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Monday, October 29, 2012

Stop That Incessant Pecking!

Recently, I came across a website called "Grammarly".  After a little research, I discovered that it is a site designed to edit manuscripts while targeting grammar, spelling, word usage, passive voice usage, commonly confused words and much more.  Naturally, this service comes with a price tag, and while it is affordable, I'm just not at the place where I want to fork out the money for it.  Thankfully, I didn't have to.  The site provides a 7-day free trial, so I timed it out just right and signed up for the free trial when I was sure I'd have the most time to work on editing my current projects.  I wanted to get the most out of my free trial.

All last week, I was glued to my computer, uploading files, correcting them, and then saving the corrected version.  Book after book.  Chapter after chapter.  Page after page.  The website was great, and while it found several errors that weren't really errors at all, it also found a lot of mistakes that I probably would have missed when reading through it myself.  (It's funny how the eye sees what it wants to see instead of what is actually there.)

The process was tedious in itself, but it was made even more so by the woodpecker that decided he wanted to peck a hole in the corner of my house. . . right outside my office.  Day after day and hour after hour he pecked.  He pecked in the morning, in the afternoon and well into the evening.  You would think his head would have begun to hurt or that his beak would have gotten tired, but no, he was fine.  I, however, was not.  I was frustrated and distracted.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to do precise editing with a loud "tap, tap, tap, tap, tap" going on outside your window?  If I weren't such an animal lover, I would have probably strangled the woodpecker and given it to Mitch for a chew toy.  I thought I was going to lose my mind!

Isn't it just like the devil to throw distractions in our way when we're on a mission to serve the Lord?  This trial presented me with the opportunity to get free editing for three books on which I'm currently working.  Sure, the week was busy and hectic, but the service made it possible for me to bring these projects to conclusion much sooner than I could have otherwise.  That means more inspiration, encouragement and hope available in the marketplace.  It means another method for me to be a witness.  It means spreading the message of Christ.  And Satan doesn't want me to succeed.  In fact, he doesn't want you to succeed either.  Whatever it is you're trying to accomplish for the Lord, Satan will try to hinder it.  He'll throw distractions of every size and shape in your path.  It may be a delay.  It may be a sickness.  It may be a simple woodpecker.  But be warned, the devil is on the prowl, and we Christians are his prey. Let's not let him get the victory.  Be on guard, and if all else fails, try some ear plugs!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Why Can't I Be Like Her?

If I may, I'm going to pry for a moment, but don't worry, for there is a purpose to my prying.  Is there someone in your life that stokes the fires of self-pity within you?  When they're around, you feel like less -- less of a person, less of a worker, less of a Christian, less of everything, though typically not through anything that person says of does.  After all, he/she is just being himself/herself, but for whatever reason, in that person's presence, you feel inferior.

In my own life, the person that evokes these feelings in me is the former pianist for our church.  Please don't misunderstand me, this lady is as sweet as they come and has NEVER done or said anything to stir such feelings.  It's what others have said when comparing me to her.  You see, this lady was very experienced at playing the piano and had years of training to reach such a level of accomplishment.  I, on the other hand, have only had a few years of training, during which time circumstances made it necessary for me to be bounced from one teacher to another.  That process alone involved backtracking and learning from different viewpoints (i.e. only play what's written, play by ear, add some flair, improvise, and so on).  The good thing is that the various approaches have given me a lot of areas to work with.  The bad part is that I never got far enough in any one area to reach a level of mastery.  Competent?  Yes.  Proficient?  Hardly.

So, when this young lady married and left our church, I was left to fill the position as church pianist.  Talk about having big shoes to fill!  I've worked and practiced, but to be honest, with all my other obligations, I just don't have the time to devote to the hours of practice I need to become even half the pianist she is.  As if I don't already know that, a few people carelessly throw comments my way that remind me I'm an inferior pianist.  I want to scream, "I know, but what are the options?  I can walk away from the piano, and the church can be without a pianist.  Until you find someone better, you're stuck with me!"  And truly, that's how I often feel--that the church is stuck with me.  I've even tried to back away from the position, but God will not give me peace about doing so.

Sunday night, the former pianist and her family visited our church.  Naturally, she and her husband were asked to sing a special.  They sang a song that our choir director (her father) had given me weeks ago to try to learn to play for the choir.  It's coming along even though the timing is awkward and the song is unfamiliar.  But as soon as she began playing Sunday night, my heart sank.  I'll never be able to play it like that, I thought.  The choir director will surely be disappointed if that's what he's used to hearing.  So right there in church, I had myself a little pity party.

It wasn't long before the Spirit whispered to me (not audibly, of course), "Child, I'm not concerned with your level of talent but with your level of faithfulness".  What?  You mean He doesn't care if all I can do is peck out "Mary Had a Little Lamb"?  If that's all I'm truly capable of and I do it from the heart with the proper motive, then no, He doesn't care how pitiful it may sound.  He doesn't care how many mistakes I make or about the level of flourishes I can add to the melody.  All He cares is that I'm serving Him to the best of my ability and with a heart of praise.  When I do, even "Mary Had a Little Lamb" sounds better to His ears than anything Beethoven or Mozart could do.

I am not the best pianist.  I am not the best writer.  I am certainly not the best housewife.  But you know what?  That's okay!  God didn't call me to be the best.  He called me to be faithful, and as long as I am, He's proud of me.  Since that's the case, it really doesn't matter what anyone else says or thinks. . . including me!

But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. - Galatians 6:4

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sometimes Broken Is Better

I absolutely love this time of year.  I love the colors.  I love the cool, crisp air.  I love the opportunity to work outside without sweating or being eaten alive by the bugs.  It's simply a glorious time of year.  One thing, however, that does get a little tedious is the drastic changes in the temperature within just a few hours.  In the morning, the temperature has been in the 40's, which means I need to build a fire.  By mid-day, however, the temperature is in the mid-60's or low 70's, which means I need to open the windows.

The most difficult part about this entire process right now is that we don't have any kindling.  We have plenty of wood (although most of it is still green), but we're completely out of kindling.  If you've ever tried to start mostly green wood with no kindling, you'll know what a frustrating task it can be.  So, over the past few days, Jason has been taking some of the drier wood and splitting it down into extra small pieces to use as kindling.  It works like a charm.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any more of those delightful little pieces this morning, so I tried to make it work the other way.  The result was a lot of smoke, but very little fire.

Thankfully, Jason didn't have to go into work until a later today, so he went out and split some wood for me.  Within minutes, we had a cozy blaze going.  Same stove.  Same wood.  Same lighter.  The only difference was that the wood had been broken, which goes to show me that sometimes broken is better.

That's easy to admit when I'm talking about firewood but not quite so easy when I'm talking about myself.  It's one thing to break wood, but it's quite another to break a will or a spirit.  If we're honest, though, I think each of us would admit that it's true--brokenness brings blessing.  It's unpleasant and even frightening at times, but the result not only brings warmth and coziness, it also brings light to this ever-darkening world.

Are you willing to be broken today?  There's really no cause for fear.  God will collect the pieces and arrange then in such a way that will bring honor and glory to His name.  I don't know about you, but I can think of no greater privilege.

Break me, Lord Jesus, and set my heart afire for you!

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. - Psalm 51:17

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sitting at the Stoplight

Sometimes the smallest things make me laugh.  Yesterday, as I was coming home from running errands, I found myself stopped at a lengthy stoplight.  Evidently, I had just missed the green light. . .and so had the impatient truck driver beside me.  He crept forward and crept forward, and anytime other traffic stopped, he assumed the light was about to change and revved up, only to roll back a little when the light changed for a different direction.  We sat through straightaways, turn lights and much more, but there was a difference.  I was waiting patiently (and laughing at his antics).  He was not (waiting patiently or laughing).

Life is full of stoplights, and unfortunately, some of them are rather long.  I only wish I were as patient with them as I was at the light yesterday.  Typically, however, I'm like the truck driver beside me, creeping forward inch by inch, tired of the waiting process.  I have places to go, people to see, goals to reach and dreams to pursue.  Who has time for waiting?

Just this morning, I was looking over my daily schedule and trying to decide if there were any way I could squeeze a few more hours of work into the mix.  I've found that if I spend all day writing, nothing else gets done.  If I spend the day doing other things like housework, exercise, preparing for my obligations at church, and so on, no writing is accomplished.  If I try to do a little bit of everything, I find myself stressed, overwhelmed and feeling like I really didn't accomplish anything.  And in the midst of my schedule evaluation, I heard the still, small voice whisper, "Be still for a few minutes."

At first, I shrugged it off, but it wasn't long before I realized that waiting isn't a punishment; it's a reprieve.  It's a time to put everything else aside and focus on one thing alone--the Lord.  I set my schedule aside, closed up my laptop, went to my piano and began to play and sing praises to the Lord.  After that, I opened my ears and my heart, and I waited.  Do you know what happened?  My stress began to melt away.  The weariness and frustration that had overwhelmed me moments before dissipated like the morning mist.  I felt happy.  I felt free.  I felt at peace.  And I felt like I could accomplish much more than I had previously thought simply because my mind was no longer being pulled in a million different directions.  Waiting had saved time, not wasted it.

In today's hectic pace, I know how frustrating it is to wait.  With so many obligations pulling at us, it seems like we simply can't afford to spend time waiting.  But the truth is that we can't afford not to.  Traffic lights are present for a reason.  So are waiting periods.  Sometimes we just need to set everything else aside and sit in the presence of the Almighty.  No inching forward.  No impatience.  No checking our watches (or cell phones).  Just wait.  Think about it, if God could make the sun stand still for Joshua, don't you think He can redeem the time that we spend following His urging to be still?  Sure He can.  I'm finding that I actually accomplish more when I wait than I do when I don't wait.  It makes no sense to the human mind, but then God doesn't have a human mind, does He?

Are you sitting at a stoplight today?  Does it seem like that light will never turn green?  Fear not.  Just keep waiting.  God has something grand in store.  Just give Him a little more time to get it wrapped for you, okay?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What's Your Forbidden Fruit?

In yesterday's post, we talked about Satan's tactics of assaulting both our senses and our sensibilities.  In the blink of an eye, mankind was cast into a state of sinfulness because Eve couldn't pass up on the fruit.  Many times I've had very negative feelings toward Eve.  I mean, really, did the fruit look that good?  Did it taste good enough to condemn us all?  It's during those times of accusation that a vision appears in my mind's eye.  I picture a beautiful garden with a large tree in its midst.  Unlike the other trees in the garden, this one bears no fruit.  Instead, dangling in bunches from each and every branch are Hershey's kisses.  Try as I might to resist, the chocolate calls to me, and in my weakness, I snatch a handful and cram them into my mouth.  I snap out of my "vision" to realize that with the right "fruit", I would have done the same thing Eve did.

With that in mind, what's your forbidden fruit?  What's the one thing that pulls you down time and time again?  Is it a food, a habit, a thought process, an addiction or something that you would never admit to anyone?  The Bible tells us in Hebrews 12:1, Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.  The sin which does so easily beset us?  Sounds like forbidden fruit to me.

Before you get angry with me for prying, allow me to explain why I'm asking.  Yesterday, I reminded you how important it is to know our enemy.  Today, I want to remind you how important it is to know ourselves.  You see, only by being aware of our weaknesses can we hope to protect them.  We need to know which areas are vulnerable to attack so that we can set up a defense.  If the problem area is food, perhaps we need to memorize some verses that deal with that.  If the problem is faulty thinking (like worry), perhaps we need to memorize some verses and start keeping a better record of God's faithfulness.  As I mentioned before, we have the weapons at our disposal, but we're responsible for using them.  

Here's an example.  I've stopped keeping sodas in the house.  Why?  Because if I have them, I drink them.  If I drink them, my health declines and my energy plummets.  When my health deteriorates and my energy's gone, I can't accomplish the things God has called me to do.  By identifying my problem, I've taken the first step to defending myself against it.  I don't buy sodas.  I don't drink sodas.  And I do everything in my power to avoid looking at them in the grocery store.  It's not easy, but it is effective.  I've implemented a similar strategy with chocolate, only not as severe.  My chocolate defense goes like this:  buy one chocolate item at the grocery store (cookies, cake, brownies, etc.) and make it last until the next week's shopping trip.  By knowing I can't replenish "my stash" whenever I want, I'm forced to ration my chocolate out to one small portion a day.  (Now if I could just get Jason to understand the rationing process.)

My point is that we all have forbidden fruits in our lives.  They are the things Satan dangles in front of us when he wants our attention.  They are the things that call to us every waking hour and promise delight that cannot be found elsewhere.  Discover your forbidden fruit.  Explore what it is that tempts you so.  Then search for an adequate defense.  My suggestion would be to start with Bible memorization.  There's a verse for every occasion.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Ultimate Stain Removal System

A couple of weeks ago while running my weekly errands, I remembered I was running low on bathroom cleaner.  I'm not one who likes harsh cleaners.  In fact, I try to use eco-friendly cleaners whenever possible.  Unfortunately, old houses like ours come with old fixtures, including our bathroom fixtures, particularly the tiny little shower in the master bathroom.  It's comprised of some form of plastic, but regular cleaners won't even touch the grime and mildew that can gather there.  No, for that task I need a heavy duty cleaner with bleach.  And with my aversion, I usually prefer the kind that you spray on, let sit for five minutes, then come back and rinse.  Voila, clean!

Anyway, I was at the Dollar Tree and decided that their cleaner with bleach would work just as well as the expensive stuff I could get at Walmart or the grocery store.  Boy, was I wrong!  Yesterday was the first day to use my new cleaner.  I prepared myself for the overwhelming stench of the bleach, opened the bottle and began spraying.  Within seconds, I realized there was very little odor coming from this cleaner.  For all the smell it was putting out, it could have been water.  Maybe it takes time, I thought.  And so I did a thorough spray, closed the bathroom door and walked away.  Several minutes later I returned to a bathroom that smelled clean but not bleachy.  The shower, however, didn't look a bit different.  Even after a thorough rinsing, I still couldn't tell that I had done anything.  Even scrubbing didn't help.  Frustrated, I decided the shower could wait until I had the chance to buy some real cleaner.  It seems the bargain cleaner wasn't such a bargain after all.

You know, there are a lot of people today trying all kinds of "cleaners" to wash away their sins.  They do good deeds.  They attend church.  They say their "Hail, Mary's".  They marry the right person, take the right job, and wear the right clothes.  They count on their works, their baptism, their money, their family, their church and everything else under the sun to buy their way into Heaven.  But just as I was misled with the bargain cleaner, so are they being misled.

Jesus Himself said, "No man cometh unto the Father but by me."  There is only one way to Heaven.  Count it--ONE!  Jesus is not a good way or the best way; He is the only way.  Only by acknowledging our sinful state and accepting Christ's sacrifice on the cross can we receive salvation.  Yes, it is a gift, but a gift only becomes yours once you accept it.  Salvation has been offered.  The ball is now in your court.

Salvation is the ultimate stain removal system.  Not only does it cleanse us of the sins that we've already committed, but it also wipes away all future sins (not that it gives us a license to sin).  Beyond that, because of the blood of Christ, when God looks at us, He doesn't see any evidence of sin.  No marks.  No blemish.  No stains.  In His eyes, we're completely clean, unlike my shower.

Long ago, I made the choice to accept salvation through Christ and Christ alone.  Have you made the same decision?  If not, today you have a choice.  You can keep trusting in bargain cleaners that will never get the job done, or you can accept the free gift of salvation offered to you through the blood of Jesus, the ultimate stain fighter.  Choose wisely.  Your eternal future depends on it.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. - Joshua 25:14

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Couch Thief

In the midst of the cooler weather, I've set up a temporary office in the living room where the wood stove is.  With no other source of heat in the house, my main office becomes quite chilly this time of year, but instead of running my electric or kerosene heaters in there, I just relocated.  I don't mind.  In fact, I rather enjoy stretching out on the chaise lounge portion of our sofa and working from my laptop.  The wood stove sends out a soothing radiant heat.  Music streams from my Pandora station on the Blue-Ray player.  And the couch provides sufficient room for me and both dogs.  It's a win/win situation. . . well, usually.

This morning, Mitch beat me to the "coveted spot" on the couch.  After eating his breakfast, he stretched out across two pillows on the chaise, tucked his nose under the fleece throw and promptly fell asleep.  This may have had something to do with the fact that Jason has had to work two late nights (getting home at 4:00AM only to wake again at 7:00AM), and we're all exhausted.  When Jason isn't home at night, Mitch stands guard and takes his job very seriously.  Evidently, he needed some rest this morning, and I just didn't have the heart to wake him and make him move.

Instead I stretched out on the opposite side of the couch, phone in hand to do my morning devotions.  (I have a YouVersion app for my daily Bible reading and a Kindle app for my devotional books.  Ain't technology grand?)  Anyway, I hadn't been settled for more than a couple of minutes before 90-lbs. of snuggly dog made his way into my lap, stretched out and fell back to sleep.  I stared at the expanse of empty couch and smiled.  In that single moment, I realized what was more important to Mitch--not the most comfortable spot but the love of his mommy.  And so, we snuggled through my morning devotions.  I read.  He snored.  I prayed.  He snored some more.  All in all, we were both content.  Actually, I should say that all three of us were content.  Tippy was enjoying a pillow on the floor as close to the wood stove as she could get.  I think her old bones and joints really enjoy the warmth.

As I think back on this morning's snuggle time, I'm forced to ask myself a question:  What's more important to me--the comfortable spot or being close to my Master?  Sometimes it's possible to have both, but more often than not, to grow closer to God requires me to step out of my comfort zones.    I have to step away from my own plans and desires.  I have to step away from other means of security.  I have to walk through the fire.  Then and only then can I experience spiritual closeness with my Master.  It's like experiencing spiritual growing pains.  They are a necessary part of the process.  True closeness with God can only be attained through trials, for it is there that we learn to trust Him and depend on Him alone.

Like Mitch, am I willing to leave my state of comfort in order to take a place of greater closeness to my Master?  Are you?  It's certainly a question worth pondering today.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

We Have a Song to Sing

Saturday afternoon, while Jason and I were out hiking with the dogs, I received a phone call from the song leader at our church.  He was inquiring if I would be willing to sing a special Sunday morning since he had been out the previous week and hadn't had the opportunity to make other arrangements.  I told him that would be fine, and after hanging up the phone, did what I usually do when asked to sing:  I prayed, "Lord, what would you have me to sing?  Please lay a song on my heart."

All afternoon, I thought and battled to come up with a song.  I practiced a half dozen different ones, but I still couldn't get peace.  Frustrated, I narrowed it down to two that I felt pulled toward the most and decided I'd sleep on it, hoping that maybe God would make the choice clear in the morning.

Sunday morning, I ran over both songs again, and I still couldn't decide.  The two songs were similar in that they both contained the same message--we're never alone.  Finally, we had come down to service time, and I had to make a decision.  While I still felt pulled toward both songs, I felt a little more tugging toward the one that I had sung more frequently.  So, I made the decision, and I stood before the church during the morning service and sang "With Me Always".

On Sunday evening, during our youth service, one of our young ladies testified that she had had a song on her heart all week and she had intended to ask me if I would sing it the next time I was scheduled to sing.  Would you believe it was "With Me Always"?  As she testified about how good it is to see God work in our lives, I had tears in my eyes.  In that moment, I was reminded just how much my daily decisions affect others around me.  God used me to be a blessing to that young lady, and because I was seeking His will and following His leadership, I picked the right song.

Before you start congratulating me, however, I feel it necessary to tell you that I don't always heed the voice of the Lord as I should.  In fact, sometimes I'm so focused on my own needs and wants, I don't even hear His voice.  I go about my day, heedless of His direction for my life, never stopping to ask Him what song He would have me sing.

You see, whether you enjoy music or can even carry a tune, the fact is that we each sing songs daily.  Unfortunately, the nature of those songs is often like the one the group from HeeHaw would sing--"Gloom, despair and agony on me.  If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."  Boo hoo!  What a depressing melody!  Is it any wonder we walk around discouraged and defeated with a battle hymn like that?

Let's get right down to the nitty gritty.  God has a song for you to sing.  He has a song for me to sing.  When was the last time we asked Him what song He would have us to sing for a particular day?  We must understand that God sees all.  He knows what we'll face each and every day.  Could it be that the song He's intended for us to sing could help prepare us for the battles the day will bring?  Take, for example, "With Me Always".  What better song to battle loneliness?  How about "When God Has Another Plan" for those days when things just seem to fall apart?  Or "Sometimes He Calms Me" for the days that we're in the midst of a never-ending storm and need peace?  I wonder how many times God gives us all the weapons we need in the form of Scripture and songs to fight our battles, yet we walk away in defeat because we refuse to take up (or even notice) the weapons He's put at our disposal.

I hate to tell you this, but this week will have its battles.  There's no escaping it.  It's part of life.  Do you have your song?  Have you sought God's will?  Are words of praise and prayer ready on your lips?  He's provided the armor and weapons.  It's up to us to decide what to do with them.

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. - Psalm 30:4

Monday, October 8, 2012

Is Your Body a Den of Thieves?

Today I'd like to borrow a post from one of my other blogs.  (Is it really borrowing if it's my article from my blog? Hmm.)  As I'm sure you've noticed, I've been on a bit of a kick lately about making some much-needed changes in my life.  God has brought some things to my attention, and I know I won't be at peace until I get things right.  A few weeks ago, I posted the following on my healthy living blog, Satisfying the Spirit, and today I felt led to share it with you.  Maybe someone out there needs to read this, or maybe I just needed the reminder.  Either way, be prepared, for what I have to say is quite convicting.

And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. - Mark 11:14-17

Never in the Bible do we see Jesus as angry as He is at this defilement of the temple.  Not when people scorned Him.  Not when the Pharisees tried to kill Him.  Not when His disciples doubted Him.  Not even at the cross.  This picture of Jesus is unlike anything else we see about Jesus in the Bible.  The situation in the temple angered Jesus to the point that He overturned tables and according to another account in the Bible, He even fashioned a whip and chased the moneychangers out of the temple.  So why was He so upset?  What was the big deal? He answers that question clearly in verse 17 of the passage above:  Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?  but ye have made it a den of thieves.  These men had turned God's house into a money-making scheme.  They had defiled the temple with their wicked ways and mocked God in the process.  The temple was supposed to be a sacred place, a holy place.  Jesus did not take kindly to their mistreatment of His Father's house.

The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost.  They were intended to be vessels of honor.  They were intended for God's use.  So how do you think He feels about our treating our bodies (His temple) like garbage cans?  Just like the passage above, we have turned God's temple into a den of thieves.  We allow thieves in the forms of processed foods, sugars and caffeine to rob us of energy, vitality and health.  We consume things we know to be bad because we want them or enjoy them.  Then we wonder why we never feel good, are always tired and suffer from a growing number of ailments.

We have control over what goes into our bodies even though these bodies don't belong to us.  We are not our own.  We are borrowing these bodies.  They belong to God.  Do you think He's pleased with the care we've been giving them?  Or do you think He is angered by our lack of self-control and concern for His temple?  We are poisoning ourselves--killing our bodies slowly.  We are defiling God's temple, and the worst part of all is that we don't seem to care.  We laugh about the extra weight we're carrying around or cry about how bad we feel, but until we care enough to do something about it, nothing will change.

I don't know about you, but I'm ashamed of the state of my body.  I've not taken care of it the way I know I should.  I've given in to the pleasures of food and the delight of comfort over exercise, and in the process, I've allowed my health to deteriorate.  Now, more than ever, I want to serve God, but because of the neglect of my health, I am now limited by it.  And until I get things under control, I will never be able to serve God the way He intends for me to.

The journey ahead is long, and the road is rough, but I've resolved to stop defiling God's temple.  And beyond that, I've begun a rebuilding program that consists of a healthy diet and proper exercise.  I don't want God to be angry with me.  I don't want to be ashamed when I stand before Him and have nothing to offer but excuses.  I want to serve with my full potential, and I can't do that in this state.  It's time for a change!  Who's with me?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It's Time to Check Your Pulse

Ever since reading Ken Davis' book, Fully Alive, I just can't escape the thought of living my life to my full potential in Christ.  Every thought and action now has new meaning and is run through a filter to determine whether it will help or hinder me in my goal to live a more exciting and fulfilling life.  I've been sharing my new journey with my ladies' Sunday School class and to help them start journeys of their own, I issued them a test.  The answers were quite telling, and in the end, each lady felt conviction on some level.  Today, I'd like to share that test with you.  Read through the questions below and provide an honest answer.  This is completely between you and the Lord, so don't be afraid to tell the truth.  Remember, it is the truth that will set us free.

Are You Really Alive?

1. Do you face each day with excitement or dread?

2. Is your life predictable?

3. When was the last time you learned a new skill or hobby?

4. When was the last time you tried something new?

5. Have you allowed any part of your life (health, home, habits, etc.) to fall into
disrepair even though you had all the necessary tools to prevent it?

6. How often do you put off tasks until a later time instead of doing them immediately?

7. When was the last time you smiled until your face hurt?

8. When someone asks you how you're doing, can you honestly say, "I'm fine"?

9. When was the last time you did something just for the sheer joy and pleasure of
doing it?

10. In the past year, what's the most exciting thing you've done?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Interview With Historical Author, Hazel West

Today we are privileged to hear from historical author, Hazel West.  Hazel is an interesting person with very unique tastes and a quirky sense of humor.  But don't take my word for it.  Read her interview below and find out for yourself.  Hazel, it's a joy to have you with us today!


1. For starters, please tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’m a writer to begin with ;-) I’m also a very avid reader, a history buff, lover of good coffee and forests (not in a tree-hugger way, but with a woodsman’s respect.) I also love Scottish and Irish folk music and I play fiddle, piano, guitar, tin whistle and bodhran though never together. I’m a bit of a strange person with an odd sense of humor, but then I’m a writer. (I use that as the excuse anyway.) You can only be so normal when you have people talking to you all the time in your head.

2. Have you always been a writer? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Not really, in fact I didn’t like writing much at all until I was about ten or so. I always liked making up stories, so I suppose in a way I did always like the thought of being a writer. I didn’t really think about it seriously until I was twelve. That was when I started thinking of how awesome it would be to be published one day.

3. In your opinion, what are the easiest and most difficult parts of being a writer?

Well, for me the easiest part is coming up with the ideas. Seriously, they just happen. Anything can spark an idea for me, so that’s pretty much effortless. The hardest part is definitely the formatting, marketing, and publishing. Writing the book is the easy bit; I love doing research, and even editing is fun for me because I like to see how I can improve my books and I have great writers-in-arms who help me with that, but it’s all the post writing stuff that gets to me. But then I do not regret my choice of self-publishing either. And all the hard work pays off in the end when you hold your book in print for the first time. I never get over that.

4. Would you tell us what your book is about?

No, I won’t, you’ll have to read it… Just kidding ;-) Overall, it’s about brotherhood, friendship and loyalty. I love reading war novels because of the brotherly friendships that form between the men, and that’s what I was trying to portray in my novel. The hero is Sir Reeve Montgomery, an English knight who is left by his comrades on the field of Stirling and captured by the Scottish rebel, William Wallace’s army. He’s treated as a slave, and turns bitter, but when he witnesses an English raid on a Scottish town and sees his countrymen, knights at that, performing horrendous acts against chivalry, he begins to wonder if what he had been fighting for the whole time was really the right thing.

5. Is this your first book?

No, this is my third published book and the seventh I have written. My other published works are “Freedom Come All Ye” which is a YA novel about William Wallace as a teenager and then “Ballad of the Highwayman” which is a swashbuckling adventure/romance set after the English Civil War about a young man (Kilroy Allen) turned highwayman after his father is falsely convicted of treason against Charles I. He sets out to find the man who betrayed his father so he can return to his real life and marry his childhood sweetheart, Sylvia Davies.

6. Your book is a historical fiction novel. What is it about history that intrigues you?

The people, definitely. I love novels for the characters and I’m the same way with history. I do like certain time periods above others, but it’s definitely the people who have to do with that. William Wallace is one of my favorite historical characters as well as Manfred von Richthofen, George Washington, Lafayette, Robert the Bruce, Montrose, Jack Churchill, Horatio Hornblower--okay he’s not real, but you get the point ;-) It’s also the stories. Stories that need no tweaking to be better and more exciting than most novels. What really attracted me to British history to begin with is that the stories are all so spectacular that it’s hard to believe. Wallace and Bruce are characters who could adorn the most epic novels (or movies, obviously) and don’t get me started on Irish history and stories like Red Hugh of Donegal whose story reads like an R.L. Stevenson novel. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

7. I understand you like to practice with historical weaponry. Could you give us some examples and tell us how you began that hobby?

*Laughs* well, it’s my love of history that made me start, and I’m the kind of author who likes to try things out before I write about them. Since I write a lot of historical war/adventure novels, I knew I would have to know a little about swordplay and things like that, and then I moved on to archery, a bit of boxing and have even tilted against boxes on my bicycle with a pole. And for the record, no one needs to know how that particular adventure went. I usually end up choreographing all the fight scenes in my books in my back yard before I write them. Most of my experience comes from books, accurate movies, and studying battle tactics. I learned boxing from reading Louis L’Amour. Currently, I’m actually working on creating my own fighting style that the hero in my upcoming steampunk novel uses that involves two short sticks and is a bit like singlestick.

8. What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on two novels. One is a Victorian steampunk mystery (mentioned above) that should be out sometime next spring, I’m hoping. The other novel should be out by December and is about Romans and Celts. I have two main characters; one a Roman centurion named Viggo and the other a Celtic chieftain’s son named Caolán who is taken by the Romans after his father is killed in battle and sold into slavery. Viggo also lost his son in the same battle to Caolán’s father and is bitter toward the young Celt because of that. I’m not going to say much more than that right now ;-) I am currently writing three short backstories to go along with the book and the first one about Viggo (“To Save a Life”) is now published on ebook and you can find it on Smashwords via the link below.

9. Where can readers find you on the web?

My Blog: (If you want the latest news about my books, and fun advice on writing or the writer’s life, this is where you go!)

And I have made a Facebook page for my hero detective Anthony Maxwell who you can find here:

10. Do you have anything else you would like to add?

My last remarks from the scaffold: (Told you I had a strange sense of humor)

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
~Linda Grayson
(One of my favorite quotes)

Thank you much for interviewing me! =)


Sir Reeve Montgomery is an Englishman born and bred, proud of his heritage and the right to serve his country fighting against the Scottish rebels. But when the tide is turned unexpectedly during the Battle of Stirling Bridge, he is wounded by an English arrow, left for dead by his comrades, and taken captive by Wallace's army. Wounded, and alone on a foreign field, he knows he should expect nothing but torture and death at the hands of the Scottish rebels who are known to be complete savages. But as he comes to know this tight brotherhood better, and sees Wallace's utter devotion to his men and the cause of freedom, Reeve begins to wonder whether the English are right to oppress them. Faced with these troubling thoughts, Reeve must decide whether he will stay true to his king, or join this brotherhood of freedom fighters, thus turning his back on everything he has ever known or believed in. This new novel by Hazel West is a thought-provoking, heartfelt read about the true meaning of loyalty and brotherhood.


Hazel West spends a good bit of her time writing historical fiction about brave men and women who have graced the pages of history, trying to bring more light to their legacies so readers of all ages will enjoy them. Her favorite things to do are writing, obviously, listening to and playing Irish and Scottish folk music, practicing with all eras and types of historical weaponry, drinking GOOD COFFEE, and reading good books. She currently lives in Florida.


Hazel will be giving away an Amazon Gift Card during her tour to one randomly drawn commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer:  My participation in this book tour does not mean that I have read and/or agree with the work being promoted.  Typically, unless I'm doing a book review, I do not have the opportunity to read the books before promoting them. The purpose of virtual tours is to help fellow authors promote their works, and while I am very particular about who and what I promote, I cannot guarantee that the beliefs and views stated in any specific book are my own. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

We Are A People Seen: Promises From God To Live By - A Guest Post by Ken Mafli

Hagar is seen by God from Heaven
:: Welcome To Our Roller Coaster World ::
Our Christian life can feel like a roller-coaster sometimes. One minute we can be on top of the world, the next minute we hit rock bottom. And with the economy the way it is, many of us have been at the bottom for some time. If you want to get off the extreme highs and lows of this life, you need to grab onto something that does not move - God's Word. Below we will look at some promises that God has given us and how they apply to our lives. We need these promises because even though our circumstances may change, His promises never will. So I invite you to take a look at these promises and ingrain them in your heart. They may just be the anchor you need to make it through your day. But first, a story:

Hagar - The Woman Who Was Seen From Heaven:

Hagar was a woman caught in the middle. She had been given to her master, Abraham, to bear him a son since her mistress, Sarah, was barren. Once she was pregnant, she was despised by Sarah. Things got so bad between her and Sarah that she ran away. She went into the desert and stayed by a stream. Once there, an angel of God came and spoke comfort to her and it was there that she named God - El Roi, "The God That Sees." The ancient Hebrew conception of the heavens and earth are different from our own. We know that Heaven is in a different realm from our own entirely. But in her mind, God was looking down from Heaven and dispatched His angel to protect and care for her. But that is not the touching part of the story. Hagar did what no one else in the Bible had done, before or since - she named God. Her exclamation of love by naming Him so affectionately - was let to stand as an example of a God that cares and a people that respond with love and surprise.

God's Word of Love and Care:

"He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:29-31

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Jeremiah 29:11  

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew 11:28-29  

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Finishing Thoughts

God worked tirelessly in generations past to make sure that we have the great promises of the Bible. And it is these promises that are spoken through the generations to our hearts. Listen to them, they are from a God in Heaven that is near to you. Reach out to Him and listen to His encouragement, mercy, and counsel as you walk through your day. And make sure to follow the example of Hagar and respond to Him with love, surprise, and affection.

Disclaimer:  Occasionally, I will allow a fellow author to provide a guest post for my blog.  The purpose of this allowance is to help fellow authors promote their works, and while I am very particular about who and what I promote, I cannot guarantee that the beliefs and views stated in any article or enclosed links are my own.