Friday, August 31, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Newness

The Newness of You

A devotional by Glynis Becker

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” –2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

I believe in the new creation that Christ is working in me. I believe in my head that I have been made new, that I am different than I was before I began a life that followed Christ and allowed the Holy Spirit to guide, direct, and comfort me.

But sometimes I have a hard time believing it in my heart.

I’ve been a believer for a long time. I grew up in a Christian home. I’ve been in church nearly every Sunday of my entire middle-aged life. I accepted Jesus and made a commitment to him when I was just seven years old. And although my parents will confirm that I wasn’t a perfect teenager, I never felt the need to rebel against the confines of my faith during those tough years that stretch us out into the adult we will become. I’ve pretty much been the poster child for the phrase “Good Girl” my whole life.

And it might sound surprising, but I often have to remind myself that this is not a bad thing.

Here’s what I mean: Because I never seemed to stray very far from the path Christ has for me, I am easily lulled into believing two very dangerous lies. The first lie is that I have somehow saved myself. And the second is that I didn’t need saving in the first place.

Why are these lies so dangerous? Because if left unchecked they lead to self-righteousness toward people and apathy toward the great gift we’ve been given. If we begin to believe that we have the ability to save ourselves, then we also easily find ourselves looking down on others. How arrogant and unloving we can become if we think others should be saving themselves as well!

And what happens if we get the idea that we didn’t need to be saved in the first place? We will lose the awe and wonder and reverence and weight of the enormous sacrifice God gave us through Jesus. May we never take that for granted!

Since the beginning of creation, God has been doing new and miraculous things in the lives of His people. Do you remember what He told the Israelites?

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” –Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

I believe that promise still holds true for us. Isn’t it exciting to think that God is at work all over the world and in each of our lives all the time?

So, do you feel new today? Maybe not, but remind yourself that God is constantly—daily, hourly, and moment-by-moment—working in your life, if you give him the space to do so. You can and should be different today, even in a tiny way, than you were yesterday.

And remember to have grace with those around you, as Christ works in their lives as well.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 
–Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

My Prayer: Thank you, Father God, for the gift of a new heart, a new mind, and a new purpose that mirrors Jesus’ redemptive work in this world. Let me see with fresh eyes the gift you have given me and help me lovingly share that gift and that grace with those around me. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Author Bio: 
Glynis Becker writes devotions and inspirational fiction, hoping someday to have a published novel on her resume. She has co-written several screenplays, including Sinking Sand, which will be available in mid-September 2018 on DVD and digital streaming. 

Glynis, whose childhood was spent all over the country as an Air Force brat, has called South Dakota home for many years, along with her husband and two teenage children. 

When she’s not writing or reading, she is watching more television than she should and crocheting. 

You can find her at

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Be Kind

People Getting Along With People
A devotional by Jo Huddleston

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 7:12 (NIV) 

We have seen America reel under unthinkable occurrences most wouldn’t have imagined could ever grace our history pages. Much of the good and the bad in our country springs from relationships between people.

We don’t all think alike nor do we come from similar backgrounds that influence our actions nor do we hold the same principles that govern our lifestyle. Differences are a distinguishing characteristic from person to person.

Differences tend to set us apart. We hold differing opinions on many issues and get excited about different things and cling to different values and virtues.

In light of all our differences, seeing eye-to-eye with everybody becomes a difficult task. Something that is needed or else we could never get along with many folks. Yes, something has to be done to the hard, dry soil of personalities before a right relationship can exist between people.

The Bible tells us a parable of the farmer, a sower of seeds (Matthew 13:1-10). Some of the seeds he planted fell along the path where the birds ate them. Some seeds fell on rocky places with little soil where they could not form adequate root systems and they died. Other seeds landed among thorns and were choked up by them. Finally, other seeds fell on good soil where they produced a fine crop.

Getting along with people can be likened to those seeds the farmer planted. All kinds of obstacles lie along the way to good human relationships. The rocky places and thorns are the differences we have.

In such cases, we must prepare the soil of differences so that we can realize a bumper crop of harmony and goodwill. The highest priority of preparation would be to put aside selfish desires. Putting other people first, loving one another. It’s all a thing of the heart.

Getting all these relationships correct is not easy. Just as farming is not easy. But following an unsuccessful crop, the farmer doesn’t quit. He goes out the next time, prepares the soil and plants again, striving toward that abundant, bumper crop.

Yes, the preparation indeed is often as important as the actual deed that is achieved. May we all continue preparing our hearts for a moral and ethical brotherhood of all people.

Embracing excellence, enthusiasm, courage, and compassion promises a wholesome outlook for America. The task will require generous measures of each of these principles, especially that of faith. America can shed her apathy and aim for a better today and greater tomorrows. She can submit to a divine purifying process and emerge a stronger, united country possessing these healing attributes.

I pray America chooses to turn toward her founding fathers’ worthy design for this nation.

Author Bio:
Jo Huddleston is a multi-published author who writes novels inspired by her fascination with the 1950s and her love of her native American South. 

Novels in her endearing Caney Creek series, her West Virginia Mountains series, as well as her stand-alone release, Tidewater Summer, are sweet Southern romance novels. 

Her writing career includes more than 200 articles and short stories, which have appeared in over 50 well-known Christian and secular publications including Guideposts and Decision. She's an online contributor to Christian Devotions Ministries (

Jo’s devotions appear in eight anthologies and she wrote devotions on assignment and freelance for the following daily devotionals: Devotions, Open Windows, Pathways to God, The Quiet Hour, The Secret Place, and The Upper Room.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial University (TN), and holds an M.Ed. degree from Mississippi State University. Visit Jo at

Monday, August 27, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Reserved

Great and Mighty Things
A devotional by Dana McNeely

I have a fondness for the old preachers. One morning this week, I was reading Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a 19th-century British preacher. A single word jumped out and stuck with me all day. Reserved
I pictured a sign on an empty table in a banquet hall. A plaque on a closed door. A place set apart for a select group. When I see that word, I instinctively want in. 

Words from an old sermon

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.” ~Jeremiah 33:3 KJV

Spurgeon shared different translations of that last phrase. One version translated “I will show thee great and fortified things.” Another, “Great and reserved things.”

The preacher went on to expand the idea of reserved things, special things in the Christian life not easily attained. While there are feelings common to all believers, such as feelings of repentance and faith, joy and hope, there is a higher place of communion with Christ. A secret place. A hidden place.

He wrote, “We have not all the high privilege of John, to lean upon Jesus’ bosom; nor of Paul, to be caught up into the third heaven. There are heights in the knowledge of the things of God … God alone can bear us there; but the chariot in which he takes us up, and the fiery steeds with which that chariot is dragged, are prevailing prayers. Prevailing prayer is victorious over the God of mercy.”

Prevailing Prayer ~ The Example of Elijah

Spurgeon’s reference to the fiery chariot in which Elijah rode to heaven brings to mind the prophet’s persistent prayers—and their answers.

He prayed, “Lord, make good your promise. You said you’d make the skies as brass, should the people turn from you—and they have. Lord, stop the rain!” And God stopped the rain for over three years.

He prayed, “Lord, this widow opened her home to me. Don’t bring this tragedy upon her!” And the boy came back to life.

He prayed, “Lord, show the people you are the one true God—and I am your servant.” And fire came from heaven.

Following the Example of Jesus

Jesus exemplified persistent prayer. He began all things with prayer. He prayed before he was baptized (Luke 3:21-22), before preaching in Galilee (Mark 1:35-39), and before he raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:4-44). He was praying even before his disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1-4). He followed that with the parable of the neighbor coming to a friend’s house at night and knocking … and knocking and knocking.

These examples encourage me. If there is a reserved place of special communion with Christ, a higher place, it is still available to all. Persistent, believing prayer will add our name to the reservation.

For further thought:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.” ~Matthew 7:7 (NLT)

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
~James 5:16b (NLT)

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” ~1 Thess. 5:16 (NLT)

What have I left out? Plenty! What are your favorite thoughts and verses on prayer?

You can read Spurgeon in a Devotional “Morning and Evening” in the free YouVersion Bible APP.

Previous post on prayer ~ Prayer That Gets Answered

Author Bio:

Inspired by the Bible story of Elijah and the widow’s son, Dana McNeely wondered why the prophet had come to stay with these two. Who were they? What was their life, before? And how did the boy change after dying, seeing the other world … and coming back? 

Dana began research for her novel, “Rain,” which tells the story of the three-and-a-half-year drought from the boy’s perspective.

No stranger to drought, Dana lives in an Arizona oasis with her hubby the constant gardener, two good dogs, an antisocial cat, and migrating butterflies. She writes biblical fiction, cozy mysteries, and has written for magazines and newspapers. Her short story “Death in the Butterfly Garden” appears in SoWest: Killer Nights (2017).

Connect with Dana on Facebook, Twitter, or

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Summer Stories: Reluctant To Wed

Interview with Anneliese Dalaba about her book, Reluctant To Wed:

Alexis: Who is Emma and what is her role in this story? 

Anneliese: Emma is the main character, the heroine of the story. Although born and raised in America, she is the granddaughter of Baron Houlton, who plans to use her to secure greater prestige for his progeny. 

Alexis: Why does Emma leave her parents’ farm in Pennsylvania and travel to England? 

Anneliese: Baron Houlton investigates the family of his younger son living in America and uses their adversity to offer a bribe. He will save their farm if Emma will agree to an arranged marriage in England to the Earl of Devonport. The family does not coerce Emma to comply, but after much prayer Emma feels she should accept.

Alexis: Who is Earl of Devonport and what role does he play in this story? 

Anneliese: The Earl of Devonport, also known as Devon, is the hero of the story. His father and Baron Houlton were close friends who arranged a marriage between the earl’s son and the baron’s oldest granddaughter. However, Devon dragged his feet for too long. The oldest granddaughter falls in love and marries another man, much to the baron’s displeasure. Although Devon’s father has passed away and Devon is now the Earl of Devonport, he feels obligated to fulfill his father’s promise to Baron Houlton’s family.

Alexis: Is Emma a hopeless romantic? Why or why not? 

Anneliese: I don’t find Emma to be a hopeless romantic. She is an optimist. She finds good in every situation. But she is greatly challenged to maintain such an attitude in this story. She hopes for love, of course, and longs for it desperately, but seeks for it in prayer and in obedience to God’s Word. 

Alexis: Why does Devon want to keep Emma at arm’s length as his wife, with no emotional ties? 

Anneliese: Although Devon honors his father’s wish for a marriage alliance with Baron Houlton’s family, he assumes Emma is a fortune hunter or an opportunist since she is willing to come to England leaving behind all she knows. His experience in London society has not given him a good impression of wives. He sees how his friends and even his brother have to dance to the tune of their women. Devon wishes to maintain his independence. Although he agrees to marry, he plans to leave his wife in the country while he spends most of his time in London with his friends.

Alexis: Devon sounds kind of coldhearted. He’s willing to provide a home and allowance for Emma but not share his heart in love. How does his coldhearted nature affect Emma? 

Anneliese: Devon is not as coldhearted as he seems. Emma is unaware of his plans, so she continues to hope for more. 

Alexis: What is it about Emma that starts to draw Devon to her? 

Anneliese: Emma is not a pushover. She is honest and direct about her opinions but in a graceful and respectful manner. Her unpretentious attitude draws Devon from the start. He enjoys being around her but fears she is weaving a web that will cause him to become like all his married friends.

Alexis: Why does Emma think that she has to let go of her dreams? 

Anneliese: Something unexpected happens in the story just when Emma’s hopes are high that she and Devon have found love after all. It is so devastating to her. She wants to have hope in the situation but one thing after another dashes any hope she wishes to cling to. 

Alexis: What role does faith in God play in your characters’ story? 

Anneliese: It is when all hope seems gone that Emma relinquishes her dreams and hopes, accepting that perhaps God has a different plan for her life. She isn’t happy about it, but she realizes that God is faithful and can always be trusted to guide her life. She would serve Him no matter what life brought her way. 

Alexis: Did you do research for this story? If so, describe the process.

Anneliese: I’ve read hundreds of novels in the Regency time period so much of my research accumulated over years of reading. I did do some research about America in the early 1800s. I also researched some settings in England, but the towns I created are all fictitious. I researched the clothing men and women wore as well as the transportation they used. Research takes time but is very fascinating.

Alexis: What was your most memorable moment in writing Reluctant to Wed

Anneliese: Since this was my first attempt at writing a novel, it was all a new experience. I’ve heard it said that most writers do not know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Well, that would certainly describe me. I also heard that the characters in the story should be given the freedom to tell their own story, which I thought was rather odd or fantastical. However, as I began weaving the story that is exactly what happened. The imagination takes over and the characters become so real that they do drive the story forward. The story just flowed until it was written. That part was fun. 

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this story? 

Anneliese: I want my readers to see how applying God’s Word in every situation we face and then fully trusting Him is where our true strength lies. I also hope that they will try to find something good in whatever situation they are facing. Although life can be hard, there is always something good to be found in every day. And even if you’re hurting, look for ways to bless others. In the process, you will find joy in the midst of trials. 

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Anneliese! God bless you.

Author Bio:

Anneliese Dalaba lives in Michigan with her husband of 30 years.

She has been in full-time ministry beside her husband all of those years. He’s the hero of her personal love story and her greatest encourager. 

She is a member of ACFW and ACFW Great Lakes Chapter. For many years, she worked as an administrative assistant and medical transcriptionist. 

After raising their two children, she is now experiencing the wonderful phase of grandparenting. 

Anneliese is an avid reader and an author of Christian historical romance.

Book Blurb for Reluctant To Wed:
To keep her parents from losing their farm in Pennsylvania, Emma agrees to travel to England and accept her grandfather's offer to arrange a marriage for her with the Earl of Devonport. She secretly hopes a marriage to this stranger will lead to love. 

To honor his father, Devon reluctantly agrees to marry Emma but determines to keep her at arm's length. A marriage of convenience is satisfactory to the earl who wants no emotional ties. He needs an heir, but he refuses to bow to the whims and demands of a wife. He would prefer simply to provide a home and a generous allowance for her but continue to enjoy his freedom.

Emma’s straightforward and unpretentious manner draws Devon’s admiration. Unfortunately, long-held fears are not easily overcome. Emma finds herself falling in love with him, but after an unexpected event, she faces her greatest challenge ever. Emma must learn to trust God even if it means letting go of her dreams.


Buy Reluctant to Wed on Amazon

Connect with Anneliese:
Amazon Author Page:

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Believe

Someone’s Rooting for Us
A devotional by Gail Kittleson

“While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true. He asked, “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.” 
– Luke 24:36-41 (MSG)

It’s impossible to center on just one verse today because we need the context in order to understand the monumental event in history that’s going on. What we see in this passage is the aftermath of Jesus’ suffering and death. We see resurrection. Along with that picture, God reveals His desire for us to believe.

If you’ve ever tried to convince a child to try some new delight, but they have to overcome their fear first, you’ll know the emotional set-up of this scene. It’s like teaching a child the joys of bicycle riding. They’ve learned a lot on their tricycle, but there’s so much more ahead...if only they can believe and plunge into this new arena.

The disciples had gotten to know Jesus on Earth, but they’d also seen him die on the cross. Now, he must convince them that, against all odds, He’s still—or newly—alive. Of course, this makes no sense to them, even though he prepared them in many ways for His resurrection.

We note in the passage how Jesus opened himself up. He said, “Look...touch...look me over...” He made himself fully available to his disciples. Then he appealed to their logical-mindedness. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.

What conclusion does that thought lead to? Okay, this is not a ghost...He ties this experience to another one in His history with these men—once before, they thought he was a ghost, when he came to them walking on the water. If not a ghost, then this must be...

A little later, He asked if they had any food and munched some leftover fish right then and there. It’s as if He couldn’t do enough to help them believe.

When I think of all the times I’ve tried so hard to believe, but still doubted, I don’t think I saw Jesus in this way. He acts as instructor and cheerleader in this passage. He knows it’s tough for his friends to embrace what’s happened, but he’s determined. We can come to believe little by little.

As we go through our trials, He’s on our side, like a watchful parent or another kind adult. He assesses every angle of each situation, guiding us to the kind of help we need. He’s not our enemy in the struggle for our faith. He’s our truest Friend. 

My Prayer: Help us, Lord, to realize you’re rooting for us, and willing to do whatever it takes to help us learn.

Author Bio:
When Gail Kittleson's not steeped in World War II research, drafting scenes, or deep in an edit of her 1940’s novels, she does a limited amount of editing for other authors. 

She also facilitates writing and creativity workshops, both in Iowa and Arizona, where she and her husband like to spend part of the winter in the amazing Ponderosa pine forest under the Mogollon Rim.

Favorites: spending time with grandchildren, walking, reading, meeting new people, and hearing from readers who fall in love with her characters.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Seasons

Seasons of Life
A devotional by Ginger Solomon

“To every thing there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven;

A time to be born,

And a time to die;

A time to plant,

And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,

And a time to build up;

A time to weep,

And a time to laugh;

A time to mourn,

And a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones;

A time to embrace,

And a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to gain,

And a time to lose;

A time to keep,

And a time to throw away,

A time to tear, and a time to sew;

A time to keep silence,

And a time to speak;

A time to love,

And a time to hate;

A time of war,

And a time of peace.”

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV)

If I might be so bold, I might add, “A time for the sun to rise; And a time for it to set.”

As I write this, I am sitting in the corner of a cruise ship, watching the sunrise. This is something I like to do. It’s quiet, except for the workers preparing breakfast. I can get a fair amount of writing done, and then be free to spend the rest of the day enjoying my vacation with my family.

But that’s not really the point of this devotional.

Today’s society thinks they can say and do anything they want at any time, and that it doesn’t matter. But it does. We all know it. There are right and decent ways to go about making your voice heard. And it doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not; the truth is the truth.

What needs to be learned now is how to keep our mouths shut. As I mentioned in my last devotion, my son recently married a wonderful woman of God who happens to be black. And even in today’s “politically correct” society, people have said derogatory things to them. Where is the “tolerance” in this situation?

It’s my opinion that those who scream the loudest for tolerance, equal rights, and free speech refuse to allow it if it is contrary to what they believe.

I’m all for tolerance. Not everyone believes the way I do. I’m not going to condemn you if you don’t have several children or any for that matter. I’m not going to say you have to homeschool your kids if you choose to have them. I’m not even going to look down on you if you choose a lifestyle outside of my religious beliefs.

Let’s be honest, not everyone is equipped to deal with kids. I know a few people who really shouldn’t have any. I’m sure you know a few too. Nor is everyone called to homeschool (and I personally believe it must be a calling, because without God’s grace my kids would be dead). And while I would love for everyone to follow God and know His love, we all know that’s not going to happen. I can’t force someone else to believe. The old idiom, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” comes to mind.

What does all of this have to do with the rising and setting of the sun? Probably not much other than realizing there is a time and place to say your piece/peace, and sometimes, we (yes, I’m including myself here) need to keep our mouths shut. Shouting your beliefs won’t make people believe like you do. In truth, it makes them less likely to hear you.

Just as the sun rises every day (whether we see it or not), so truth remains truth even it’s hidden behind all the lies and shouting of the enemy. And the truth is, God wins in the end. '

The only question that remains (at least from our side) is, "How many of us will choose the winning side?"

Author Bio:
Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer—in that order (mostly). 

She writes or reads inspirational romance of any genre, and if she’s busy homeschooling, doing laundry, or fixing dinner, books are on her mind.

She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), president of her local writing group, and blogs regularly for and at

Monday, August 20, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Idols

What is Your Idol?

A devotional by Nanci Rubin

“Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols…”
– Ezekiel 14:3-4 (KJV)

God has made a way of escape for every situation we might find ourselves in. He doesn’t want us in bondage. We’re so quick to step into a trap because the idol seems harmless. I’ve fallen into traps throughout my Christian walk and was stunned by how innocent it all seemed.

Here’s an example of my own idol making experience:
When I was in the workforce, I was the classic workaholic. I loved my job. I worked overtime and gave no thought to my husband when he came home from his job to an empty house and less than desirable meals. I allowed the job to encroach into my prayer life, and soon I became too tired to go to church midweek and finally Sundays were out because I had household duties and shopping to do on Saturday, so Sunday became my own personal day of rest. Blinded to the danger of the idol I was setting up in my life God began to intervene in a way I never suspected.

God sent another nurse into the practice who sabotaged me and caused me so much grief. She actually told me she was going to get my job, and she did. God not only allowed this, He orchestrated it. All to get me away from the idol I was making in my life. He cares enough to steer us back when we get off track.

Take an internal check. Is there anything in your life that detracts or interferes with your serving God? He desires our first fruits, not just of your increase, but your time. We are admonished to not have any Gods before Him. That was His first commandment.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”—Exodus 20:3 (KJV)

Since God made this his first commandment, It’s important to Him but more so for us. My writing at times pulls me back into my old work habits. I love writing and one would ask, “How could that be wrong?”

The writing isn’t! It’s the order I’ve placed it in. Since I am being called to correction, I will do so post haste. I want nothing to come between my Heavenly Father and myself. Nothing else matters. Maintaining a balanced Christian life is difficult, and you can’t do it alone, only God can keep you on an even keel.

Have a blessed day in Jesus.

Author Bio: 

Nanci writes Inspy Amish romance. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two fur kids, Romeo and Juliet, rescue cats. She is working on her debut novel, Plain Justice.

She retired earlier than planned from nursing to care for her mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Her mom passed last year at the age of ninety-nine and Nanci has delved more into her writing.

She is active in an intercessory prayer ministry in her church, belongs to The Woman’s Club, a service-oriented volunteer organization dedicated to the welfare and enrichment of the community and volunteers two days a week at the Mary Washington Museum.

Currently, she's enrolled in Rhema Bible College’s correspondence Bible studies. She belongs to ACFW and RWA. When she’s not working, reading or writing she’s hiking with her husband at Shenandoah National Park.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Summer Stories: Redemption

The Key to Heaven
A guest post by Lee Carver

Disregarding all those Saint-Peter-at-the-gate jokes, what determines whether you gain entry into heaven? I mean you, personally. An often-effective evangelism question is, “If you died today, would you be in heaven?” Most people will say yes, though some say it rather guardedly. Then the evangelist follows up with, “Why?” The answer may be, “I’ve done more good than bad in my life. I never killed anyone …” and the list goes on.

When my husband and I moved from our missionary service in the Brazilian Amazon to Texas in order to care for his parents, we joined their church. It’s a body of sincere believers who do a lot of good in the community, but some of the basic theology gets lost in the shuffle. Eventually, a couple of men in our Sunday School class came to my husband with doubts about their eternal salvation. These were good people who had been active church members for many years. They asked, “How can I know I’ll go to heaven when I die?” My husband reminded each man of the scriptures he’d heard for years:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:16-18 NIV).

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6 NIV).

Other scriptures speak conclusively of this truth: belief in Jesus is the only door to heaven. What’s more, God removes our confessed sin “as far as the east is from the west,” (Psalm 103:12 NIV) and salvation is “not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9 NIV).

What if a woman grew up in an unchurched family and had a real come-to-Jesus moment as an adult? What if she accepted Jesus, repented of her sins, and studied the Bible, but she had difficulty accepting the totality of God’s forgiveness? Simple forgiveness might be good enough for most people, but she had been seriously off track a few times. Regardless of her weekly studies in theology, she might feel she needed to do some kind of penance. This is the premise of Rebecca’s Redemption. Rebecca Singer, an American RN, has decided she will serve God in the most difficult place in the world, the deep Amazon jungle, for as many years as she lived a godless life. She will pay God back and thus build up points to enter the Kingdom of God.

I felt this was a story I was meant to write—called to write if you’ll allow me to play that card. The romantic thread, well, that was my own idea. Maybe if it’s also a sweet love story, more people will read it. Maybe Christians will enjoy that truth, and others will come to believe. 

And that’s why I wrote the third book in the Call to the Jungle Series, Rebecca’s Redemption. If you have any doubt or argument with the thesis, let’s talk.

Author Bio:
Lee Carver and her husband lived in the Brazilian Amazon for six years, where they served with a Brazilian organization, formerly MAF-Brazil. 

He flew an amphibious ten-seat Cessna Caravan over jungle area half the size of the United States. 

Their home in Manaus—the largest city in the world with no road to it—was a free guest house for missionaries, pilots, mechanics, and medical volunteers. 

She went on missions, speaks the language, and knows the people whose story she tells.

Book Blurb for Rebecca's Redemption:

A nurse seeking redemption for past sins joins a doctor contending against the jungle. Both healers need healing.

Rebecca Singer once was the kind of nurse who partied all weekend and closed the bar with the last karaoke tune. Then she met the Lord and vowed to make up to Him for those wasted years by serving in the worst place in the world. She determined to earn her redemption in the Brazilian Amazon jungle.

Dr. Ed Pierce, a widower with two young daughters, operates a Christian hospital in the Brazilian Amazon. A lifelong believer, he struggles with the tragedy of losing his wife—his love, the mother of his children. When the mission board agrees to hire a nurse, he requests an American who can split her time between the hospital and home schooling his children.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Fruit

The Fruit of the Spirit
A devotional by Susan Lindstrom

I’ve been working on a series of books for children about that amazing gift from the Holy Spirit, the Fruit of the Spirit. The main character is a spunky little girl named Emmie Jane. She’s learning about living life with a loving Jesus through real-life situations. Her Sunday school class is studying the Fruit of the Spirit and each week they practice applying it to real life. Which she finds out, is not as easy as she thought it should be.

When she asks her daddy if he and mommy need help too, he tells her, “It doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s not always easy to act how God wants, but the Holy Spirit helps us, and that’s the best thing. We don’t have to do it on our own!”

Paul teaches us in the book of Galatians about the freedom we have with Christ and to embrace that freedom by living in the Spirit. He explains in Galatians 5:22-25 (NLT), “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

I found out the Greek word used here for is karpĆ³s. It’s in the singular so loosely translated, the single fruit of the Spirit is one unit, they all go together because that’s who the Holy Spirit is.

I can’t remember the last time I heard this from the pulpit! I’d love to hear it often and be encouraged to live out my life this way. So, I thought I would share a kid-friendly understanding of what I’ve learned while studying for this series.

The Fruit of the Spirit is a free gift with nine attributes we as Christians should strive to, with the Holy Spirit, work into our personalities. 

Here's a breakdown of this amazing fruit:


Knowing that true happiness comes from knowing and following Christ, not material things

Unselfish devotion to God and others


That is inner peace, free from worrying about anything. Jesus gives us a peace that surpasses our understanding.


Treating others with thoughtfulness and tolerance.


The golden rule! Treat others as you would like to be treated.


We know we can overcome the temptations of this world because God is always with us.


Acting calmly and avoiding actions that lead others to anger or resentment


Living out our commitment to the teachings of Jesus and the scriptures.


Trying to honor God by avoiding sin and always trying to do what is right.

Wow, can we ever get this right in a lifetime? 

Ms. Jubilee, Emmie Jane’s Sunday school teacher, tells the class that God gives us free will and how the Holy Spirit helps us, but we can also choose how we act. We can choose to love others, regardless of how they treat us.

In fact, Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 (NLT), “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” 

Such an important and powerful message from our Savior. Whether it’s in our own homes or out in the world, what a way to witness His love to everyone on this earth. A six-year-old girl named Nikki spoke words about love that touched my heart. She said, “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.”

I know I’m going to be more conscious about using the Spiritual Fruit that lives inside me.

I hope you’ll join me.

Author Bio:
Susan Lindstrom is NOT an award-winning writer yet unless you count that ‘best story’ award in third grade but stay tuned to see what God has planned!

Writing has always been a passion but raising a family, running her sewing and design business, involvement in Women’s Ministry and teaching Sunday School kept her plenty busy.

Now a retired empty-nester, she trusts in God’s amazing timing and has jumped in to embrace this new adventure of writing.

Her first book, Emmie Jane and the Yellow Fuzz, is for children and is now available for purchase on and Barnes & Noble. It's the first in a series of real-life adventures focusing on the Fruit of the Spirit.

Susan grew up on both the East and West coasts and now calls the beautiful state of Wisconsin home. She is a wife, mom, and grandma to 10 children.

She enjoys a wide variety of music, loves live performance and believes that laughter is the best medicine.

When she is not indoors writing, reading or pretending to clean the house, she’s outdoors enjoying the beauty of God’s Creation.

Susan is a proud member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Blossoms

Sixty Blossoms
A devotional Paula Moldenhauer 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”~ John 15:1-2 NIV

The snip, snip of scissors punctuated the tiny ache I felt as the blossoms, now faded and drawn, toppled to the ground scattering pastel petals across the concrete of my driveway.

Necessary though it was to cut away the old blossoms so new ones could quickly replace them, it was hard to let go of the glory of that rosebush, which now stood taller than my head. Never had it been as beautiful, never had it produced this many flowers. Those sixty plus roses, lying in clusters at my feet seemed to whisper a truth I didn’t want to think about.

I gathered handful after handful of fading blossoms and tossed them into the trash. I struggled not to mourn too deeply at their passing.

Glancing back at the bush, a bit of satisfaction pushed at the loss. The bush now looked fresh and vibrant. Newly budding roses popped out, no longer hiding behind fading flowers.

My life had many blossoms I thought would live forever—jobs I’ve done, friendships that grew, talents I discovered. And yet many times they opened up, let off their beautiful fragrance, showed their moments of glory, and were then cut away.

And yet I remained. Pruned. Shaped. With room for new blossoms.

There is perhaps no greater analogy in my life than my recent steps into an empty nest. Letting each child go and become his or her own bush includes loss. I miss them. I miss my role in their journey. I let go of directing and soothing and teaching. I allow distance where I long for closeness. As I hear the snip of time’s pruning shears, I begin to see new blooms. Relationships slowly shift from mom-in-charge to mom-held-at-arm’s length, to mom-as-friend. Schedule that once was crammed full of children opens up to space to more fully become me. A marriage that was strongly child-focused discovers the joy in being two-focused again.

Each of life’s blooms is glorious. I long to tell the young to embrace every bloom the Good Lord sees fit to produce in them, to stretch to the Son and let that flower grow to its full potential, bringing joy to all who delight in its beauty and perfume. I want to encourage them to also allow the Master Gardener to cut away blossoms at His will. He alone knows which buds need space to grow and open to the Light and which old blossoms are hindering new growth.

Come to think of it, this blossom cycle continues forever. Like the rosebush that produces season after season, there will always be buds, full blooms, and fading flowers. We need only the grace to surrender to the Master Gardener to be a bush that flourishes, always full of blossoms.

My Prayer: Lord, help me enjoy the mature blossoms in this season of life. I surrender to Your shears, willing to change as new seasons come. Give me excitement for the buds. Prune me and shape me so that I can consistently produce beautiful, fragrant offerings to You.

Author Bio:
Author, speaker, and mom of four, Paula Moldenhauer encourages others to live free to flourish. She shares this message when speaking at women’s events, and it permeates her written work. 

Paula has published over 300 times in non-fiction markets and has a devotional book series, Soul ScentsHer first published novella was a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, and she now has six published works of fiction

Paula and her husband, Jerry, are adjusting to a sometimes-empty nest in Colorado. Today’s devotion was adapted from her devotional book, Soul Scents: Rooted

Visit her at and sign up for her newsletter to get a weekly Flourishing Moments and periodic updates on free days for her books. For daily Flourishing Moments, “like” Paula’s author/speaker page.

Join Paula in Denver at the Whole and Free Women’s Conference coming this September. Register here!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: God's Unfailing Love for You

Unfailing Love
A devotional by Tammy Karasek

Think of the many ways God daily shows his love for us. When you are going through a period or season where you think he’s not there, you need only take a moment to pause and look around.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m in that situation is to take a journal or notebook and go sit somewhere, preferably outside or near a window. I love a coffee shop or location where many people will be coming and going. I then pray for God to clear my mind of all those things on my perpetual To Do list for this short time. Can anyone relate to that long list? I then thank God for the things he is about to show me. I suggest you give this a try. Find a location with a great view and lots of busyness. Pray. Then sit back and watch.

Look out the window at the sky. Is it bright with sun or gloomy with rain clouds? You realize God made both of those for us, right? He made the sun to warm us up as well as to bring a smile to our faces. Yet he also made the rainy days to water our surroundings—the trees, grass, flowers, and bodies of water. Without those things, we would not have shade, fruits from the trees, grass for animals to eat, flowers to enjoy and water for so many reasons. He thought of so many big and little details. That’s love. Write your thoughts in your journal about that.

Next, look around where you are sitting and notice the people. Some may be sitting alone and others may be with one or several friends. Do you see God’s love in both of these situations? The person alone may be taking a break to rest or have food. The group may be catching up with each other and enjoying one another’s’ friendship. God created all of those things—rest, nourishment and fellowship because he knew we would need all of them. That’s love. Write about a time or times when you have experienced these things.

Now, back to the point that I made above—feeling like God isn’t there. When there are times when I feel like God is so far away, I make myself do this exercise. I begin to ask God why I feel it. And I close out the chatter in my mind and wait for the Holy Spirit to show me where these feelings are coming from. Once I get my mind quiet and shift my attitude a bit, I begin to see that God’s love is still all around me. It’s in the sky, the grass, the little girl swinging her feet as she sits with her mommy drinking hot cocoa at the coffee shop. Aren’t whipped cream mustaches the best? It’s when I remember the things that God has brought me through. That’s love. Write those in your journal.

People will come and go in our lives. People will both uplift and tear us down. But God will never do this because of his rich, deep love. Though we may not be the best we can be with our attitudes, actions or words, God still loves us. No matter what we do or don’t do. That’s real love.

“Let your face shine on your servant, save me in your unfailing love.” 
~Psalm 31:16 (NIV)

Remember when you feel very distant from God, it is you that has moved away—not God.

Author Bio:

You’ll find Tammy seeing humor and causing laughter in every aspect of life. Tammy’s past filled with bullying and criticism is the driving force of her passion to always encourage others and share with them the Reason to smile. 

She’s been blissfully wedded to her college sweetheart, Larry, for 36 years. She is a mom to their grown daughter Kristen and wrapped around the paw of a little puppy named Hattie.

She’s the President of Cross N Pens Christian Writers and a member of ACFW. 

She will be published in the 2018 Divine Moments book – Cool-nary Moments.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Summer Stories: Shenandoah Road

Behind the Scenes: The Shenandoah Road
A guest post by Lynne Tagawa

Most authors start with theme or characters or plot—or all three—when writing a story. I confess that I did spend time on all of those things as well when I first gave thought to the idea of exploring the time period of the Great Awakening in the 1740s.

But as I did research on the time period, it seemed as though the setting itself steered the course of the project. I fingered through a huge book called Albion’s Seed, an encyclopedic description of the various types of people who had emigrated from the British Isles and settled North America. You might think that, hey, they all spoke English, weren’t they pretty much all alike?

Nope. They were almost all Protestant, spoke English, and had fair skin, but it is amazing how New Englanders differed from Quakers who differed from the planters down south. Not to mention the Scots from Ulster, Ireland, who flooded these shores in a wave lasting over fifty years before the Revolution slowed immigration.

Then revival breaks out in Connecticut under the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield preaches in the fields from New England south to Georgia. Suddenly Benjamin Franklin can’t keep enough of Isaac Watts’s hymnbooks on his shelves. Everyone is singing. All that is in the story.

As I dug deeper, I discovered that everything was not as peachy-keen as it sounds. Good ministers disagreed with each other on the itinerant preachers rising up in Whitefield’s wake. They labeled these people “enthusiasts” who might harm the cause of Christ.

Between the cultural divides and the religious controversy, there was plenty of story material. I didn’t have to make up the tension and conflict—it was already there. Midway through the project, I discovered that a real-live minister in my story, a pastor in the Shenandoah Valley, disagreed with the revivalists. He’s kind of an important character, so my story took a little jag. Nothing I planned!

I’d tell you more tweaks I had to make to my story, but no spoilers! I will say this: it contains a romance, but it’s totally G-rated. I teach teenagers, and whenever I wrote a scene, in the back of my mind I’d think of my students. It is written for adults, but homeschoolers are sometimes given Herodotus to read. They’ll read whatever their parents let them. 

I hope you like it too.

Author Bio:
Lynne Tagawa is married with four grown sons and three marvelous grandbabies. 

She’s written a Texas history curriculum in narrative form, Sam Houston’s Republic, and The Shenandoah Road, a story of the Great Awakening, is scheduled to be published in 2018. 

Lynne lives with her husband in South Texas.

Book Blurb for The Shenandoah Road:

John Russell’s heart aches from the loss of his wife, but the Shenandoah Valley frontiersman needs to marry again for his daughter’s sake. At first, he believes he has found the right young woman, despite their differences in background, but his faith falters when time reveals she isn’t quite what she seemed. Can he truly love her? And what about his own failings?

Unlike her disgraced sister, Abigail Williams obeys the Commandments. At least, she thinks herself a Christian until a buckskin-clad newcomer courts her. He treats her kindly but also introduces her to a sermon by the controversial preacher, George Whitefield. Her self-righteousness is shattered, and she wonders about their relationship. If she confesses her lack of faith, will John continue to love her?

“Lynne Tagawa transports readers into the faith and hope, and sorrows and fears of 18th century colonial America. While other books feature the raw grit of frontier colonial life, this book goes deeper and reveals the heart.” —Douglas Bond, author of numerous books, including War in the Wasteland and Hostage Lands.

“The Shenandoah Road is an authentic and engaging journey back to the challenges of settling in the Shenandoah Valley” —Laura Hilton, author of Firestorm (Whitaker House, 2018)

“Raw, realistic, and historically packed, this story will make you think. If you enjoy stories with deep theological themes, you will enjoy this.” —Amber Schamel, author of Solve by Christmas, winner of the 2018 Christian Indie Award

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