“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Have you ever stared into space with nothing but your very own eyes and been in awe? Have you ever witnessed firsthand such a phenomenon as the Aurora Borealis? Or seen a shooting star?

Have you ever stood on a beach and marveled at the beauty of the ocean? Have you ever been astonished by power of the waves? The curiosity of its depths?

Have you ever stood on a mountainside and had your breath taken away by the valley below? To be high above the winding river and myriad of trees, knowing your view is nothing compared to vision of our Creator?

If you’re a follower of Jesus, then you must admit that God has quite the imagination. To think He spoke all this into existence and made all of it work harmoniously together, like an intricately exquisite timepiece, is beyond anything our finite minds can fully fathom.

When you view God and His Creation in the right light, with the right heart, and the right spirit, you soon realize just how poor in spirit you are. The Greek word poor in Matthew 5:3 means “one who crouches and cowers,” “beggarly,” “poor,” “deeply destitute.” The scene in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah gets commissioned by God, gives us a picture of how a person who is “poor in spirit” responds when faced with the majesty of the King of the Kingdom of Heaven.

You see, the first step to entering the kingdom of heaven is having a right understanding about ourselves by knowing and honoring the King of that kingdom (Isaiah 45:22-25). When we do that properly, then we can feel nothing but poor in spirit, which is not the final resting place of believers in Jesus, but the first step toward “kingdom living.” However, it is not a step that can be skipped. It is the crucial foundation.

The rest of the Beatitudes mark the progression of the believer’s life and faith when he or she does things God’s way, so that by the time the believer is living out each and every Beatitude, he or she will have become a true follower of Jesus. Jesus, in response to such heavenly living, says in verse 12, “Rejoice, and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The life of a believer. To stand in awe of the Almighty and follow Him unswervingly. When you are poor in spirit, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. That is when the kingdom of heaven gets real. Here and now. And for all eternity.

C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

The Letters

Kevin Thompson is an ordained minister, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge – A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, the first in a continuing series. His latest novel, The Letters, released in February 2020.

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 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).

Who reading this today has been “justified through faith”? If so, the Bible says you should have peace with God through our Lord Jesus.

Who reading this today “boasts in the glory of our sufferings”? Today, we could say “boasts in the glory of losing our job,” or “boast in the glory of contracting COVID-19.”

Who reading this knows “suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces character?” Yet, we pray often for our lives to be suffering-free and chaff at the thought of enduring suffering time after time.

Who reading this knows “character produces hope”? The kind of hope that defies human understanding…the kind that seems other-worldly because it is not of this world, but of the kingdom of heaven…

You see, to have hope in days like these, you must have already been through the fire. You must have suffered on more than one occasion.

To have hope in days like these, you must be able to outlast viruses and government shutdowns and rely on the living God with a “crazy” determination.

To have hope in days like these, your character should be forged of God’s heavenly dominion, not earthly whims, filled with fear and regret.

To have hope in days like these, your hope—built through the fires of suffering—will be the thing that shines brightest before men and women in your sphere of influence.

To have hope, Biblical hope, isn’t easy. But when attained and maintained, it is by far the most peaceful. For our God is bigger than any virus.

Kevin Thompson photo

Kevin Thompson, author

The Letters

Kevin Thompson is an ordained minister, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge – A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, the first in a continuing series. His latest novel, The Letters, was released in Feb. 2020. For more, visit Kevin’s website www.ckevinthompson.com/ or his Writer’s Blog www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com/. Facebook: C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page; Twitter: @CKevinThompson; Instagram: ckevinthompson; Pinterest: ckevinthompsonauthor; Goodreads: C. Kevin Thompson; BookBub: C. Kevin Thompson

 

 

 

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This Christmas season, my wife and I went to the beach, a post-Christmas, Merry-Christmas-to-us present. We arrived on Friday afternoon and talked about what we could do and where we could go for our fortieth anniversary in 2021. We continued the discussion the next morning until we received a series of text messages. They came from our middle daughter, whose family was staying with us. A tree had fallen and wiped out our power line.

Pictures depicted how the line had bent the mast pole, yanked the lines out of the meter box, and fried the inside to the point the metal leads had burned all the way through and separated. I called our daughter, and she said somehow there was still partial power to the back of the house. I then instructed her on how to shut down the main breaker. And hurry!

We spent the majority of Saturday—from our hotel room—calling the power company, calling electricians, calling family members who could help get all the food out of our two fridges and find a home for the stuff, and make sure nothing else needed to be done (Hurricane prep in action!). Needless to say, it wasn’t how we planned our weekend, and it did put a damper on things.

However, we were thankful the house did not burn down. Had our daughter not been there, it probably would have.

Later that Saturday evening, feeling bummed, I watched the LSU/Oklahoma game from our hotel room. When I heard the heartbreaking news about Steve Ensminger’s daughter-in-law and the plane crash, I felt horrible for them and a little ashamed that I thought our circumstances were so bad.

God has a way of crashing your pity party and allowing life to reorient your perspective, doesn’t He (cf. Matt. 6:25-34)?

C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

Kevin Thompson is an ordained minister, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge – A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, the first in a continuing series. His latest novel, The Letters, will be released Feb. 18, 2020.

Website:                                  www.ckevinthompson.com/

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:            www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com/

Facebook:                                C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page

Twitter:                                   @CKevinThompson

Instagram:                               ckevinthompson

Pinterest:                                 ckevinthompsonauthor

Goodreads:                             C. Kevin Thompson

BookBub:                                C. Kevin Thompson

 

 

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There is nothing more pleasing than A/C in Florida in July. Makes me wonder how people survived without it back in the day. Nevertheless, we’re sitting on the front porch. The ceiling fan is spinning. The lemonade is sweating in the pitcher. And the breeze only blows when a storm is brewing. So have a seat. The rocking chairs are a plenty, and help me welcome fellow author Shelly Beach!

Hello, Shelly! Please tell us about your latest book you co-authored with Wanda Sanchez, Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations for Those Suffering from Brokenness, Trauma, and the Pain of Life. 

Love Letters from the Edge offers hope to anyone who’s been so hurt by life that they’ve wondered if God is fair or loving. It asks tough questions we ask when we feel broken and alone. More importantly, each devotional/meditation includes a love letter to the reader from God, based on God’s Word.

Why did you write this book?

Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach

I think everyone comes to a point in life where they experience a crisis or a number of crises that are so painful, so soul-searing, that they question whether or not God is really in control, whether He cares, and whether He loves us and takes care of us. People often reject God based on a response to suffering. I wrestled with these questions after a sexual assault when I was 19 and standing by and comforting one of my children after their sexual assault. I’ve also learned a great deal about how trauma and PTSD influence our healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Love Letters is a lament for sorrow and pain, but it is also an affirmation of God’s love for us in suffering.

What is the primary focus of your book?

God offers hope for healing from trauma and brokenness. You are not the asterisk in the Bible. God’s heart is broken for your pain, and He loves you beyond comprehension. God is at work for you in all things.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Hope in God. Hope that God has a future for them and that they are His unique, irreplaceable creation, gifted to the world to fulfill a heavenly mission.

How do you share Christ in your writing?

Most of my writing is drawn from experiences in my life and my walk with God. I’ve written 5 books about caregiving because that’s been a central focus of my life. I’ve also battled with some of the “Why, God?” questions stemming from painful issues like abandonment, abuse, illness, regret, and other universal topics. Life is hard, but God brings peace, purpose, and perspective to everything.

What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?

Shelly and Wanda Sanchez

Life is tough, but God is good. Suffering is an inevitable part of a sin-infested world, but Jesus carries us in our weakness and pain. Abiding in Jesus brings comfort and peace.

What ministries are you involved in, and why?

I am a national speaker with Daughters of Destiny women’s prison ministry. Daughters of Destiny is an outreach of Prison Fellowship. I present seminars and inspirational sessions on Love Letters from the Edge and PTSD in prisons across the nation.

I’m also a board member for Music for the Soul (www.musicforthesoul.org), a Christian ministry using the power of songs and stories as a bridge to hope and healing for those facing life’s most difficult issues. I was privileged to serve in an advisory role for Dignity, a caregiver project, as well as writing devotional material for MFTS.

I serve with each of these ministries because they serve people who often feel they are unfixable, unlovable, or forgotten by God. God has given me a passion for hurting people—particularly women.

Do you have a “day job” or a previous career? Does it influence what or how you write?

I worked as a junior high and high school English teacher for thirty years, then transitioned into teaching college writing. I gave up work to care for parents in failing health with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other illnesses. My family caregiving, as well as helping care for students, church family, and friends has greatly influenced my writing, as well as my own health battles.

Shelly, it’s been a pleasure having you here on my Florida front porch! If readers wish to get in touch with you or find out more about you and your writing ministry, how they may do it?

They can visit my website @ shellybeachonline.com or my blog @ shellybeachonline.wordpress.com.

Thank you, readers, for dropping by! And thank you, Shelly, for spending some time with us.

Until next time, may God bless you all, and may you bless God.

 

Kevin

www.ckevinthompson.com

 

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Jackie M. Johnson
C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

Hello from Kevin Thompson in the abnormally warm south! A temperature of 81 in January is hot, even by Floridian standards. Something about high pressure blocking cold fronts from getting here…. Yay! The mosquitoes will be spared!

Ugh.

Well, it’s time for another edition of Tips from the Pros! And this go ’round, let’s welcome Jackie M. Johnson to the front porch.

Hi, Jackie! Glad you could make it. So, tell us, how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?

Jackie M. Johnson

Jackie M. Johnson

As an author and blogger, I write books and blog posts (mostly for women) that offer hope and encouragement to readers worldwide. Women today seem more stressed and discouraged, overworked and overwhelmed than ever. I want to offer godly wisdom and biblical advice—in a way that’s easy to understand and apply to everyday life. My books include:

  • Power Prayers for Women (a topical book with practical, biblical inspiration and prayers for every area of a woman’s life)
  • When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty (a helpful resource for healing a relationship breakup)
  • Praying with Power When Life Gets Tough – releases January 17, 2017 (a topical book with hope-filled, encouraging stories and dynamic prayers when life is hard)

You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?

Praying With Power When Life Gets Tough by Jackie M Johnson

Praying With Power When Life Gets Tough by Jackie M Johnson

The writing life can be rewarding, but it’s not always easy. You need to have tenacity and perseverance—and a lot of passion for your writing. You will get tired and discouraged at times, but passion will fuel you with the energy you need to complete that next chapter or get that next book proposal out to your agent.

I’ve also learned how interactive the writing life can be since social media allows authors two-way communication to convey a message to an audience, grow that audience and receive feedback from readers in unprecedented ways.

What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?

Know your audience. Target your audience. Interact with your audience. Find out how to promote your books and author brand. There are a lot of resources out there. Being a member of CAN has been a helpful resource. Try different media and see what works most effectively for your readers. Bottom line: You are not only an author you are also a marketing person. So you need to learn how to promote your books or hire someone to do that for you.

What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?

For my readers, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have proved to be the most popular social media outlets. I’ve discovered that Facebook ads are great and low cost way to grow your audience.

What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?

Years, ago I sent postcards to bookstores (with a cover of the book on one side and promotional text on the other side). I didn’t have much success with that promotional effort at the time.

What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?

Mostly, I connect with readers through my author Facebook page or on Twitter. I know a lot of people talk about building an email list, but I have not yet done that. One thing that keeps me from doing so is that I get so many emails from other companies and I don’t want to annoy others with emails I send. I think if it’s done right, and you don’t “bombard” people with email, it can be effective.

Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?

Yes. When my first book was released in 2007, the publisher had some wonderful distribution opportunities for Power Prayers for Women with Walmart and with Choice Books (who distribute to airports, grocery stores and other places). I had friends from around the country—many of whom I had not heard from for years—call to let me know that they had seen my new book in a Walmart in Michigan, or a store in Pennsylvania, or at an airport bookstore in Tampa or at a grocery store in Colorado. As a new author, I was so amazed that my first book had national appeal—and then I discovered that I also had an international audience.

I began to get letters, emails, Facebook messages and tweets from readers around the world—India, Brazil, England, Australia and other places.

I was very excited when I learned that my books would be translated into other languages. Some of them are available in Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese and soon Spanish.  It is a blessing and a joy to know that men and women all over our planet can find hope and encouragement through the books I’ve written.

What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?

Start early. Don’t wait until your book is published before starting to build your author platform. Consider your author brand. How do you want to be perceived as an author? Create a website. Build social media and interact regularly. Tell your website and social media audience that you have a new book “Coming Soon” (include the book cover image once you have it). Ask your publisher’s publicity staff about their plan is for promoting your book. Do a book blog tour. Guest post on blogs related to your book’s topic. Attend conferences for writers since they’re a great place to learn about marketing and promoting your book. Have a book release party in your home, at a friend’s home or a local coffeehouse. It’s a great way let your close friends, family and others be a part of the celebration (and become “word of mouth” ambassadors for your book).

Jackie, thank you so much for stopping by and telling your story.

If you wish to connect with Jackie, you can find her here:

 

Take care and keep writing!

Kevin

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