Thursday, December 15, 2011

Forgiveness Formula - “C” students vs. “A” students

Today's guest post is by CJ Hitz, co-author of the bestselling book Forgiveness Formula: Finding Lasting Freedom in Christ.

“C” students vs. “A” students
(Matthew 4:18-22)

Up until the second quarter of my 8th grade year, I garnered my fair share of “Cs” in school.  My grade point average went from 2.7 the first quarter to 3.63 the second quarter.  Why the sudden improvement?  My mom motivated me more than she ever could have imagined by telling me that college basketball scouts looked at the grades of players all the way back to the middle school years.  This wasn’t completely accurate information but it worked.  Though I still had a “C” from time to time, they came fewer and further between.  Back in those days, I ate, drank and slept basketball and my dream was to play in college and eventually the NBA.  My grades weren’t going to stand in the way of that dream.

It was similar for teens back when Jesus was alive. Jewish boys & girls would often attend school until age 10 where they would literally memorize the Torah which is the first five books of the Old Testament.  From this point only the best and brightest boys would go to the next level where they would study the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures until age 13 or 14.  And finally, only the cream of the crop would be chosen to “follow” the local rabbi. This elite group of disciples would go where he went and eat what he ate—modeling their lives after the rabbi. Those who didn’t make the previous cuts would pick up the trade of their mother & father like carpentry, sheep-herding, or fishing.

Guys like Simon, Andrew, James, and John hadn’t made the cut. So instead of following the local rabbi, they were down by the docks, working the family business.  It’s interesting that Jesus went after men the local rabbi had rejected. Instead of targeting the cream of the crop straight “A” students, Jesus offered His invitation, “Follow Me,” to former “C” students.  They would become followers of the ultimate Rabbi.

Can you imagine schools like Harvard or Yale going after “C” students?  Once again, this sort of ‘math’ wouldn’t fly in today’s competitive, dog-eat-dog society. 

No wonder Matthew 4:20 says these guys ‘left their nets at once and followed Him.’  They were being given an opportunity they thought was lost.  To follow a rabbi in Jewish society was the greatest of honors. 

The qualifications for Jesus’ honor society are different…boy am I grateful!

CJ Hitz is the co-author of Forgiveness Formula: Finding Lasting Freedom in Christ, along with his wife Shelley.  Visit their book website to check out the full virtual book tour schedule and special gifts with purchase at:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Warring Spirits

There’s a party going on!!

Historical fiction author April W Gardner is celebrating the release of Warring Spirits, the second book in her Creek Country Saga! Everyone who purchases Warring Spirits on Amazon today, Thursday, December 15, 2011, will be entered into SIX different drawings for some cool and unique prizes. That’s right—ONE purchase. SIX chances to win. 


She’s also giving away personalized, signed book plates (labels for the inside cover). One for every book you purchase. That’s a lot of bang for your buck. Order today and cross a few names off your Christmas list!

So what’s this book about? Warring Spirits is the sequel to Wounded Spirits, April’s Grace Award winning debut novel. Here’s a bit about today’s featured novel: 

Where blood is spilt, unexpected love may bloom.

In 1816 Georgia, escaped slaves control the land just beyond the American border in Las Floridas. Lost somewhere between white and black worlds, Milly follows hope to the only place that can offer her refuge—the place Georgians are calling Negro Fort. The first, sweet taste of freedom convinces Milly that surrender is not an option. Death would be more welcome.

Major Phillip Bailey has orders to subdue the uprising and return the runaways to their masters. Forced to fight alongside Creek warriors—the same who etched the scars into his mind and flesh—Phillip primes himself for battle.  But inside, a war already rages—return for the woman he thought lost to him or concede her to the enemy she loves; follow orders or follow his heart.

Sound intriguing? Head over to APRIL'S PLACE to learn more! Or go straight to AMAZON to get your copy.

Books excerpts are a great way to get a feel for the author’s writing style, so I asked April to share a scene with us. Here’s a taste of chapter one when we’re introduced to the hero, Major Phillip Bailey.


Phillip knew it was a dream. He told himself again, though it did little good. The children’s shrieks grew louder. The flaming pickets roared with new life, as though fueled by his denial of their existence.
His legs churned, but he couldn’t free his mind of the constant nightmare. At least this time, he reasoned, he wasn’t awake. Small blessings.
And then, he saw her.
Arms dangling at her sides and skirt undulating in the waves of heat, she stood across the compound. Her lips were motionless, but her voice echoed through his mind. “Phillip.”
He rushed toward the vision, and she reached for him. “Phillip, love, you must wake up.”
With a cry, he bolted upright.
The silhouette of a woman hovered over him. He stared at her, unblinking, afraid to move and frighten her away.
Sweat poured down his chest—sweat as real as the shadow seemed.
“That’s better,” she whispered. “You’ll be alright.”
He disagreed, but if he spoke, he might shatter her. He’d done it before.
Her loose hair swayed as she moved so near, he should feel her heat.
Taking in the comfort of her presence, he held his breath until his lungs burned with need. Refusing to be contained any longer, air exploded from his mouth. The sound ripped through the cabin, and in one blink, Adela vanished.
A moan built in Phillip’s throat, and he buried his head in his trembling palms. When his fingers collided with the jagged flesh on his face, he recalled again why Adela was no more to him than a mocking shadow, a figment of his deluded, half-crazed mind.
She had turned him down.
Familiar nausea haunted his gut. With a growl, he threw his damp pillow across the room. The sound of splintering glass sent him scrambling for the musket by his bed. He had the unsteady barrel aimed toward the source before he realized he’d been the cause of the commotion.
He dropped the weapon and backed away from it as though it were a copperhead. Blood pounded in his throat. He swallowed hard, terrified of his own mind.
It had been nearly two years. One more night of this and he would prove the gossip correct. He would go mad.
There had to be a better way. 
“Help me.” His voice shivered, and for once, he was thankful to be alone. “Sweet Jesus, show me a better way.”


Get on over to APRIL'S PLACE to see what all the hoopla's about! Or go straight to AMAZON to get your copy.

About April:
April W Gardner resides in Georgia with her USAF husband and two sweet kiddos. She is the author of the historical romance series, the Creek Country Saga, as well as the children’s adventure series, the Channel Islands Resistance. She is the founder and senior editor of the fun literary website, Clash of the Titles. In her free time, April enjoys reading, organizing, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Journey From Boy to Man

Getting kids to enjoy reading can be difficult, especially if you have sons. I've found my boys enjoy stories of adventure. They love to read about how other boys have overcome and triumphed in life. My oldest is in second grade and loves to read anything with a hint of mystery! Today I am hosting an author of youth/teen fiction: Tom Blubaugh, who has written a historical fiction book titled Night of the Cossack. If you are like me you are probably wandering "What is a Cossack?"  A Cossack is a group of Russian cavalrymen. Their abrupt entry into Nathan's world forces him to grow up quickly.

Excerpt from Chapter 1:
Before he reached the barn a woman’s scream ran a chill up his spine. The sound was cut short, followed by an ominous silence. Nathan felt sick. Momma?
 He glanced toward the cellar. He couldn’t see Momma or Israel. Fearing the worst, he turned and stumbled toward the underground room. His eyes still stinging, he stumbled to the entrance, using his rifle as a crutch to keep him upright.
 “Momma?” he whispered.
 Silence. His heart stopped.
 “I hear you, Nathan. We’re all right.”
 Nathan staggered down the steps with relief. His mind swirled with images and terrible sounds. His thoughts returned to Aza. He turned back to the steps.
 “Nathan, stay here!”
 “I must go to Aza, Momma. I heard him scream. He’s panicked, he could hurt himself.”
 “What can you do for him, Nathan?”
 “I can calm him down and turn him loose into the woods. If they set the barn on fire, he’ll die. He’ll be safe in the woods. I must go!”
 “You’re more important than your horse. I, we need you here with us. Stay, Nathan. I couldn't bear to lose you.”
Nathan was torn. Breathing a heavy sigh in resignation as he pulled the cellar door shut, he let his eyes adjust to the dark. He leaned his rifle against the wall.
 Momma wrapped her arms around her older son. Nathan felt her shiver. He knew she was more afraid than cold. Had she heard the scream?
 She sank to her knees, pulling Nathan down. “I know you’re afraid,” she whispered.
 Nathan tensed. “I’m not afraid. I’m a man—the man of the house. You’ve said this yourself.” He pulled away from her. “You say I’m brave and strong. You tell me I’m like Papa, but you treat me like a little boy.”
 “Nathan, you’re both. You’re my little boy, but at the same time you’re a man. Can you understand?”
 Ignoring her question he said, “Papa should be here to protect us. I didn’t even get to tell him good-bye.”
“Don’t be angry, Nathan. He loved you very much. He loved all of us.” She slipped her arms around him again saying, “It was an accident. There was no chance for anyone to say good-bye. Dying wasn’t his choice. You’re a man, Nathan. You look just like him—tall and strong, yet gentle. You have his black, wavy hair, hazel eyes, even his strong chin. What would I do without you?”
 Nathan didn’t say anything. He couldn’t stay mad at her. Her soft voice melted his heart. Even when she’s afraid, she comforts me. Momma’s right. About all of it. It isn’t her fault Papa died.
 His anger, no longer directed at her, receded.
  “Momma, are we going to be all right?” asked Israel.
 “I pray we will, son. Who can know with certainty?”
 “I’m scared, Momma,” Israel said.
 “I know, son, I know.”
 Nathan felt her arms leave him. In a few seconds, he felt her rocking against him. He knew she was holding Israel.
~ Read the entire Chapter 1 of Night of the Cossack by clicking here.

Tom Blubaugh is a freelance writer living in Southwest Missouri with Barbara, his wife.  They have six children and fourteen grandchildren. Tom’s first novel is Night of the Cossack He considers writing to be a God-given talent and feels led to develop it. His first novel was published at his age of 69. Tom says it’s never too late. He is now writing a sequel. 

Tom is celebrating his first novel on December 8th with an official book launch. Visit Tom's blog at: The Write Trail Blog for additional details.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Belles of Georgia

I love the Christmas season! Christmas light lined streets, crisp cool nights, the smell of pine filling the house and crayon circled toys in every store catalog; what's not to love about a holiday filled with the spirit of love and giving. One of the best parts for me has always been the songs, movies and books focused on the Christmas season. Below is an excerpt from a new collection of Christmas stories that beautifully combine faith with fiction.
First scene in Nick’s Christmas Carol, a novella by Rose Allen McCauley in Christmas Belles of Georgia

Nick Powers parked his battered four-wheel-drive truck by the curb in front of the law firm of Brockman and Davis. His mind had been racing faster than a greased pig at the county fair since he’d received Mr. Brockman’s registered letter—the letter whose contents had rocked his world.
            Exiting the truck, he pointed a finger at his collie perched atop some feed sacks in the truck bed. “Stay, Shep.”
            A thump of the dog’s tail told him the canine had heard and would obey. Pretty bad when a dog was one of the few you could trust these days.
            He entered the lawyer’s office and touched the brim of his hat in greeting. “Hey there, Beverly. I’ve got an appointment with Mr. Brockman at four o’clock.”
            The woman checked her computer then looked up over her glasses. “Sure thing, Nick. He’ll be with you soon.”
“Thanks.” Seating himself, he checked his watch. Ten minutes to four. The toe of his right boot kept time to the ticking of the clock on the wall.
            A flash of pink caught his eye through the glass-paned front door. Who could that be? Nobody around here would be caught dead in a pink vehicle.
            A few toe-taps later, a slender brunette breezed through the door, her pink skirt swishing with every high-heeled step she took. She wasn’t from around here, but something about her jogged his brain cells.
            Swooshing past him, she stood in front of the secretary’s desk. A manicured finger toyed with a pearl necklace. “I know I don’t have an appointment, but I have to see Mr. Brockman right away.”
            “I’m sorry, miss, but he has a four o’clock appointment, and it’s his last one for the day. Let me see if I can fit you in on Monday.” She flipped a page. “Sorry. Tuesday is the earliest he could see you since Monday is Labor Day.”
            The girl shook her head, swinging her sleek brown hair with golden streaks from side to side. “That won’t do at all. I have to be back in Atlanta for my classes on Tuesday.”
            Mr. Brockman stepped through his door. Nick began to rise.
            The lawyer frowned then glanced at the secretary. “Is there a problem, Ms. Dailey?”
            “No sir. I was just explaining to this lady that—”
            The stunning stranger rushed toward the lawyer. “I know I don’t have an appointment, but I have to see you. I’m Carol Peterson, and…” She waved a wrinkled envelope in her left hand. “I won’t be able to sleep a wink until I find out what this letter from you means.”    
The lawyer raised his eyebrows. “This is highly unexpected, Miss Peterson, but I will see you for five minutes before my next appointment.” He stepped back from the door, motioning her to enter ahead of him.
            With a short nod toward Nick, the lawyer followed then closed the door.
            Nick glanced at Beverly who shrugged her shoulders. He looked back at the door. Something about the woman, now so unsure of herself, reminded him of…
His breath whooshed out. It couldn’t be. Not the rich kid who made my life miserable that long ago summer. She always did play to get her way. Whatever it took.

To read more about Nick and Miss Peterson you can purchase Christmas Belles of Georgia on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles.  With a purchase this week you get a free copy  e-cookbook Novel Morsels, visit Rose's blog at for details.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Black Friday Fun Money Giveaway - $50 Amazon Gift Card

Who doesn't love the rush of excitement standing outside your favorite store at 4 AM in the morning? Well I for one do not! I would much rather sit in the comfort of my own home sipping on a hot cup of java and search the internet for great deals. So in honor of those of us who enjoy sleeping late on Black Friday, I'm giving away some fun money to spend on your favorite items. I already have a few things on my Amazon Wish List, how about you?? HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY AND HAPPY SHOPPING!

To enter all you have to do is follow the instructions below:

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's Filling Your Tank?

Special Guest Post by Kimberly J. James

Are you one of those people who drive your car until the meter stick is under the E? Have you tested the limits to see how far you can go with the gas light on before you break down? Do you put $10 in the tank, when you know it takes $50 to fill it? I was one of those people. Fortunately, I only ran out of gas 3 times in my life. Was it luck or something else?

The day I finally felt ashamed for someone to see me putting $4 in the gas tank; I realized that this bad habit was a metaphor for my life. I spent most of my life feeling like I was functioning on fumes. I was living with a “just enough” mentality, doing what was necessary to make it through the next day or the next crisis without breaking down. I had dreams, but I was getting nowhere fast and I didn’t know why?

When I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired, I decided that I deserved better, my family deserved better and I would pursue better, whatever that meant. In the seemingly reckless pursuit of what most would say was an impossible dream, I started on a journey that revealed much more about my past, my beliefs and my destiny, than I could have ever imagined.

This memoir draws you into the intimate details of how my mess collided with the love of God to catapult me into my purpose. My “truth”, which you will read has been painfully glorious, is why I KNOW that every time I should have been stranded on the side of the road, it was the Grace of God that was filling my tank.

So I’ll ask again… What is filling your tank? Or, shall I ask Who? 

Excerpt  from Running on G - What's Filling Your Tank  
Chapter 10 - The Voice

As we pulled into the hospital parking lot, Erica, Pam's daughter was just leaving. She rolled down her window and told us it was a good time to visit because the night shift crew needed a break. So we parked the car, followed her instructions to get up to the right floor and entered the waiting area in the ICU wing where other relatives had been resting.
Tracey explained what we needed to do:  clean our hands and put on a mask before entering her room. When I turned the corner, it was far worse than I had anticipated. She was hooked up to so many machines that you could barely approach the side of her bed. She sounded like Darth Vader with the ventilator and the tracheotomy tube protruding from the front of her neck, and that was without her even attempting to speak.
The best she could project was a faint whisper, which you could barely hear with the loud machines surrounding her, so most of the time she communicated by writing notes. The first thing I thought was, "Lord, you didn't tell me it was this bad. How could she fully recover from this?" To which His response was, "Don't be confused or affected by what you see in the physical, this is a spiritual issue, just stay on task."
So I did. Pam was happy to see both Nina and I and she was trying to move her lips to ask how our families were doing back at home. Just like Pam, still trying to take care of everyone else, so I shushed her and told her that I had something to say. I pulled a chair over to the side of her bed and sat as close to her as I possibly could. I told her to let me get this out before I messed it up, because I had travelled a long way to give her a message from God.
She nodded her head for me to proceed and mouthed the words, "Please Share." I held her hand as Nina moved close by her head to hold and support her through what she already knew was coming. I looked her in the eyes and told her:
"God told me to tell you that He knows that you have been suffering silently for many years. He said that you chose to bear the cross for all of the lost souls in this family and that He knows that your soul is tired and lonely. He said He knows that you have always been the one who has taken up the slack for everyone else when they fell short, because you just wanted everyone to be happy.
But He also said that your suffering has not been in vain, and that you have something that you have needed to say to all of us for a long time. The enemy has physically robbed you of your voice because like Moses' gift was his staff, your gift, your staff is your voice. He said that if you spoke your heart, the toxic spirit that is hovering over this family would be lifted and the chains of bondage would be broken. However, you have to choose to use your voice. He said that He knows the reason you haven't done it up to now is because you are afraid to hurt people's feelings, but you are the voice of authority in this family and if you choose to speak, they WILL LISTEN.
He said to tell you that you can choose to live and get up and walk out of this hospital, but you have to choose to use your voice, but it is up to you. The last thing that He said was that we would learn more from the miracle of your recovery than we would from your death."
Nina wiped the tears that were streaming down Pam's face, as she squeezed my hand with all the strength she had left, confirming that every word that I had just spoken was indeed a true and complete message from God. That was it, I said it!
Pam's machines started setting off alarms and the nursing staff rushed in to see what was going on. They tried to sedate her, but we asked them to leave her alone because it was not her health, it was the move of God stirring in her spirit. We asked the nurse for a little more time alone before she gave her any more medication.
Pam belted out a whisper asking Nina to sing to her.  She had a favorite gospel song called, 'Higher Ground' by Johnson Oatman, Jr. The lyrics are:

I'm pressing on the upward way, no heights I'm gaining, Lord every, everyday
Still praying as I onward bound,
Lord plant my feet on higher ground.
I want to scale the utmost heights,
And catch a gleam of glory, of glory, of glory bright
Still praying as I onward bound,
Lord plant my feet on higher ground.
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
My face on heaven's table land. 
No higher, place that I have found,
Plant my feet on higher ground.

So she sang, with a voice like an angel as the three of us held each other and cried together. This was what you call a "Holy Hook Up". I thought about how all of the pieces of the puzzle had fallen together brilliantly for this message of love to be conveyed to Pam in her time of crisis. God was definitely in that room on that day. There were no distractions, there were no other relatives around, there was no pride, and there was just LOVE.
I reflected on the great lengths God went through to deliver that message to her and I was honored that He chose me to be a part of it. Nina prayed the benediction over that situation and we were confident that we were about to be a witness to the greatest medical miracle in our human experience.


Purchase your copy of Running on G on Tuesday Nov 22 at and you will be entered for a chance to win $100 Gift Card. Visit Kimberly at for details.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Unshackled and Free

Are you free in Christ, or do you find yourself bound by your circumstances, sins, or even your past? If your answer was one of the latter, you need to know that you are not alone. So many Christians today don’t feel like they are truly free. We feel like there is no way to move forward because of where we are or where we’ve been, and that is exactly how Satan wants us to feel. The tighter we’re bound by his lies, the less of an impact we will have for Christ.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way, we can find lasting freedom in Christ, and that is why CJ and Shelley Hitz are hosting a free, 4-day online conference entitled: “Unshackled and Free”. They want you to know, and experience, the freedom that can only be found through Christ. Do you want to be refreshed, inspired, and challenged? Join them November 28th through December 1st, 2011 at 8PM EST each evening to hear from powerful speakers: Rae Lynn DeAngelis, Janet Perez Eckles, Renee Johnson Fisher, and Scott Mason as they talk about how they have found lasting freedom in Christ, and how you can too. They will be covering topics that are easily related to, including being set free from eating disorders, overcoming life circumstances, reflecting Christ in our relationships, and becoming a new creation in Christ.

If you have ever felt bound by something in your life, regardless of where you stand today, I encourage you to sign-up for this conference. You can have lasting freedom in Christ, and these speakers would love to help you get there. Each session will be broadcast live, as well as recorded for audio replay. This way you can attend from the comfort of your own home, and if the scheduled time does not work for you, you can simply listen at a time that is more convenient. Each call will be under an hour to make it easier to fit into your busy schedule of work, family and other activities. I do hope that you will join us for this life changing conference.

Get more information, including a complete schedule of events and speaker information by clicking on link: Unshackled and Free Conference 2011 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

From Empty to Loved and Redeemed

Naomi gave Ruth some pointers about how to present herself to Boaz for marriage. She told her he would be sifting barley that night on the threshing floor. The men stayed with their crops to protect them from thieves coming in and stealing them in the night. Naomi told Ruth to clean up, pretty up, and to go to the threshing floor. She told her to wait until Boaz finished eating. Once he lay down, she was to go and lie down at his feet. This was an act of submission. In those days, servants did that in case their masters needed something during the night.

Ruth did just as Naomi had told her. About midnight, when Boaz turned over, Ruth startled him by her presence. It was dark on the threshing floor, and Boaz couldn’t see, so he asked, “Who is there?”
-Excerpt from The Book of Ruth: A Story of Love and Redemption by Deborah H. Bateman

I have always loved the story of Ruth. I can relate to that feeling of isolation when life has stripped you of your identity. When situations and tragedy leave you feeling alone, but God is faithful to bring motherly figures that can lead and guide through a Titus 2 relationship. Despite the age difference, God used that type of relationship between this mother-in-law and daughter-in-law to help Ruth find her true identity.

Sometimes the journey takes you down to the threshing floor, a place where your past must be forcefully removed from your future. A place where the wind of God's Spirit blows upon you and sets you free from your iniquity. The threshing floor experience is a humbling experience. It's one where your soul must say "More of you, less of me." It is a place of emptying all you are to receive all He is.

He must increase, but I must decrease. - John 3:30

Ruth was able to complete this process. Despite the reproach of her past, she came empty. She laid her past, her present and her future before her kinsman redeemer. And there he asked her the question God asks all of us. Just like He did in the garden with Adam, God is asking "Where are you? Who is there?" Where are you mentally? Who do you say you are? Do you know your new name? Do you know your redeemed position in me?

If you have never done an in-depth study on the book of Ruth, I encourage you to do so this Christmas season. It is one that will open your eyes to who you are in Christ. My friend Deborah Bateman has written a reading guide that will help you in this journey to self-discovery. Allow her to be your guide through the threshing floor experience. You can visit her at: 

When you purchase The Book of Ruth: A Story of Love and Redemption on its book launch date on Tuesday November 15th you also receive special additional gifts! 

May God thresh out your past and blow away the chaff (the part of you that obscures your vision of your true identity in Christ), so you can see His banner of love and redemption over your life.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What Happened to My Joy

I don't know about you, but sometimes I have to stop and access my spiritual condition. It's amazing how easy it is for life to sneak up on you and steal the very gifts God gives you. This past month I learned why 1 Peter 5:8 warns  "Be alert, be reflective, because your enemy Satan roars like a lion and is walking and seeking whom he may devour."

In a month filled with great opportunities to share the message God has burned into my heart, I found myself exhausted. Now as a doctor who still actively does hospital call, I'm used to spending hours awake and having to think quickly on little sleep. However this month I found myself on the verge of collapse from pure exhaustion. One night I was so drained I went to bed at 7:30pm and did not wake until 12 hours later. Honestly, I wouldn't have awaked then but my sons were yelling at me to get up and take them to school. What happened to my strength?

During this month I found myself laughing less and playing games with my sons less. Days were filled with PowerPoint presentations, writing magazine articles, recording radio interviews and other things I usually enjoy, however this month each one of them seemed more like a chore. My excitement of sharing God's truths was growing dimmer by the minute. What happened to my joy?

I found myself in a place in my past that I had once overcome, a place of striving and works. But in my comfort of being out of that place I failed to realize my enemy was still "seeking whom he may devour". In October he was trying to devour me. He was using the very blessings God had placed in my life to devour my strength, my joy, and my peace. Thankfully God's Spirit helps us to discern when we are off track and moving away from God's best.

So sitting in my hotel room alone in Milford Pennsylvania getting ready to speak to hundreds of women at the Iron Sharpens Iron Women's Retreat about living an abundant life in God, I was running on empty. I am convinced God set aside that time to fill me again. Verse by verse, He met me where I was. He did not criticize me for allowing myself to get so low, rather he held me with these words.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Isaiah 55:6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.

1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

I was a bruised reed, but instead of breaking me He lifted me up. Every scripture taking me deeper into fellowship with Him. Repeatedly His word reminded me of my true calling. Above my ministry of healing, above my writing ministry, even above my family; I am a seeker and my primary role is to seek Him. Seeking Him is not a chore, but an invitation. It's my invitation to roar back at the enemy, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Christian Romance

Christian romance? Is there such a thing as that? Today we get to glance inside the creative process that takes scripture and turns it into life-changing fiction with author Amanda Stephan.

Why do you write Christian romance?
Having been married almost 18 years, I am a recipient of the best kind of romance. The lasting kind. The kind where the spouses accept and love one another even with the many faults and warts that come along with real people. If I became upset after every hardship or every time my husband *didn't* sweep me off my feet, we'd be divorced. True love happens everyday when we make a point to put someone else's needs in front of our own. True love is when you accept that apology, or better yet, offer an apology because of some hasty words that you let slip during your frustration. Or when you don't go to bed angry, because the argument wasn't that important to begin with. But better than this earthly love my husband and I share, is the agape love from my Heavenly Father who loves without condition and never forsakes.

God didn't call me to be a missionary to an exotic land away from my home. He gave me a mission field right here. This is my purpose for my writing. To help spread God's love and message to those who need it. So many times, a book can go where a preacher or teacher cannot. A place where the heart is open but the ears closed. If my books can reach one person for God? I am honored!

What motivated you to write Lonely Hearts?
My greatest motivator would have to be from watching people around me. I noticed that many people take so many things for granted ~ their spouses and their children mostly ~ and it bothered me. I just couldn't fathom how easily they could set aside their most precious possessions (their family) for something so insignificant like cars or cell phones. Instead of focusing on what is really important.

What is the key emotion/issue addressed within Lonely Hearts?
In Lonely Hearts, we run through a gamut of emotions ~ loss, grief, happiness, sadness, anger, and so on, but I'd say the key emotion/issue addressed is the familial bonds and ties that really should be most important in our lives.

What scripture(s) is/are the bases for Lonely Hearts?
I use many different verses in LH, but the unwritten one is 3 John 4 ~ I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. When I read this verse after our children were born, the importance of it floored me. No matter what I become, no matter what dreams I chase, I want my children to grow up and serve and love the Lord. That would be the greatest lesson I could teach them.

What life experiences "qualify" you to write this book?
I've learned over the years that I can never go back to yesterday and fix the things I did wrong. Nor erase the regrets I created because I was too stubborn to say I'm sorry. Or the times I didn't give a hug when I felt the Lord leading me to do so. I can't thank certain people for guiding me or helping me grow as a Christian because they're gone now. I want to have as few regrets as possible and so I try to live as though today were my last. I want my kids and husband to know that if God called me home, I loved them deeply. That is the purpose of this book. Perhaps this sweet romance novel will help someone stop being so busy and cherish the gifts that has already been given them ~ their family.

Lonely Hearts ~ a sweet Christian romance
One lonely mother. Two matchmaking kids. Three eligible bachelors. What could possibly go wrong?

When widow Becky Callis moves to a new town, she thought it would be easier to start over in a place where she's not reminded of her dead husband. Her kids on the other hand, take it as a chance to help their mother start over romantically. The only problem is, there seems to be quite a few eligible bachelors they can choose from! They soon realize it's easier to find someone to like their mother than it is to figure out which man is best for her.

Even though this handsome cowboy is younger than Becky, Scott makes his interest plain and starts courting her almost immediately to the delight of both kids.

Jack and Becky have been friends since childhood. When they're reunited years after their lives have taken very different paths, this lonely preacher begins to wonder if God has brought her back into his life for a reason.

Pearce Morgan is a single parent raising his young daughter. Divorced and disillusioned, an unlikely friendship arises between him and Becky when his shy daughter decides she loves Becky and her kids.

Lonely Hearts, a story of second chances, choices, and yummy apple pie will be released through TreasureLine Publishing.
Read excerpt here:

Purchase Lonely Hearts on Nov 1st and you can enter Amanda's drawing to win either a Nook/Kindle/iPod on her webpage:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nourishment for the Mind

What I think has a huge effect on how I feel. When I spend most of my day focusing on the daily grind, I find myself feeling empty and unfulfilled. But when I step into the pages of a good book, fiction or non-fiction, it allows me to refocus my thoughts. Reading is a powerful tool for feeding your mind and what you read is important in how it affects you. Non-fiction tends to be heavy reading that requires a commitment from the reader. Fiction is usually lighter reading that allows you to escape for a moment to meet with wonderful characters and if it’s great fiction you may even learn a moral lesson.

What you feed your mind is just as important as what you feed your body. Fill your mind with gory science fiction, mysteries and horror books will leave you anxious and fearful. Nourish your mind with Christian fiction novels and you can still enjoy every genre of books, plus keep a positive uplifting focus. I love reading and have been reading some amazing books over the past year. I have featured some of them already on this blog, but over the next few weeks I hope to feature some of my favorites. These will be Christian books I’ve read and believe would make great gift this holiday season.

At one point my life was so busy I did not make time to feed my mind and my attitude suffered. The one book that I found vital to nourishing the mind is the Bible. Even when reading some of the best literary works around, I always find none of them take the place of His Word. Sometimes I need just a small Psalms scripture to snack on and at other times I need to chew on more meaty subjects like submission or loving those who are hard to love. God is always so kind and patient; no matter how long it is between my Bible reading sessions I always find Him waiting to greet me within the pages. Any mind can be transformed and renewed with the nourishment of His presence. Need an attitude change? Want more joy in your life? The answers can be found in nourishing your mind with good books and the Good Book.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Heaven is for Real for Kids

"What will Heaven look like? Who will be there? Will our dogs be there? What will Jesus be like?" These are the types of question my curious 5 and 7 year olds ask during our time of devotion. I've always struggled to describe the indescribable. As the song says, "I can only imagine", yet Colton Burpo doesn't just imagine he actually experiences Heaven first-hand.

This children’s version of the bestselling book does not go into details about Colton's illness and surgery, but just implies that Colton was very sick. It never says Colton dies only that he closed his eyes during this time of severe illness and when he opened his eyes he could see Jesus and Heaven.

My son's had many questions about how this was possible. Also curious about if they closed their eyes if they too may open them to see Jesus when sick. I found myself having to explain portions of the adult version of the book for them to fully understand the beginning of the story, but once we got going the content within was excellent!

This book brings comforting answers to those questions about what Heaven will look like, sound like and who will be present. It allowed opportunities to discuss family members who have already gone to Heaven that my kids have never met. It also did an excellent job of discussing the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with a child-like innocence of the relationship.

This is a book that would be great for children in the second grade on up. My oldest was able to read this book with minimal assistance and able to grasp the reality of Colton's severe illness better than my 5 year old, however both were fascinated by the beautiful illustrations. I consider this book one for every children’s library.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Do you feel cherished? Do you feel as if God is protecting you, holding you dear and lovingly caring for you? Sometimes life becomes so routine that we lose touch with just how much God love us. In Kim Cash Tate's new book Cherished, I not only was reminded of how precious I am to God but also how much He is willing to forgive.

This book overflows with grace and mercy and it discussed the life choices of two high school students who later reunite years later. The scars from those past choices are still fresh but God is able to bring the healing needed. Topics covered include abortion, unequally yoked marriages, forgiveness, sexual promiscuity, identity in Christ and self-worth.

My favorite characters from Tate's novel Faithful are also in Cherished. These books are not officially part of a series, but I highly recommend you read Faithful first then Cherished. Knowing the core characters before reading this book will make it easier to follow. Tate is an exceptional storyteller and has a way of making her characters feel like they’re your friends.

I enjoyed Cherished. I concluded the book with a sense of peace with God, knowing that my past is not my future and that He loves me 100%. I am cherished by the Creator of all!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Blessing in Criticism

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, right? But are you obligated to listen? To be honest, most of us only want to hear how right we are not what we are doing wrong. Give me a thumbs up and I'm happy to chat. Give me a list of how I can improve and I will tune you out before you finish your first point.

Knowing how to handle criticism is a skill. Learning and growing from criticism is an added bonus. You will never be able to silence all of your critics, so might as well develop a plan to better handle your next critique.

1. Stay calm.

Criticism hurts. When someone verbally lashes out at you, it feels as if you are under attack. Your breathing speed up, your heart beats faster, and your muscles begin to tight as your body prepares to fight back. Rather than allow these emotions to escalate, regain control. Do not respond immediately but rather take a 10 second pause to take one deep breath to exhale all feeling of insult out. Staying calm puts you in the best position for successfully maneuvering through criticism.

2. Accept that no one is perfect.

It would be great if we were always right and always had the best way of doing everything. Even you and I sometimes miss the mark. It’s ok to not be right all the time. Give yourself permission to have an off day. No one is perfect. Sometimes criticism is justified. Listen to what the criticizing party has to say, and then objectively evaluate its validity. You don’t have to agree with them, just be open enough to accept that we are all perfectly imperfect.

3. Know your own self-worth.

Having someone voice that you did not do something right leaves a taste of failure on all of our tongues. It’s very easy to move from criticism to self-doubt. Avoid the desire to apply this criticism of your work to your personal worth. Know your value as an individual. Do not allow criticism to define your self-worth, but rather focus on your personal strengths and attributes. You are a unique individual and sometimes uniqueness is criticized because it is uncharted territory. Your new and creative way of accomplishing a task may have been met with criticism initially only to become a future success as others grasp your vision.

4. Focus on what you can gain from the experience

Criticism can be beneficial. Whether or not you agree with their assessment, hearing their opinion can give you insight on areas that may benefit from some tweaking. Use the criticism as a way to evaluate the pros and cons of a situation. Focus on what you can learn from the encounter and use it to your benefit.

5. Thank the person giving the criticism.

Yes you heard me right, thank them. Occasionally criticism will come from someone who is being malicious, but more often it’s from those who actually see your potential and want to bring out the best you have to offer. Thank them for taking an interest in your personal growth and development. Despite their intentions, you will ultimately benefit from the experience by becoming more secure in your ability to handle criticism with poise.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Feed Your Body - Feed Your Soul

Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."
-Genesis 1:29

Need a little help getting motivated to eat right and excercise more? Buy Fit for Faith - 7 Weeks to Improved Spiritual & Physical Health by Kimberley Payne at TODAY (Oct 11) and receive tons of free e-gifts from the author and other generous supporters! Let's support Kimberley's heart to help the body of Christ live healthy and whole! Click this link to purchase: Fit For Faith. Then visit to get your free gifts.

Healthy eating nourishes your body. Eating well means eating a selection of foods that supply essential nutrients and energy. Food touches every aspect of your life and affects how you feel. Healthy eating helps you to take care of yourself on the most basic level. God created a variety of foods that you can enjoy to meet the needs of your body. Food is a great source of energy and pleasure.

Benefits of healthy eating
1. Boosts energy level
2. Improves concentration
3. Reduces risk of cancer
4. Reduces risk of obesity and diabetes
5. Decreases risk of heart disease
6. A pure motive delights God

Healthy eating does not need to be complicated. You do not need to cook extravagant meals or shop at specialty stores. Eating well does not mean you have to give up any foods that you love. And it does not mean you have to start eating foods that you do not like. Everything you eat plays a part in keeping you healthy. Healthy eating means changing how much and how often you eat, not only what you eat.

Healthy eating gives you more energy for optimal physical and mental performance. You can reach a healthy weight and stay there without dieting.

-Excerpt from Fit For Faith by Kimberley Payne