Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Oozing Thankfulness?



At this time of year, our thoughts turn toward thankfulness. And that's a good thing.

All month, friends have been posting on Facebook and Twitter about the things they're thankful for. It's cool to have a month to do that. To focus our attention on "being" thankful. But, really, thankfulness is far more than speaking the words "thank you," although the sentiment needs to be said. It's more than taking a month to list the things we're thankful for, and yet, it's great to acknowledge the people and blessings you appreciate. I believe thankfulness is a deeper expression of what's in our hearts. It's a pouring out of what we have inside. Someone mentioned the other day that thankfulness is our "faith in action." And, I like that.

God did so much for us by sending Jesus, for taking away our guilt and shame, for saving our families, for giving us the hope we have, that our hearts should overflow with an abundance of thankfulness. Like a cup of coffee when someone bumps into it and it sloshes on the counter, so our lives, if "bumped into," should ooze thankfulness, a bi-product of love. Hopefully, that's what others will see.

Too often we get filled to the brim with stuff. Chores. Work. Pressures. Our need to be right or have our wishes fulfilled. Entertainment. We get caught up in the "affairs of this life" way too easily. Oh, yes, those fingers are pointing at me too. I forget how fast this life is passing. A fog that will dissipate way too soon. I want my life to count for the good stuff. Is thankfulness a part of who I am?

Instead of being stressed over dinner plans and baking and cleaning the house this Thanksgiving, let's take time to consider the condition of our hearts and what's inside. Is it love? Goodness? Mercy? Thankfulness?

May genuine thankfulness be the new love shining from us. Not just during the days leading up to and including Thanksgiving. But every single day.

May "thanksgiving" be a year-round expression. And may your "Thanksgiving" be filled with an abundance of love and joy.

Blessings...
Mary

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Sophie Dawson

Seeing The Life

Seeing The Life By Sophie Dawson

About the Book


Seeing The Life is a look at the life of Yeshua the Christ in a way never used before. Dassa, the daughter of the innkeeper, is sent to fetch the midwife to help the young woman in the stable give birth. She and Mary become close friends as do Micah, her fiance then husband, and Joseph. Separated when the young family flees Bethlehem in the night, their friendship resumes several years later in Jerusalem. Dassa and Micah know Yeshua is special, but he is still a boy with a boy's interests and love of life. Through the years the families, though separated most of the year, spend time together in Jerusalem during the Jewish Festivals. Then Yeshua begins speaking and teaching. Micah, Joseph of Arimethea, their sons and others who follow and believe Yeshua's message. Yet do they really understand it? Is he the long awaited messiah who will free the Jews from the grip of Rome? What do the stories he tells really mean? Seeing The Life sees the life of Yeshua within the social and political culture of the time. Not only do we see his ministry but also his family and friendships as he grew. Yeshua was a normal baby who cried, spit up, wet and messed. He was a child who fell and skinned his knees. He lost his baby teeth. He had siblings. He had friends. My goal was to show the humanness of Yeshua's life. We see him as fully God but often miss that he was fully man, boy and baby also.


Sophie Dawson
Sophie Dawson is Midwestern born and bred and is the author of several novels, including the Cottonwood Series and Stone Creek Series. Her novel Healing Love has won three awards: AuthorStand 2012 Gold Medal, Indiebook 2012 Silver Medal, and Readers' Favorite 2013 Silver Medal. Giving Love was a finalist in Readers' Favorite 2013. Her books have also been #1 Best Sellers in their genre on Amazon. Seeing The Life is a finalist in Readers' Favorite Awards 2014. She is a member of Christian Independent Authors and Association of Independent Authors. An award-winning quilter with eclectic interests, Dawson posts to several blogs, including Little Bits Blog on her website, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Iowa Wesleyan College.

Follow Sophie Dawson Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Married Glances


In my WIP, April's Storm, April wishes her preacher-husband would glance across the wedding attendees and catch her eye, notice her, send her a silent message with a sizzling look. But she realizes, Chad, the twenty-four-hours-a-day-servant guy, would never do that. He's operating in his official capacity at a wedding—she knows this—yet she still longs for him to single her out.

Have you ever wanted that? Have you ever felt a need for your husband to take your hand or kiss your cheek or just let his gaze linger on you an extra moment?

I have. Even after thirty-nine years of marriage, the need for my husband's acknowledgement might come at a less-than-perfect time for him. Still, from across a crowded church or a busy store, if Jason glances my way, it changes the moment between us. It takes such a tiny chunk of time for a husband to remind his wife that he loves her. That he has eyes for her alone. To remind her that when he's done with all the busyness of work or service, he's looking forward to being alone with her. Remember how it was when you were dating? You could stir up all kinds of romantic sparks without saying a word. A glance is surely worth a couple hundred words. It says, "I'm still mad about you. I want you. Let's hold hands. When this meeting's over, I'm going to give you a kiss that'll make your toes curl. I can't wait to hold you in my arms. I'm glad I married you."

For me, that means so much. I can't speak for a guy, but I can guess he likes those special connections too. Let your eyes talk. Tell your husband or wife you're wild about him/her, even from a distance. 


Eyes sparkle, glow, shine. Let your eyes radiate love. And those little glances will take on a language of their own that can last a lifetime.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Favorite Christmas Dessert


Chocolate-Caramel Bars

Many years ago, I found this recipe on the back of a Betty Crocker cake mix, and I've made it lots of times since. But I've tweaked it a little as I do most recipes, and the glaze is mine. I have to say, I love chocolate!! I enjoy caramel, but I bet these would be great with melted chocolate instead of caramel. Mmm...

1 package BC German chocolate cake mix
½ cup margarine or butter, softened
1 egg
½ cup margarine or butter
½ cup evaporated milk
1 package (14 ounces) caramels
Glaze (below)

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Mix cake mix (dry),  ½ cup butter, and egg until crumbly—or for me, forms a big lump—set aside 1 ½ cups (or about ½ of mix). Press the rest of the mixture in ungreased rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches. Bake until crust appears dry, 10-12 minutes; cool 10 minutes. Heat ½ cup butter, milk, and caramels over low heat, stirring until caramels are melted. Pour over crust. Spread the reserved mix over the top of the caramel layer.  Bake until top layer appears dry and begins to brown, 25-30 minutes; cool. Drizzle with a chocolate-frosting glaze (below). Loosen edges with spatula, refrigerate until caramel mixture becomes firm, about 1 hour. Cut into bars.

Glaze: Mix powdered sugar (as much as desired, about a cup), a little hot chocolate mix (dry—a tsp, or to taste), and a teaspoon of peanut butter with a little hot water until desired consistency. Dribble over chocolate layer. Mm-good.





Tuesday, November 4, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast: The Name Quest by John Avery

Avery-NameQuest CVR

The Name Quest - explore the names of God to grow in faith and get to know Him better By John Avery


About the Book:

Take an insightful journey into deeper relationship with God through the biblical names of God. Beginning in Babel and ending with a burning Babylon, The Name Quest builds faith and encourages spiritual growth. The names of God are like a rainbow—each name expresses part of the spectrum of the character and attributes of God. God is a personality with a multifaceted character too integrated and dynamic to compartmentalize. God’s names are best examined in clusters, around common themes. So that is how the chapters are organized. Along the way, the author tenderly answers tough questions: Which of the Hebrew names of God is His personal name—Yahweh or Jehovah? What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? How can we relate to the Holy God and the Judge? Why is a God of love called the “Jealous God”? What does it mean to call Jesus the Messiah? The Name Quest mentions all the names of God in the Bible while explaining their significance in ordinary language. The author weaves together fifteen years of Bible study research with plentiful illustrations and humorous anecdotes. These include lessons learned as a pastor on a Caribbean island. A visit to a Welsh hill farm introduces a chapter about the Good Shepherd. The story of a Hungarian political prisoner illustrates the meaning of Immanuel (or is it Emmanuel?) A rescue from the slopes of an active volcano helps explain salvation and the meaning of Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yeshua. Even the clever advertisement on a packet of potato chips offers a lesson about how to grow in faith in God. Unlike chasing rainbows, the spiritual journey has an end. The Name Quest is a road map for every Christian’s spiritual journey and it points to the destination—being formed into the image of Jesus Christ. Start exploring!


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John Avery is the author of "The Name Quest – explore the names of God to grow in faith and get to know Him better" (Morgan James Publishing, 2014). He is a trained teacher with over thirty years experience as a Bible teaching pastor, small group leader, and missionary. He has lived in England, Israel, Africa, and the Caribbean, ministering with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and local churches. He and his wife, Janet, now make their home in Oregon. John likes to hike, snowshoe, and cross country ski. John writes a regular Bible devotional on www.BibleMaturity.com and maintains a comprehensive resource for all the names of God at www.NamesForGod.net.

Follow John Avery Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Writer's Life: Deadline Doubts

A deadline makes you work faster and crazier than ever. It adds stress and clarity to your job. And, it's exciting. You only have so many days, hours, or minutes to accomplish a thing, sort of a race against time. A real deadline keeps you on your toes, possibly till the last minute.

That's where I was at Friday night.

Could I finish everything? I still had many hours of work ahead of me. But being stubborn by nature, I knew I could do it if I stuck to the plan. I had to!

My deadline was November 1st. With twelve beta readers waiting to test April's Storm, (due to release in January) I needed to finish the editing I'd been working on and format it into e-book so I could send it out to them. For two weeks, I'd been staying up till one-ish in the morning, burning the proverbial midnight oil, working through edits, pushing myself. Getting up and starting at it again, day after day.

On that last night, October 31st, I determined to push through, no matter what it took. I'd hardly eaten. I forgot the 20/20/20 rule the optometrist told me to follow—every twenty minutes look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds. Instead, I stared at the computer hour after grueling hour. Maybe, next time, I'll follow his rule, but that day, nothing was going to hinder me. I was fighting deadline doubts and was determined to overcome.

Feeling the fires of adrenaline as I neared the finish line, I kept working. Formatting never turns out as cleanly as I'd like it to the first time, so I had fixings and re-uploads to accomplish. But, finally, at two in the morning, I'd finished almost everything I'd planned to do. Only sending the files remained. Something I could do when I woke up. Thinking I should get some sleep, or be super cranky the next day, I lay down to rest. But my eyes refused to stay closed. My mind whirred with that one last thing I should have done. Why didn't I just send those files? How could I sleep with such a big accomplishment—I've been working on this book for a year—hanging over my head? I couldn't. So . . . I hopped up, threw my sweatshirt back on, hobbled in the dark to my computer, and sent those large files one by one via email (over my very slow internet server.) But it was thrilling! Other than the editor and my critique partner, people were finally going to read my entire story.

I went back to bed at 3:30, exhausted, but happy.

Following five hours of sleep, I got up and felt a little blurry all day. But I was delirious with joy for having reached my goal. In a couple of months, I'll be right back there again, fighting the giant of doubt as I tackle formatting and publishing issues. But for now, I can cheer and pat myself on the back, and thank God for His help. I tackled a deadline and won!


Yippeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hope or not?


Jason and I were recently walking in the woods and talking about how thankful we are that we don't know all the things in advance that will happen in our lives. Everyone will go through some storms, right? But isn't it great that we don't know exactly what trials are ahead or when they'll happen?

I thank God for this "not" knowing. I mean, if I knew the exact hurts and struggles I'd have to endure, I'd do everything in my power to avoid those experiences—and shortchange myself in the long run. Let's take boating for example. If I'd known that horrendous storm was going to whip up, I wouldn't have gone on the skiff that day, maybe ever. I mean, a storm could come up at any time in open waters. We could spend our whole life worrying about what storm might hit next. And I would have feared my way through never enjoying the ocean again.

If we could see ahead to the pain of loss, physical ailments, broken dreams, financial struggles, whatever, that we might face, it would be overwhelming. We could get lost in worry and fear. Instead, one thing keeps us floating and anticipating the future:

~Hope~

Hope is a such a blessing in our lives. It's like a buoyant lifesaving ring carrying us through the difficulties.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

Hope isn't just a wish that everything will turn out okay. "I hope it's going to be sunny tomorrow." Instead, it goes beyond that and morphs into a certainty that good is around the corner. Hope is a knowing in our hearts. "I know God is doing a beautiful thing in my life." That even though storms may come, God is working things out for my good. "God will see me through."

Hope is anticipating color in the midst of monochrome. Light in the darkness. Warmth in the cold. Spring after winter.

Job, while going through the biggest storms imaginable, said, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him." Wow! That's a huge kind of hope. It shows hope isn't based on anything happening around us. It's a rock-solid assurance for goodness and peace--and trusting God is in control of everything.

On the other side of the spectrum, when we lose hope, we really do feel sick. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." (Proverbs 13:1) Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to be revived with hope. I found this good one in Psalm 42: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him."

I have so much richness in my life. Things I'm eternally thankful for. And one of those is hope. I look forward to miracles and abundance and promises for my family and friends and me. I want to speak the name of Jesus over storms that come my way. To trust completely in His love.

I'm reminded of another storm where Jesus was sleeping in a boat. The disciples would have made it fine to the other side, but they didn't know that. In the midst of wind and waves and fear, they temporarily lost hope.

Jesus being in my boat is hope . . . and peace.
Thank You, Lord, for hope.