow God's pruning, and then bounce back even taller and stronger than the year before. I think I shall make this my prayer..."Lord, help me recover from life's setbacks and come forth with Your beauty radiating from my face and being. Increase my faith and let me be a shining example to others of Your love and faithfulness. In Your name I pray. Amen."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


BEWARE of Growling Author!


Alert! I've been without Internet service for almost a week now, and I'm getting grumbly. I'm actually sitting in my local library writing this, and that's not all bad (thank goodness for libraries!), but I'm having a difficult time adjusting to this inconvenience while I wait for the return of my "in home" connection.

It's amazing how dependent I am on the Worldwide Web! What did authors do in the "old days" when all they had were pencil and paper, trusty typewriters, and "books" for research? I'm shocked at how often throughout my writing day I click on Dictionary(dot)com or quickly type something into my search engine so I can have important information delivered to me in an instant. We live in an "INSTANT" society, don't we, and while there's nothing particularly wrong with that, I do think it's important to "take the long way home sometimes". That's what I've been doing lately. Instead of surfing the web for immediate info I've had to search my bookshelf for answers and, woe is me, haul out my trusty hard copy dictionary! (Can you imagine?)

I'm learning patience in the process and discovering what it must have been like for early writers who didn't have this instant information at their fingertips. I wonder if they pondered for longer periods. I do know they weren't spitting out three and four books a year like so many of today's authors.

Although I'm missing my Internet and, yes, grumbling and growling at the inconvenience, I want to take advantage of this slower pace. I need to gaze out my office window more and pause to gather my thoughts. I'm too quick to search for answers and ideas on the Internet when often that inspiration lies right within my own built-in "computer".

And now--back to my work-in-progress!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

THURSDAY THOUGHTS


Intricately Woven...

Anything that is intricately woven takes time, energy, patience, and sometimes even a wee bit of pain. Agreed?

I was just talking to a friend today whose house has been on the market for a few months and hasn't gotten the first "bite" yet. They've already moved, and they NEED to sell. I tried to encourage her, although in times like these it's hard to know what to say. "God's timing is everything," I told her. "Maybe the right person just hasn't come along yet. Maybe he's trying to sell his house. Maybe he lives in another state and will shortly move here - and your house is exactly what he needs." We just don't know why or how these situations come together, but eventually they do work themselves out if we remain patient in our waiting. And, of course, it's best when we trust our Creator with the details.

Take this beautifully woven design for example. Do you think its creator knitted/crocheted/stitched it in one sitting? Do you think she wove it together while watching a rerun of Mash or I love Lucy? Did she wake up one day and say, "I think I'll quick throw together a lovely little blanket."? No, this beautiful piece took hours of effort, patience, dedication, and passion.

Whatever it is you're working toward, whatever your goals, your aims, your desires, don't assume they'll come to fruition overnight. Everything, especially anything of quality, takes time and abundant patience. And if you're in that waiting mode, then don't grow weary in your waiting. Take a deep breath and know it will come to pass in its own good time.

Trust your Creator to give you what you need for every circumstance of life. His plans for you are already intricately woven together, but He sometimes only reveals the finished piece in tiny sections. When you're patient and trusting, you can often look back at the finished work and say, "Wow, now I see exactly why it had to work the way it did."


"Lord, give me patience and endurance for the days and weeks ahead. May I learn to trust You better and trust you with the intricate details of my life, knowing intricately woven things take time and patience. In Your Name I pray. Amen."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Writer's Daily Prayer...


W R I T E




On my office window sill sits the word
W R I T E in individual block letters. One day as I sat at my computer preparing myself for a day of writing, I studied this word, and suddenly the Lord inspired me to write the following heartfelt prayer. It has been the cry of my heart ever since. I thought I'd share it with you. May the Lord bless you, whether you write or not.



The Writer’s Daily Prayer


With all my heart, I thank You for the opportunity to write for You, Lord. Please grant me the talent to do it with clarity and fresh style that my words will stretch deep into my readers’ souls and make a difference for eternity.


Reach into my heart, Lord, and grant me sensitivity to understand my characters—their soul’s deep core, their wants and needs and dreams. May my sensitivity make my characters come to life for my readers and, in turn, touch a chord of emotion that will draw them into the story.


I long to write from my heart, Lord, so that I may communicate Your love and goodness to my readers. Fuel my imagination with vivid ideas and vital insights that my words will flow and I will have no doubt that You are working through me.


Teach me how to trust You in those moments when the creative juices slow and my mind grows weary. It is for You I write, so please awaken and energize my senses with fresh insights so that my readers will go in search of Your truth in the midst of my fiction.


Empower me with Your Holy Spirit, God, that I may persevere in discouragement, trust in times of fear, hope in the midst of despair, believe when doubts assail me, and rely solely on You for my strength and inspiration. In the name of Your Son Jesus, I pray. Amen.






© Sharlene MacLaren

*Feel free to print this prayer, but please give credit where credit is due. Blessings on you, my precious writing friends.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It All Started With the Electrician!

For several weeks now I've been noticing a strange odor in my office, so I've been using lots of room spray to cover the smell rather than try to identify where the smell was coming from!

But then the smoke started coming, and that's when I realized I had a faulty wall receptacle! Yow! I don't know why I didn't take a 'before' picture because the white plate was all charred. Maybe because I was too busy turning off the power to my office and calling the electrician - who said he would be there within the hour! Good, I thought. I don't want a fire. But then I started looking around my office and saw how dirty it was - even minus the lights.

The electrician is coming, the electrician is coming! Hurry! Clean this room! Well, needless to say there wasn't time for a thorough cleaning, so I just did the surface stuff and hoped he wouldn't look too close. I don't know why I cared. He was a man, after all! Do they really notice dust?

Now, here's the thing - I HATE clutter, but dust, and even a little dirt? Pfff, who cares? This is what the corner looked like behind my desk: I think I even see a couple of those gross little worms that love basement corners. Yuck!










After the electrician fixed the problem, which was a short in some wires, and replaced the charred wall plate, I decided to "go to town" on my untidy office. (Untidy sounds better than filthy.) See my pretty new wall plate - and that burn line running up the wall?















First, I swept underneath my desk and behind it, and even got rid of the bugs and worms! Then I literally just started tossing everything on the floor. Swoop! Nice, eh?















See this big book I used for research on Abbie Ann, which was several books ago? Look at the line of dust where another book had sat atop it! Ick!














And here's something else. Look at all these cameras on the floor! And that's not even counting the one I have in my hand as I snap the shot or the one I have upstairs hanging on a hook. I don't know what it is with me and cameras. I want cheap and easy, so I keep going in search of the "perfect" camera. Look! There's even a pink one there that I never took out of the box! I didn't even know it was hiding in all my "stuff"! Wow, camera, anybody?



















DON'T ASK ME WHY, but I keep this little 'formula' on my white board - I think for purposes of torturing myself. I was able to achieve this at one time, so I seem to want to remind myself of that feat and tell myself to get busy and DO IT AGAIN!



Oh, and then while decluttering, I found some things I can't identify. Like this 'round thing'. WHAT IN THE WORLD IS IT? ANYBODY? I'm too scared to throw it away, though. What if it's important? (It's in my catch-all box.)















So...it appears I'm finished. My little office is once again, neat, tidy, and spotlessly clean, yes, even dusted! Want to see some pics of the finished project? I took some pics of various angles. I love old photos so several take up one wall. On another wall are a few awards I've gotten in the past couple of years. On my windowsill are the letters: WRITE - to remind me. In one corner is Peyton's chair. He stayed clear of my room while I was on this cleaning rampage, though.
I love the two photographs on my shelf. They are of my mom and her two sisters and then moons later my two cousins and me. Kind of cool, eh? P.S. Thanks for indulging me! Love you all!!!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WHO DOESN'T LOVE A BOOK GIVEAWAY?





I'M GIVING AWAY THREE COPIES OF "ELLIE'S HAVEN"!!!




AND ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SIGN UP BELOW FOR YOUR CHANCE TO BE ONE OF THREE WINNERS! SOUND ENTICING? READ ON!

SYNOPSIS:

A courageous young woman seeking refuge...

Ellie Booth was never the type to run away. But she'd witnessed her stepfather commit a heartless crime, and, knowing he'll stop at nothing to keep her quiet, she has no choice but to flee. Soon, she finds herself in Wabash, Indiana, scrambling for a cover identity to evade her stepfather. For lack of a better option, she answers an ad for a wife/housekeeper/nanny, praying that her lack of experience won't be obvious.

A widowed father with no domestic skills to speak of...

Gage Cooper is reaching the end of his rope. With four children between the ages of three and ten, he needs a reliable nanny, yet each one he's hired has thrown up her hands and deserted her post. When an attractive, spirited young woman applies for the "job," he knows he should pray about the matter, but his desperation for help propels him headlong into a marriage of convenience.

A trial by fire of their wedding vows...

Ellie immediately falls in love with the Cooper children, and, not long after, with their father. Soon, the "marriage of convenience" becomes less of a business arrangement as husband and wife yield to an attraction neither one had expected. When secrets of the past and dangers of the present arise in their lives, their marriage is put to the test, and God alone knows what will become of their union.


WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? DATE OF DRAWING: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7!!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

MONDAY MUSINGS

We've all heard that phrase a time or two; in fact, someone even wrote a song by the same title!

Don't worry; be happy. There's a lot of wisdom in that little phrase. I Peter 5:7 & 8 says, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert."

Why do you think that verse ends with be self-controlled and alert? I think I have an idea. Worry can be toxic not only to ourselves but to others, especially if in our worry we grumble, complain, and fret aloud. Our attitude of worry can release itself to others and give off an almost poisonous stench, pushing people away from us. Instead, we need to project our worry toward God, the One true source of comfort, encouragement, and peace. Today has enough struggles of its own without trying to figure out tomorrow! Check out Matthew 6:34: "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

If worry snags hold of you, gripping you from the inside out, cast it away in Jesus' Name. It is not of God! Worry is a stronghold that can drag you down a path of doom and darkness. On the other hand, don't beat yourself up if it sneaks up on you. Simply cast it aside again--and again if needs be. God understands your human weakness, and He wants to help you with your tendency to worry. He awaits your attention, so turn your thoughts toward Him whenever worry begins to take hold. He INVITES and DELIGHTS in your dependence on Him, especially in those times of struggle.

Don't worry; be happy. Perhaps easier said than done, but with prayer and practice, you can find the kind of joy you desire to make it through the rough times. GOD IS FAITHFUL, AND HIS WORD NEVER FAILS.

Monday, February 13, 2012

MONDAY MUSINGS

Did you know you are loved? The Bible tells us so...

We suffered a great loss on Saturday afternoon when Whitney Houston died, but I believe in my heart of hearts that Heaven gained a precious soul. It's no secret that Whitney Houston lived a life of tremendous ups and woeful downs, that fame, fortune, and poor choices led her down a treacherous path - one that would eventually point to her demise.

How could one who claimed to love the Lord be so mislead?

Perhaps we'll never know the answer to that loaded question, but this one thing we can know; Jesus loves His children, and those who come to Him in humbleness of spirit and with repentant hearts, seeking His forgiveness, will spend eternity with Him.

Whitney Houston often spoke about the Lord, even in her most tumultuous times. God's grace is far reaching, everlasting, immeasurable, uncontainable, irreversible, all-encompassing, and unchanging. We can't grasp its completeness because it's beyond our understanding, but we can KNOW He loves us because the Bible tells us. Christians are not perfect beings. Knowing Christ doesn't make one exempt from error or future sin, but it does save us from eternal damnation. I'm so thankful for God's soul saving grace.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know - for the Bible Tells Me So. Such a simple little song - yet packed with powerful truth. Click on the link and listen to Whitney sing it from her heart.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

THURSDAY THOUGHTS



HEALING VS. GRACE.

If you had your choice, which umbrella would you rather stand under? Think about it...


Our church has launched an 8-week, 40-day study in which we all hope to read through the entire New Testament. During the week we come together with our "growth groups" to discuss our reading and what passages may have stood out or raised a question. Our pastor (Pete Yoshonis) is presenting some fabulous coordinating sermons, and it's a blessing to know that several hundred of us are all plugging along together, hoping to read the entire N.T. over the next eight weeks. (I'm on schedule now. Let's see how I'm doing five weeks from now. Yikes!) My overachieving hubby has already read it in full, and is now starting over!

Anyway, our pastor blogged on the same topic I'm touching on today - this matter of faith, grace, and healing.

One Sunday our congregation was blessed to sit under the tutelage of Ed Dobson, former pastor of Grand Rapids Calvary Church, a large body of believers. He discussed with us his ongoing, grueling battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). He recalled conversations related to healing. Some well-meaning friends suggested that perhaps he lacked faith enough to be healed.  They informed him that his lack of faith had undoubtedly raised a barrier between him and God. (Sad, isn't it?)

I have listened to these kinds of conversations myself while going through difficult times and questioning within why God didn't just heal me - did I not have enough faith? It does seem people want to reduce healing to "if you just believe, you will receive".

If all that negative talk discouraged Reverend Dobson, he didn't let on. No, instead he shared a most relevant concept that has stayed with me since his visit some two or more years ago. He recalled the story in Luke regarding the blind man pushing his way through the crowd and calling out in a loud, clear voice, "Jesus! King of David! Jesus, Jesus, have mercy on me."

"Did he ask for healing?" Reverend Dobson asked. "No, he asked for mercy." He went on to say, "I don't know if I have enough faith to be healed, but I do know that God has more than enough mercy for me."

He added, "God has given me the mercy I need each day in the midst of this hard journey."

Are YOU finding God's grace and mercy sufficient for your needs? Click on the picture above to enlarge it and read the wonderful words in this age-old hymn. If that doesn't encourage you I don't know what will.


Be BLESSED, my precious friends. God's grace is sufficient, no matter your need."

Monday, February 06, 2012

MONDAY MUSINGS



Ever feel like Garfield when Monday rolls around?

Mondays are difficult for me. Some people start their weeks with zeal and zest whereas I tend to start them with ZIP, ZERO, and ZILCH. Even despite my Sunday afternoon snooze, which should get me energized for launching my week, I still have a hard time jumping back into my daily routine. By Tuesday I'm fine again. Maybe we should just cut out Mondays, what do you think?

Looks to me like Garfield agrees.

At any rate, I HAVE to pull myself out of this funk and get back to writing. That June 1 deadline will sneak up on me before I know it - and speaking of June, well, that represents warmth and sunshine and summer! Maybe it's the "black and white" winter that plays into my Monday doldrums.

Anybody else besides Garfield and me out there who'd like to eliminate Monday from the calendar? I might get a lot more done. Then again - Tuesday would become the new Monday, so never mind that idea.

Okay, I think it's time for a stretch and some caffeine. "HAPPY" Monday, everyone! And look on the bright side. Mondays only come around every seven days. LOVE YOU ALL!

Monday, January 30, 2012

MONDAY MUSINGS


ONE YEAR AGO!




TODAY!

It's pretty amazing the comparison between last year's and this year's winter. I've enjoyed the milder weather, and I'm sure many of you across the northern regions of the U.S. share my feelings - with the exception of you snowboard enthusiasts. Sorry about that.

I'm still enjoying my fireplace and candles, but I'm also enjoying the fact that it's almost February, and being that it's a shorter month it seems like March comes rolling in before we know it! Soon, spring will be upon us, and we'll all be saying, "What? Another year come and gone - already?"

I love the changing seasons, the newness of spring, the loveliness of summer, the coolness of autumn, and, yes, the bitter chill of winter. Each season serves its purpose in reminding us of the pure joy of life itself - from youth to old age we can embrace it in all its splendor and richness. (IF we choose to, that is.)

I feel sorry for those who mourn change. Change is inevitable, something we must all endure whether we want to or not. In two days, my "almost" 89-year-old mother-in-law will be leaving her home of the past 20 years to make her way to a senior living center. She could bemoan the fact that she's reached that point in her life where she must submit to yet another change, this one truly MAJOR; but instead, she remains her positive self, praising God even through this poignant, monumental life change. She knows her next home will be Heaven itself, and that will be the ULTIMATE change. From a blemished, scarred world to GLORIOUS PERFECTION.

As you go about your day today, consider all the changes you've tackled in your lifetime. Did they grow you as an individual or slow your progress? Think of change as a good and positive thing, and you will be amazed at how it affects your attitude and heart.