Friday, May 18, 2018

Living a Balanced Christian Life (and other funny jokes) ... a devotion from Dianne J. Wilson

If you're anything like me, you spend most of your time juggling many things, wondering if you should have them all on your plate and trying to figure out how to 'balance' it all. Sound familiar?

Sometimes I feel like I'm limping along on a flat. Who am I kidding - most times.

I've attempted to fix my life pizza-style. You know, rearrange things into equal time sections so that everything at least gets a touch. That's not realistic though, so I whipped it all about into some sort of redeemed Mazlo's Hierachy... God first, family second, then church... oh wait. Is it meant to be church then family? I just can't get it straight. But where do you fit a book deadline into that? Or car repairs? How about elastics that need to be stitched onto a ballet shoe? Does that legitimately belong in family?

I've winged it too... on-the-fly-allocate more time to those things that are apparently more valuable than others. But you know what? All it takes it one cat with a fur-ball who decides it's time to let it all out over the lounge carpet to blow my priorities out the water. Or a kidlet who forgot about a speech that has to be done for tomorrow. Or a dropped bottle of ketchup-slash-tomato sauce... Fill in the blanks.

I've come to realize what I was missing from the whole equation. To run smoothly every wheel needs an axle, a central point that is constant. For us, that's Jesus. Once He is securely central, the origin for each thing that captures our time and energy... then our lives run balanced.

Here's the funny thing - there will be seasons of complete and utter 'unbalanced-ness' for each of us. A deadline, a new baby... whatever hits your life with enough force to shake you wonky. But when Jesus is smack in the middle, somehow the wheel can still run smoothly.

How can it though, when the spokes - AKA all the demands on us - are sometimes so unequal? Ask any cyclist how bumpy a ride with spokes like that would be.

Here is the secret... Jesus is a magnificent spoke equalizer. He doesn't just stand on the sidelines, barking orders and smacking his forehead when we get it wrong. He is right in the middle of our mess, His grace, the elastic that reaches the bits we can't get to. He stretches and holds on our behalf when our internal elastic is so frayed that our mental and emotional pants are falling down.

Right now for me, life is a stretch. I single-parent during the week, miss my hubby between weekends, try my best to mommy my girls, work, do home & pets and chase my deadlines. Some days I feel like something has to give or I'll conk out. But you know what? I just need to stay cuddled up to Jesus. He has all these things that pull at me, these spokes... He has them all. Where I fall short (so so short) He doesn't. And He's got you too.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is writing the third book in YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed. Book 1, Affinity is releasing on the 8th of June 2018.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.

Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Finding the Dolce in My Far Niente

By Patricia Beal | @bealpat

The sweetness of doing nothing? I can't figure this out, folks.

I can make the far niente part happen, but it isn’t dolce at all. It's rather uncomfortable.

What exactly is dolce far niente anyway? What is it supposed to feel like and look like? And how in the world do we make it happen in our jam-packed modern lives?

This is so hard for me that I tried to write a different post. I was going to avoid this whole dolce far niente business by writing about Saturday’s royal wedding instead. But then the latest developments involving the bride’s dad broke my heart and took some of the magic out of the anticipation. Best to search for the dolce in my far niente after all…

So what is dolce far niente?

Merriam-Webster says it’s “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.”

I can make myself be still, but it’s just not pleasant (or relaxing or carefree). Why? The mind is going at a million miles an hour. Can I make it stop? Yes and no. If I practice it often, I can probably get my thoughts to slow and worries to fade. But…

My brain is trained to be online.

I love it. I’m on Twitter a lot, and on Facebook a lot, and on Instagram, and on Pinterest, and reading emails, and answering emails. To fit all that online interaction in my daily routine (homeschooling mom), I have to think fast, read fast, type fast. There’s some agitation involved. The result of the interaction is sweet, but the process is fast-paced. Can I go from that to “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness” whenever I want? Can my social media life and dolce far niente co-exist? I’m not sure.

My Dolce Far Niente Pinterest Board

Why should I care about dolce far niente anyway?

What’s the big deal? It’s a big deal because I believe it walks hand in hand with God's rhythm of grace. If I can get dolce far niente right, my time with God will improve—quantity and quality. My prayer life will be sweeter.

So what have I tried and want to try?

Here’s what I see as dolce far niente “activities” – watching the rain, watching snow fall, floating in the ocean, looking at clouds, hammock time, watching water when it’s sparkly, sitting on a bench in the woods, watching the sun rise on the beach (cool sand), sitting on a tree, looking up at trees, watching candles burn, listening to soft music, looking out the window, a slow cafĂ© or restaurant on a slow street…

What do you think? How are you doing on this? Can you help me find the sweetness of doing nothing? Are smartphones the enemy? What do you do that you consider dolce far niente? And, curious minds need to know, are you watching the royal wedding? :)

About Patricia

Patricia Beal has danced ballet her whole life. She is from Brazil and fell in love with the English language while washing dishes at a McDonald's in Indianapolis. She put herself through college working at a BP gas station and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a B.A. in English Literature. She then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years.

She now writes contemporary fiction and is represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, came out in May of 2017 (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). A Portuguese translation will be out in her native Brazil in August of 2018 (Editora Pandorga). Patricia is a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their two children.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Devotional: Thoughtful Silence

By Keona Tann | @ICFWriters

As I read Proverbs 10:19 I was greatly inspired to reflect upon thoughtful silence:
“When there are many words, transgression and offense are unavoidable, But he who controls his lips and keeps thoughtful silence is wise.” Amplified version.
There have been many times that I’ve babbled on simply for the reason of filling an awkward silence. Sadly, I’ve also reacted to a verbal or written attack without careful thought and prayer.

The Passion Translation gets straight to the point:
“If you keep talking, it won’t be long before you’re saying something really wrong. Prove you’re wise from the very start— just bite your tongue and be strong!” Proverbs 10:19 - TPT
Incessant babbling, speaking for no reason other than to fill silence, can be a dangerous trap which can lead me to saying something silly or wrong.‬‬‬‬
Speaking without prayer and thought can also be damaging. The Passion Translation suggests that we ‘bite our tongue’, which is another way to say: ‘count to 10 before responding’ and what I try to live my life by is: pray first then respond.
Thoughtful silence I translate as prayer. As I focus my thoughts on Jesus, I allow His Amazing Grace and Transforming Love to change me, which will change my response. Instead of retaliating with hurtful words I can respond with words of truth and life.
One of the weapons we have available to us, through the armour of God, is the Sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). God’s Word transforms us and the situations we face so it is a mighty weapon to have.

As I pressed in for more revelation around this I was led to study Proverbs 17 and I created the following prayer around my study:

Abba Father, I ask for Your discernment so that I can have true knowledge of situations that I face. Grant me wisdom so that I respond to situations with self-control and godly grace. Lord I ask for an understanding heart so that I can be cool, calm and collected in any situation. When I’m provoked and goaded into making a silly retaliation, I pray that I will bite my tongue and look to You Lord. May I always control my tongue and avoid using hurtful words by praying before I speak. Lord when I need to be discreet and close my mouth, grant me the wisdom to do so. When You grant me a message to share I ask for boldness and the right words. Inspired by Proverbs 10:19 & 17:27-28‬ ‭‬‬

I pray that You’re encouraged to reflect upon the phrase thoughtful silence and press into God to find out what it means for you.
Many blessings, Keona

About Keona:
I’ve lived most of my life in Tasmania, which is one of the beautiful Australian states. Deliriously happily married to my college sweetheart for over 20 years, we consider ourselves extremely blessed to be raising 2 wonderful teenagers. Hubby and I have also been long time child sponsors with Compassion so we have overseas kids!
I struggled with illness and disease for most of my life. The biggest battles were: endometriosis for 28 years and adrenal/chronic fatigue which was severe for 28 months. In September 2016 healing was declared over my life, praise God, this set me on a path of deep inner healing, restoration and transformation. My passion to write was reignited and I wrote out a mission statement:
“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:3 (NLT)
I desire to impact the world through the words I share. I long to enrich, empower and encourage others whilst delivering my stories with empathy and understanding.
In my new-found boldness I’ve started a weekly blog which you can find at:
Many Blessings, Keona

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What's In a Name?

Janice L. Dick | @JaniceDick54

Recently, I came across a Facebook post from a friend of mine. She wrote: (names have been changed) My name is Lorianne, not Lorraine. There were a couple more additions from readers: My name is Caroline, not Carolyn. My name is Wayne, not Dwayne. I added my own: My name is Janice, not Janet. (I have a dear friend and a cousin named Janet, but that is not my name.) 

As a writer, I try to choose the perfect names for my characters. We all have preconceived ideas of names due to people in our lives or our past, so we won’t please everyone, but we need to try to find just the right fit in a name. 

One unwritten rule I’ve tried to follow is to not use two names that sound or look too similar. For instance, Ben and Bob. Or Jill and Jen. It confuses the reader, and there are lots of names to choose from, so we can branch out. 

I recently read a cozy mystery (Capital Obsessionby Emily James) where one of the main characters is named Ahanti. Her detective friend knows the name means “gift,” which proves to be a clue to the mystery.  

Names are important. Some are strong (Thor!), some are sweet (Bessie). Some names suit certain genres or historical times (Phoebe, Penelope, Cassandra), or languages/cultures (Dietrich, Bjorn). Some names are timeless (Michael, Elizabeth, Katherine, Thomas). I often go to name lists on the internet for my ethnic characters. Reading down a list can offer fresh and credible options. 

Every once in a while, I goof. For the first book in my current series, I choose the name Magdalena for one of my motherly characters. Her friends called her Magda. I also had someone I considered to be an insignificant young woman whom I had named Manya after a favorite aunt. It was all fine until the third book when Manya became very significant, and the names were much too similar. One option was to kill off Magda, but that felt somewhat petty. I decided to call her Magdalena as often as possible and trust my readers to sort out the rest. One of the challenges of writing a series.

As you can see, names are as important in fiction as they are in life. They help build pictures in our minds of who the characters are. We try to choose carefully to suit the genre, the style, the personality, the time period and ethnicity of our characters, because names set us apart from others. 

My name is Janice, not Janet. 
What’s yours?

Janice L. Dick is an award-winning author who writes from her rural home in Saskatchewan, Canada. She writes contemporary and historical fiction, blogs, book reviews, and inspirational articles. In September 2016, Janice became the first recipient of the prestigious Janette Oke award, presented by the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.

In 2016 Janice established her indie imprint: Tansy & Thistle Press: faith, fiction, forum, and has since released two more historical novels. Find out more at...

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Bookish Tuesday: Cradle Snatchers by Henry Brooks

by LeAnne Hardy | @ICFWriters

From time to time I have the opportunity to participate in the creation of quality Christian literature by being a beta reader for a colleague or editing for a client. One such book was Cradle Snatchers, the latest in British author Henry Brooks’ Will Houston mystery series and definitely his best so far. Brooks is an enthusiastic young father with seemingly boundless energy and creativity. He has a sharp mind and is eager to use story to communicate ideas he feels very passionate about. I’m usually pretty impatient with agenda-driven fiction even when I agree with the agenda, but in Cradle Snatchers Brooks has given us fast-paced action and laugh-out-loud characters that slam home his human-life agenda with gut-punching force.

It is difficult to talk about this book without giving away a bit of the plot so *spoiler alert* the theme is abortion in the UK and the world. Early on a young woman has a seizure while burying an infant corpse in Hyde Park—with a clump of daffodil bulbs. “We don’t plant daffodil bulbs,” says the park maintenance man. I will never look at daffodils the same again. In Cradle Snatchers the daffodils that blanket Hyde Park and beyond represent more than six million abortions to date. Brooks draws readers in with horror and righteous anger over dead babies and then points a finger like the prophet Nathan: Thou art the man! In the end, he will floor you with the facts and the heart-stopping decadence of modern society. He puts a human face on what his character calls “the defining issue of the age”.

Brooks is a Brit. He is not writing to American sensibilities. There is language in this book. There is violence. The characters drink alcohol. Catholic/Protestant animosities play a part, and for a while it almost sounds like Dan Brown’s anti-Catholic DaVinci Code, but nothing is inappropriate to the context, and the story packs a punch. I think this book will find an audience in the pro-life community and among teens, especially older boys. I am proud to have had a part in producing it.

I recently interviewed Brooks on the writing of Cradle Snatchers.

LH: Why did you choose a mystery story instead of non-fiction to present your case?

HB: Jesus rarely taught except that he used a parable, a story. Narrative seems to switch something on in our brains and hold our attention better. There are so many excellent books dealing with this debate, but I know teens are not going to read them, so this was my offering for them.

LH: You obviously have a passion for the subject. Have you ever been tempted to behave like your character Gabriel to shake sense into your opponents?

HB: Well, this is very difficult, isn't it? Anger and grief is the correct response and the Bible is not against anger per se, but how we express that is the real question before us. In the Batman Dark Knight movie, the righteous Harvey Dent allowed grief and anger to turn him into the same type of monster he had set out to fight. A lot of my own fiction deals with this. The lessons and tragedies of church history are before us. You cannot fight fire with fire. Jesus could not be clearer on this point: if you live by the sword you will die by it. It is a lot 'easier' and takes considerably less courage to blow up an abortion clinic, than to adopt unwanted children. Christians need to pioneer new, prophetic models of social service, and not just point a self-righteous finger. This debate is almost too polarised and toxic for dialogue, people need to see the Gospel principle in action.

LH: You link issues like abortion and euthanasia, health care and women’s rights. In the book, you make a point of sticking to non-religious arguments. How do you believe these issues are related in the gospel?

HB: This is very simple to answer. It was the same issue at stake in Nazi Germany and the Communist Gulag. And the same issue at stake in the LGBT issue. It is the issue of anthropology—are we made in the image of God or not? If not, then we have no leg to stand on. But if the Imageo Dei is the foundation of human existence, then Christians have the awesome responsibility of saving their post-Christian societies from the catastrophic course on which it has embarked. I cannot state this strongly enough. The Imageo Dei is the bedrock of a free society. We were given a glimpse in the twentieth century of where the materialist view of humanity would take us, but we have not listened. C. S. Lewis' lectures called The Abolition of Man should be read by anyone who thinks I am exaggerating.

LH: What suggested daffodils to you?

HB: We believe in the resurrection, thank God! Not one child aborted will ultimately be missing on that great day. Daffodils are a reminder each year at Easter time that God is faithful and that he has not, and will not, abandon his creation.

LH: What do you have planned next for Will Houston?

HB: There is a fourth book called The Student Jihad which I wrote ten years ago. It deals with issues relating to Islam and Christianity, which is a real button issue in the UK right now. I started to get it ready to send to an editor recently but got bogged down with so many other things that it will have to wait at least 12 months.

LH: I hope we will see some of the same characters we met in Cradle Snatchers who lent humor to an otherwise heavy topic. All the best to you on your current project!

LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents as a writer and missionary librarian. Her plots and settings are inspired by these diverse locations. She currently writes and does freelance editing from a lake in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where she and her husband enjoy visitors, especially grandchildren.

Friday, May 4, 2018

DEVOTION: Spiritual Vagabonds.

Rusty A Lang (Pseudonym for Marlene Anne Morphew |@AnneMorphew)

Wriggling worm

When have you noticed life going along well and we let an offence wriggle in?

There are people who are actually treated unjustly and then there are those who believe they have been treated unjustly. The latter thinking is a subtle snare that evil thrives on. This happens when we draw conclusions from inaccurate information and deception takes hold. We begin to make bad decisions and incorrect assumptions based on unrealistic expectations. We rely on how we perceive things to be or hearsay and dwell on our hurts and disappointments.

But it gets worse, if we let it. Protective bars go up, which lead to isolation, we become consumed by the offence, inward focused and full of self-pity. Finally it saps our energy, affects our emotional stability and peace of mind.

Oh yes, Satan’s tool of offence causes cat fights, quarrelling and strife as well if we let it.An offence is like a worm that is working its way out from the middle of an apple, eating us from the inside out, causing bitterness, anger and even physical disease. People who refuse to let go of an offence, become spiritual vagabonds.

Other side of the coin

How often have we offended others? 

Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you – for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others”  (Ecclesiastes 7:21). 

Did you know offending someone intentionally is the same as cursing that person?

Then we are faced with the reality:

 “An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel” (Prov. 18:19). 

Fault Boxes

A couple married for fifteen years began having more than a few disagreements. They wanted to make their marriage work and agreed on an idea. For one month they planned to drop slips into fault boxes for each. The wife was diligent in her efforts and approach: leaving the top off the vegemite jar, wet towels on the bathroom floor, dirty socks not in laundry basket, leaving the toilet seat up. 

At the end of the month, they exchanged boxes.

The husband reflected on what he had been doing wrong according to his wife. Then the wife opened her box and began reading. They were all the same. The message on each slip read, ’I love you.’ (Original author unknown)

Anecdote to Offence

Love and forgiveness takes the sting out of offence. 
Is there someone today God is asking you to forgive?
How do you deal with offence?

Timeless Treasures: Digging for Gold Daily

This devotion is edited from Daily No. 289 titled Spiritual Vagabonds: Offence
Are you tired of the same old devotionals?
The ones that once met your daily needs but now seem shallow because you have moved on and long for a deeper daily feed? 

I wrote Timeless Treasures with you in mind. It has 366 one page daily studies of topics from A-Z. Not dated, you can choose what you need for the day from the list of subjects in the back.

About the author

Marlene Anne Morphew/Rusty A. Lang – healed from dyslexia and childhood abuse, schooled in brokenness, writing is in her DNA. Discover her testimony in her autobiography, Good Things Take Time: Metamorphosis of a Damaged Soul. Explore her other non-fiction publications on
Her International teaching ministry takes her away from her writing desk throughout the year but her heart home is still Australia with her husband, Ray. Connect with Marlene to follow her updates and daily posts on Facebook.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

What is Tack?

 Rita Stella Galieh @RitaSGalieh

Have you ever decided to write about something of which you have scant knowledge? Actually my 19th century hero is an estate or land agent in England. Now I need to know something about what his work entails. Before I knew it, my research has led me to find out all about farms in that century. What sort of farming and in which shire would it be? After hours of searching on Google, I decided on Wiltshire with the closest town being Swindon (because it needed to be on a rail line - the Great Western actually.) And was it set on the Midland Ridge or Clay Vales? groan....

What did I get myself into? Even so, I am learning so much and glad I'm living in the twenty-first century. My hero needs to ride a horse. So even though my niece, Jesse, is into horses and therefore knows what tack is all about, it was completely new to me.  I probably won't even use most of what I am discovering, but I need to be comfortable about its use. And I'll sure check with someone who knows all about tack supplies. I never before had the faintest idea of all the bits and pieces needed with horse riding. Now a working horse is an entirely different matter. It might be a draft horse, or one used for mill grinding, or ploughing!

I have to disagree with the someone who once said... 'write what you know.'  That's impossible if you happen to be a historical romance author. Still, wouldn't it be wonderful to find everything you need in one book?  I wonder if our readers know what we writers go through just to write a story?  I can tell you I never thought about the amount of research needed before I had to do it myself. It would be interesting to know what type of research our writers have done that's important to their story. How long it took and whether it was something you had scant knowledge of before you began.

Indie Publisher, Rita Galieh, has written a trilogy of historical novels & also contributed to several US anthologies. She is now completing a third historical romance series. Besides her weekly blog, she is on Facebook and  
Rita studied art at the National Art School then after their marriage, she and her husband attended Emmaus Bible College. Currently she co-presents Vantage Point, an Australia-wide Christian FM radio program. She enjoys giving her fun-filled presentations of ‘Etiquette of the Victorian Era’ in costume.