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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Robin Merrill


The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss

By Robin Merrill

About the Book:

In The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss, Author/Poet Robin Merrill shares her weight loss experiences through 30 Bible devotions designed to inspire others to join her on her journey toward improved spiritual, and physical, health.

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Robin Merrill is the author of several books, including The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss (30 Devotions), two collections of poetry from Moon Pie Press, and five Scholastic Book Fair books. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared in hundreds of publications, including The Cafe Review, Ledge Magazine, Margie, Pearl, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Stolen Island Review. Three of her poems have been featured on The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. She is a 2013 recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from St. Botolph Club Foundation of Boston. Robin is also a performance/slam poet who has competed at the national level. She has her MFA from Stonecoast and frequently leads creative writing workshops for writers of all levels.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Love Exercise—Corinthians 13 in Action

Love your neighbors.
Pray for enemies.
Honor others.
Do good.

All through the Bible, I see thoughts on relationships and how we interact with each other. If we never had problems in these areas, the words of caution and admonition wouldn't be there. But, being humans, we do err. Sadly, sometimes.

Have you ever had a problem with someone? If you have . . .

I shouldn't say "if". All of us have had a problem or two (or a bunch) relating to someone. Perhaps, a friend said something stupid. A coworker caused trouble (sometimes life-changing problems). A relative hurt us, accidentally or on purpose. Or there's that "irregular person" in our lives. The one we struggle to get along with on a weekly, or even daily, basis.

Love means we have to forgive and be kind—even if.
Even if what? Even if we struggle to get along.

If we don't like someone, (that sounds awful, doesn't it?) what are we going to do with Jesus' words to love our neighbors? First, I'd better pray for him (and me too). With the Holy Spirit inside, He's the one loving through me. Love begets love. True love goes beyond natural feelings. It's a spiritual happening based on the change God is doing. He can do such a work that we don't even understand why we're suddenly feeling more loving toward that person.

There's an exercise I like to do to also change how I'm thinking about someone. "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2) I need to change opinions about the person who's annoying me. Yes, I must confess, I'm sharing from experience, but I won't go into detail. Instead . . .

Let's say Jan and Clyde moved in next door with two teenage sons. Wild boys, it seems. Ever since then, the neighborhood has been different. So much so, you're considering moving. Parties in the yard until all hours. Loud music. Fireworks. Things have been stolen. Suspicions are high. You've talked with Clyde, but he's oblivious. Jan is away, working, most of the time. The boys broke your front window with a football yesterday. Their dog's been doing his number two on your lawn. Get the picture?

Where does love fit in?

Love does more than stew over the problem, although our nature wants to do that. Love is more than ignoring the noise. (Although, earplugs might help.) Love looks beyond the physical annoyances and realizes the person next door, his eternity, matters more than all our stuff, all our preferences, all our comfort. Pride is usually the bad guy in these situations, but true love kicks pride out of the picture, makes us more humble, caring, kinder, thoughtful, etc. It gets us thinking differently.

Here's something that has helped me. I turn to the love chapter, I Corinthians 13, and if you're like me, this chapter makes you squirm in your chair over how you've been thinking about Jan and Clyde. In the midst of my discomfort, I take this powerful section in Scripture a step deeper. I insert Jan's and Clyde's names following the love actions. When I do this (and sometimes redo it) it radically transforms how I'm thinking about my irregular person.
  • "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love" for Clyde and Jan's sons, "I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."
  • "If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love" for Clyde, "I am nothing."
  • "Love" for Jan "is patient, love" for Clyde "is kind."
  • "It (love) is not rude" toward Jan.
  • "Love" for my next door neighbors "never fails."

In fact, the verse goes on to state if I don't have love for these folks . . . prophecies will cease, tongues will be stilled, knowledge will pass away. Wow. Not loving has huge consequences. After all, "God is love." He's in us. Love is in us. How can we not love?

Love from the heart is sincere, it's able to love enemies, it's able to put our neighbor's needs before our own. Love does remarkable things in the face of adversity.

To tap into that mindset, the next time anger—or hate—rises up inside over a friend's wrongdoing, a frustrating neighbor, or a spouse you aren't getting along with, after you've prayed for him, insert the person's name into Corinthians 13. It will change something inside of you. I know it did for me.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" for Jan and Clyde.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast: A Nation Under Judgment by Richard Capriola


A Nation Under Judgment

By Richard Capriola

About the Book:

A Nation Under Judgment defines wisdom as "the ability to see things from God's point of view." It reviews our nations social polices, including hunger, poverty, the environment, marriage, homelessness as well as others, from a Scriptural point of view. It empowers readers to consider if our nation is moving away from being One Nation Under God.

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Richard Capriola spent many years as a hospital chaplain. He completed four years of Clinical Pastoral Education in preparation for becoming a chaplain. In addition to his pastoral care experience, he has served as a ministry outreach leader for a Midwestern church and has been a mental health counselor at both a regional crisis center and psychiatric hospital.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Contagious Faith?

Sometimes faith is like a whirlwind. It grabs you and takes you on a life-changing ride. It grows bigger and bigger until suddenly it hurls you into a faith-in-action adventure, and your life is never the same.

Or, faith is like standing in quicksand with the muck pulling you down, your hands flailing, and just when your chin touches the wet sand, someone pulls you up and sets you on solid ground. You weep and shout out thankfulness, and your faith grows by leaps and bounds.

Then, again, faith can be like a melody building and building inside of you. Until finally, you burst out with lyrics straight from your heart. And everyone looks at you, amazed.

I googled "faith" and got 166,000,000 sites. Pretty impressive. I thought I'd narrow the field, so I entered "faith in action" and got 83,900,000. Then I tried "Contagious faith", although not as popular it still had 3,530,000. So why add one more blog on faith?

My heart is stirred over the idea of "contagious" faith. Not a boring faith. Not a passive faith. But a contagious faith.

Have you seen someone on fire with faith in God? Her face glows. Her smile is huge. Her excitement is beyond this world. When she speaks, I draw in closer and listen to every single word she says, because I don't want to miss anything. She has something I want, I need—the love of Jesus and a huge faith bursting out all over her. It's real. I can feel my faith growing too. Next to her, I'm the flower in the rain, soaking it up. Changing. Becoming. Believing.

To me, this is contagious faith.

I love what Mirriam-Webster's says about "contagious": communicable by contact. Oh, happy day. I can come in contact with a person saturated in faith, and that zest and glory can jump on me! Watch out world!

What if our faith is like a bubble around us? What if, when we bump into someone (figuratively), by osmosis their faith seeps into us. And likewise.

Paul said "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." (Romans 1:12) Love, love, love the "mutually encouraged by each other's faith" part. When someone full of faith enters my bubble, I become strengthened, encouraged, built up. On the other hand, we've all been around someone with a sourpuss attitude, and that eventually creeps over to my side too—like a virus. We absolutely affect each other! Whether by faith or something else.

How did the girl capture such moving faith? George Bannister says, "Faith is defined in our lives when we are facing the hard decisions and fiery trials of life." Maybe so. Or, like in verse seventeen of Romans one, maybe it's more about "The righteous will live by faith." Live by faith!!! It's what we need to be eating and drinking. What we should be confessing and speaking about. Life in Jesus. The love of God the father. Our faith in the savior of the world.

It's not religiosity. It's not spouting woes or trivialities. Faith is vibrant, passionate, a total belief in the One who lives for us. It's walking . . . well, in faith, every day like it's brand new. Experiencing joy in Him, even in sorrow. It's saying "I believe" even while standing in sinking sand. It's shouting "glory to God" when you might not feel like it. And it's a miracle. Jesus mentioned a mustard seed kind of faith. If only we had that we could move mountains. Just imagine!

"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Gal 5:6

Contagious faith? Let it soak into me. Let it change me. I want that kind of faith!

How about you?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Interview with Pam Branstetter

With today’s hectic schedules of work, school, kids, trying to make ends meet, it’s easy to get sucked into a life of meaningless repetition. Due to the pressures of daily life, it’s simple to put our relationship with Father God on the back burner. Adventures with Abba is a collection of short stories about Pam and Corbett Branstetter’s experiences with God. These heartwarming nuggets are designed to transport the reader from a frenzied lifestyle into a cherished relationship with a loving, caring, faithful Heavenly Father. Aptly called “adventures”, these stories reveal new and exciting heights He took this couple in His word, during prayer, and in dreams. Some of these experiences developed radical, life-changing lessons, while others nurtured food for thought, or humorous anecdotes. With just a few moments each day in Adventures with Abba, your life will never be the same. 

Buy it on Amazon: KINDLE or PAPERBACK

Welcome, Pam Branstetter, author of Adventures with Abba!!

Your book sounds so interesting! Please, tell us more. 

Over the years, Corbett and I have had several encounters or adventures with God. For some reason, Father God chose to teach us life-changing lessons through dreams, visions, or during seasons of prayer. Adventures with Abba is a collection of our escapades, with a short explanation of how they pertain to each one of us in our daily lives, and how we each can come to know Him as the loving, sensitive, caring Father God He truly is.

What inspired you to write this book?

Shortly after these occurrences began, the Lord spoke to my heart and told me to write them down. Keeping a notepad and pen with me at all times, I recorded each event. I would share these encounters with others in sermons, teachings, and to individuals as the Lord led. Seeing how God used our experiences to bless others, He placed in me a burning desire to publish them and even more people could receive His word.

One day we had a guest speaker come to our church who moved in the prophetic. Without knowing me or anything about me, he called me out and said, "The Lord says you are a writer. Just as God told Habakkuk to write the vision in Habakkuk 2:2, you are to write the vision. Keep a pen and notepad by your bed so that when the Lord speaks, you may record it."

The Lord gave me a confirmation of what He had already placed in my heart. God's timing is perfect. It took a few years, but Adventures with Abba is the completion of God's instructions.

Tell us about your family!

Corbett and I have been married for over forty years. We have two wonderful sons who married beautiful, God-fearing women. They are both raising our five grandchildren to love and serve God. Our oldest, Shawn is a very talented and successful graphic designer, while his wife Jennifer is at home taking care of their three little boys.

Our youngest, Kevin, is in the navy. He and his wife, Vonda, serve in their local church. Our oldest grandson, Austin, aspires to be a preacher. Regan, our only granddaughter, desires to be involved in praise and worship. Our three youngest grandsons, Anthony, Zachary, and Jacob, enjoy sports and are a joy to be around. We feel very blessed to know our children and grandchildren love the Lord.

What would you say to someone like me who wants to have experiences with the Lord like you and Corbett did?

God is not a respecter of persons. Just like an earthly father, He longs to spend time with you, His child. However, He will not deal with you the same way He deals with us. We can't put God in a box and expect Him to reveal Himself the same with everyone. We all have different personalities, different experiences, various upbringings, and He knows how to effectively reach each of us on our level, in ways we can receive the most from Him.

If you want more of God, start by giving Him more of you. Get into His Word. Spend time in prayer. Take time to listen for His voice. If you have your heavenly language, pray in tongues as it says in Jude 20. "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit." Father God craves for experiences with you more than you desire them from Him.

What would you say to inspire someone who wants to write their testimonies and experiences?

By all means, write them down and share them with others! Your testimony is powerful. Revelation 12:11 tells us, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." Many times I have reread Corbett's and my adventures we've had with God and they have brought me much strength, encouragement, and peace. To be able to look back and remember all the things He brought us through causes our faith to rise up. He brought me through this before and I know He'll do it again.

Others need to hear your testimonies as well. To know someone else has "plowed the field", so to speak, of what you're dealing with, is encouraging. Your experience could be exactly what the person in line at the grocery store needs to hear. God will bring people across your path who are desperate to hear your God encounter. There is no greater joy than witnessing someone else's life changed by the power of God through your testimony.

Thank you, Pam, for stopping by today and sharing about your inspiring book Adventures with Abba.

To connect with Pam, you can find her at

I like the last line of the synopsis above--With just a few moments each day in Adventures with Abba, your life will never be the same. Sounds like my kind of adventure!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday to You

As a kid, I used to think all the fireworks and hoopla on the 4th of July were especially for me. You mean it's not? (hehe) My uncle would buy a whole bunch of fireworks and let them off in his big yard. Or the cousins would come for the weekend, and we'd play in the basement until a minute past midnight so they could all yell "Happy birthday" to me.

Today isn't too different. I'm going to stay awake until at least one minute after midnight to wish myself a happy birthday—and to make sure my present for you is ready.

I'm giving you a birthday gift? Oh, yeah!

FOR TODAY ONLY . . . Stage Wars, my Youth Theater Adventures #1, is FREE in Kindle. That's right, FREEEEEE!!! Don't you love free? I sure hope you'll stop by the Amazon page and pick up this fun-filled adventure for ages 10+. It's my happy birthday present to you. Aren't birthdays grand? Especially when a girl's celebrating on firecracker day!

This is what people are saying about Stage Wars:

"I loved it! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure."
"I enjoyed reading it and found it hard to put down: a good read for kids of all ages."
"I know kids will enjoy reading this book as the main characters embark on a time travel adventure of a lifetime."
"Before giving copies to our grandchildren, my husband and I read with delight the escapades of Shem, TJ, and their cast of lively characters. Along with them, we got swept away by the Time Spinner"

Join Shem, TJ, Debz, Philly, and Claire for a load of fun in their time-travel adventures, friendship dilemmas, and love of Youth Theater.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Elizabeth Maddrey


Hope Deferred By Elizabeth Maddrey

About the Book:

Christian fiction for women.

It's been a tough year. Twin sisters June and July and their husbands spent the last year trying to start a family. Now, as the sisters work with fertility specialists to see how medicine can help them conceive, each must determine what treatment is right for them in the midst of overwhelming options, none of which promise immediate results.

Will their deferred hope leave them heart sick, or start them on the path to the fulfillment of their dreams?


Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. Elizabeth is a member of ACFW and lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys.

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