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Encouragement General In The News Writing craft

Getting Skunked

            Getting skunked means to be overwhelmingly defeated in a competition, such as “We got skunked, 72-10 in the basketball game.” 

            And then there’s the literal meaning.

            I had been prayerwalking for many years in my small town in the Sierra Valley that cold morning I headed out my front door and down Main Street—bundled up in gloves, coat, and hat that pre-dawn morning. I had forgotten my flashlight but wasn’t concerned when two doors down I heard rustling in the bushes to my right.

            Just birds.

            But soon I learned the rustling was not birds, but a skunk defending itself from an intrepid prayerwalker. My first clue was the back side of a raised white tail. My second clue came a moment later: an acrid, rotten egg odor surrounding me. 

            But I was still hopeful. Maybe it missed me. The skunk had quickly scooted behind the bushes.

            Undeterred, I continued down the street, praying for folks in homes and owners of the small businesses. The Hardware. White’s Sierra Service. Leonard’s grocery store. The Golden West Restaurant. 

            But after that quick half-mile walk from my western end of town to the eastern side, I pretty much could not stand myself any longer and did a quick jog home and straight to the washing machine. Three washes and a box of baking soda later, my clothes and shoes finally smelled fresh again. 

            That’s just one episode from my twenty-three years of prayerwalking—a spiritual exercise God led me to that turned into a ministry of praying for my town and its people. And despite some crazy animal antics along my path (raccoon, mountain lion, rattlesnake, and more!), I will continue to pray God blesses the people in my community and one-by-one transforms us all from the inside out. 

Janet McHenry is a national speaker and the author of 24 books—six on prayer, including the bestselling book PrayerWalk (WaterBrook) and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus (Bethany House). The coordinator of the prayer ministries at The Bridge Church in Reno, she is also Sierra County coordinator for the National Day of Prayer. A writing coach, she hosts the Sierra Valley Writers Retreat several times in her home and may be reached through her website, https://www.janetmchenry.com.

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Encouragement General Inspiration for Writers Speaking

Start Your Morning Write

Today’s timely message of encouragement comes Linda Goldfarb–CAN member, author, speaker, coach and dear friend to many who shares from the heart on her morning practice of daily writing. Thank you, Linda!

I’ve written short term pieces daily for more than a decade. I began for my eyes only, as I’m a speaker who writes, you see. Until I chose to heed the Spirit to share my writings and now it seems I’ve started a fire of sorts. Not too hot for pre-believers, yet challenging, I hope, for those who have ears to hear. Here’s a taste. I pray its saltiness is to your liking or at least enough to whet your appetite for more.

How do you start your morning write?

Isolation. 

Solitude is my friend when I begin my morning write. 

A mechanical fire removes the chill. Be still. Be silent. Be light. 

Rise early. Remain alone. Breathe in the fullness of the Word.

Close your eyes. Yet do not slumber. Allow His presence to be heard.

Alone. Yet never lonely. The words are faithful to unfold.

A turn of my head. An ever-gentle nod. Reveals the story to be told.

Inspiration. 

Like flames leaping off the page. His words ignite my soul.

Alphabetical concepts. A spiritual lift. A consideration to behold.

Glimmers of hope. Glimpses of truth. A writer’s true North tis true.

Written in red to be remembered. Written via the Spirit for me and you.

Motivation. 

To persevere. To press on. To run the race and claim the ring for all to see.

Our God is Faithful. Our God is Merciful. In Truth He sets us free.

Walk this way. Beware the snare. You’ve got this my dear friend.

Take time for self. Use words that lift. Endure until the end.

Perspiration.

Now to send. Now to post. While sweat befriends my palms.

Received with joy? Received with doubt? Received as purposed alms? 

No turning back. Just breathing deep. My offering now displayed.

A speaker who writes. A servant who serves. Inside a little girl feels afraid.

Will there be hearts? Will there be shares? Will anyone notice the words I say?

No worries. No frets. Though my palms be they wet. I resume my morning write the next day.

Linda Goldfarb – Award-winning Author, Personality Thought Leader, Board-certified Christian Life Coach-helping you take your net best step. Check out Linda’s daily posts on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/linda.goldfarb also check out her podcast for writers on all podcasting platforms – Your Best Writing Life – and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/YourBestWritingLife

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Encouragement General Inspiration for Writers

A Season with a Different Harvest

I used to enjoy public speaking. I was thrilled when, during my senior year in high school, I was chosen to emcee our school Homecoming festivities. Although I must admit it wasn’t for a particularly good reason. According to Mrs. Monroe, who was my high school English teacher, my voice carried across the classroom. Even when I was trying not to be heard. Apparently, that made me a good choice for Homecoming emcee, because the sound system hadn’t yet been installed in our new high school gymnasium. Soon after that, I was emceeing at music festivals and churches across three states when our gospel group sang on weekends, and I was in my happy place.

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite classes in college was Oral Communications. I remember rehearsing the timing and inflection of every word of John Donne’s No Man Is an Island, which appears at the beginning of Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. With little prompting, I think I could recite those timeless verses today with almost the same intonation and rhythm.

But I couldn’t do that in front of an audience.

Somewhere between college graduation and the new Millennium, I lost my confidence for public speaking, something my first publisher found out when they set me in front of a video camera for a taped interview to promote my first book. I was shaking so badly, in body and voice, the tape was later deemed to be technically unstable. I still shudder when I think about that interview.

In the years since, I have wondered how my mass communication skills could have plummeted so far and without an inciting incident. Somehow, it just happened.

Or did it?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us that To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. Maybe I’m in a new season of life. A season with a different harvest. A season of writing and not of speaking. God knows that I still have a lot to say. And it is, perhaps, that pent-up need that now propels my words onto paper.

Three books after that fateful interview fail, the words are still coming, but on paper. I can now say that I’m a storyteller, a novel writer, a woman with a testimony. But I’m not a speaker, and that’s okay. The seasons have changed but there is still a harvest.

How has God changed you through the years? To what end has He changed your ‘purpose under heaven?’

Kathy Harris is an author by way of “divine detour” into the Nashville entertainment business where she works as a marketing director. For several years, she freelanced entertainer biographies and wrote, as well as ghost wrote, news stories and columns for various music publications. She sold her first Christian nonfiction story in 2007. Her debut novel released in 2021.

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Encouragement General Humor Inspiration for Writers

Finding a Balance That’s Just Right

Goldilocks had the right idea: neither extreme worked for her—she chose the one that was just right. 

The same is true of social and civic commitments. Too many commitments cause us anxiety and stress and result in poor performance in one or more areas of our lives. Often, that’s the area that affects our family. We might wish we could be a superwoman and do it all, but we can’t. 

Something will suffer—our health or our family’s well-being, a relationship with a friend, or maybe even our position at work. Saying yes too frequently can lead to anger and resentment, if that yes causes us unnecessary stress or makes us put our family in second place. 

Before giving an automatic yes to a request, we women need to learn to first say, “Let me pray about that decision.” Sometimes saying yes is the easy way to keep peace or get the job done. 

But at times, saying yes means robbing someone else of the blessing of taking on that role or responsibility.

We need to pray diligently, read God’s Word, and seek counsel from mentors, if necessary, before making a decision that might over-commit us. And to abide in his will, we just might have to learn to say no more often.

On the flip-side, too few commitments don’t benefit us, either. God commands us to serve others. Even if we’re busy with work and family, we need to seek a balance so that we can still find ways to bless and serve those around us in some manner. Volunteering at places like a women’s shelter, homeless shelter, fostering organization, our child’s classroom, or church takes our mind off the stresses in our lives and brings a peace that comes from obedience to God’s instructions. Helping others helps us even more. 

Be like Goldilocks (aside from the breaking and entering, of course) and find a balance that is “just right” for you. 

Julie Lavender is the author of 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories (Revell) and Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime (Z Kids/Penguin Random House). She’s had seasons of balance, and seasons of chaos, but she’s happiest when she allows the God of peace to reign in her love, equipping her with everything GOOD for doing his will. The above story is an excerpt from Be Still and Take a Bubblebath, a devotional she co-wrote with Michelle Sauter Cox. 

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Encouragement General Humor Inspiration for Writers

First Impressions

Today’s Fascinating Friday insight comes to us from award-winning author Linda Rooks.

It was my first book to be published, and I was excited about flying to Colorado Springs to meet my publishers at their headquarters. 

Coming from Florida and having been warned of the possibility of a late spring snowstorm in Colorado, I carefully picked out my clothes for the trip to make the best impression, strategic about packing a separate suitcase for cold weather and snow.  But the next day when the plane arrived in Colorado, my suitcase with my cold weather gear was missing.

I awoke the next morning to find a blanket of freshly fallen snow outside my hotel window. Wanting to look my best, I donned my new suit, fussed with my hair, then pondered what to do about shoes. My boots were in the cold weather suitcase that had been lost, and all I had otherwise were the open toe shoes I wore in Florida. One with high heels, one with low. I decided to go with the low. 

When I arrived at my publishers, I was surprised at the long winding snow-covered walkway leading from the parking lot to the front entrance. I looked at my open-toe shoes and the distance to the front entrance and sighed. 

Nevertheless, raising my umbrella to protect my carefully coifed hairdo from the falling snow and blustery weather, I gingerly stepped onto the snowy path. My feet immediately sank into two inches of snow.

Halfway up the walkway, a gust of wind seized my umbrella and pulled it inside out. 

Mustering all the confidence that every new author should have, I continued slushing through two inches of snow in open-toe shoes, with my umbrella inside out and my button-less coat flapping back and forth in the wind. 

And there they were, watching from the front door and holding it open—all smiles— with a large banner behind, saying, “Welcome Author Linda W. Rooks.”

Yes, my publishers all had a good laugh at this Florida girl wearing open-toe shoes on the worst snow day of the year. My only consolation was that I had enough sense not to wear high heels. 

 Linda W. Rooks has a ministry of hope for those in broken marriages. Her award winning book, Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated, and her first book, Broken Heart on Hold, Surviving Separation walk with those in the midst of marital breakdown to bring hope and practical guidance to those desiring reconciliation. Linda writes for both adults and children, and her stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Focus on the Family, HomeLife, and Today’s Christian Woman. Linda has participated in numerous radio and television interviews across the North American continent. She and her husband reside in Central Florida and thank God for the many reconciled marriages they witness through their ministry and the classes they lead.

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Encouragement General Inspiration for Writers

Collected

            The bear showed up again last night, and trash lay all over the driveway and front lawn. 

            Black bears start bulking up from midsummer through fall before they hibernate for the winter here in the Sierra Valley. It’s easier for them to forage through people’s dumpsters than through the forest that surrounds our mountain valley, so they wander from neighborhood to neighborhood looking for fridge castaways.

            Groaning, I began the gross and time-consuming task of collecting the litter. One more thing. It was one more thing on my cluttered to-do plate.

            After a four-day conference halfway across the country, I came home to a cluttered desk, writing deadlines, numerous Zoom meetings, and shopping and other prep for a four-day writing retreat I would host just a few days later.

            I felt as scattered as the trail of trash spread out in front of me. If I could only collect myself, I muttered as I picked up eggshell fragments and cans of Dinty Moore beef stew–my husband’s go-to meal when I’m gone.

            How would I get it all done? Why did I say yes to so many responsibilities? What was I possibly forgetting?

            Back inside a half hour later, I determined to clear my desk. After I filed away receipts, bills, and sticky note reminders, I saw what I had forgotten. My Bible sat there waiting for me to read that God collects scattered people (Jeremiah 28:25-26). He patiently allows me to blow away in the winds of struggle and hardship and even prideful too-much-to-do, so that I get to the place where I just cannot pull things together on my own. And then he gathers to himself those fragments of me that I have become, sets me securely in the place he has made for me, and gives me the security of his arms.

            And somehow he makes beauty out of a collection of litter.

Janet McHenry is an award-winning speaker and author of 24 books—six on prayer, including the best-selling PrayerWalk. A former high school English teacher, she and her husband Craig raised four children in the Sierra Valley, where he is a rancher. She would love to connect with you: https://www.janetmchenry.com.

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Encouragement Humor

What’s Wrong With These Boots?

Author Yvonne Ortega blesses us with today’s Fascinating Friday post!

Ouch! What’s going on? These boots are supposed to be my comfortable ones. The rain is attacking me vertically and horizontally. I need to get the trash can to the curb for pickup. Gremlins must have put nails in my knee-high rain boots. 

They were buried in the back of the hall closet. Only gremlins could get in there. 

I looked down at those shiny black boots. My other shoes fit. My snow boots fit, and the company that made them made the rain boots in the same size. 

Forget the logic. That’s for mathematicians and scientists. I prefer languages, music, and dancing. I would do well as Mary Poppins.  

Help me, Lord. I can sing and dance in the rain but to suffer for an unknown reason seems unfair. Your servant Moses put up with those grumblers in the desert for forty years. For one act of disobedience, you didn’t let him go into the Promised Land. What did I do wrong?

I have writing deadlines to meet. Either stop the rain or the pain without taking me home early. Please find me a remedy.

Hmm. Last year, women saturated their legs in Vaseline to slide into tight jeans. This year, they wear yoga pants. I can coat my feet with Vaseline before I wear those boots again. 

Once back in the house, I removed those torture chambers.

I put my hand into the left boot. Out came a balled-up plastic bag. The same thing happened with the right boot. I remembered a trip to Canada before the pandemic. It rained. On my return, it didn’t. To prevent crushing the boots in my suitcase, I put a plastic bag in the toe of each one.

The boots look great. My feet are crushed, but I can write.

Yvonne Ortega speaks with honesty and humor as she shares her struggles to help women find freedom, joy and peace in life’s challenges. She’s multi-interviewed for her Moving from Broken to Beautiful® Book Series. Yvonne celebrates life at the beach where she walks, blows bubbles, builds sandcastles, and dances.

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Encouragement Inspiration for Writers

Better Than Nostradamus

By Jesse Florea

Jesse Florea
Jesse Florea

Growing up, stories of Nostradamus intrigued me. I was amazed that a man who lived in the 1500s could predict events that occurred 400 years later, such as rise of Adolf Hitler or the assignation of President John F. Kennedy.

No, I wasn’t a Christian. But I was curious. 

I began investigating Nostradamus’ actual claims and discovered his puzzling poetic predictions could be interpreted numerous ways. In addition, he made more than 6,000 prophecies. With that many guesses, certainly a few would come true—especially when he used such ambiguous language.

My curious nature didn’t end when I became a Christian as a teenager. I dug into the Bible and discovered dozens of men who God gave the ability to foretell the future. These prophets didn’t use puzzling language like Nostradamus. Their predictions were purposeful and clear.

The fact that Jesus’ birth fulfills dozens of Old Testament prophecies has been chronicled by many scholars and writers. But as I put together Defend Your Faith: 100 Devotions for Kids With Questions, I discovered an amazing prophecy about the ancient city of Tyre.

God’s prophet Ezekiel predicted this city would be completely destroyed. At the time, Tyre was one of the most powerful cities in the world. Nobody would’ve thought it could be brought to ruins. But Ezekiel said its stones, timber, and soil would be thrown into the water (Ezekiel 26:12).

Soon after Ezekiel gave his prophecy, Tyre was attacked by Babylon. After thirteen years of fighting, Babylon defeated Tyre and left it in ruins. However, some of Tyre’s people escaped to an island offshore and built another strong city. Nearly 250 years later, Alexander the Great conquered that island city by building a half-mile long path through the water. History shows Alexander’s armies created the “path” by throwing all the rocks, lumber, and dirt from the original site of Tyre into the sea. 

Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled!

The accuracy with which this prophecy was fulfilled caused some people in recent history to claim the book of Ezekiel was written after Tyre was destroyed. But Ezekiel lived and prophesized nearly three hundred years before Alexander the Great attacked Tyre in 332 B.C. 

The Bible is full of prophecies like this. And it’s this kind of detail that continues to strengthen my faith. All of God’s Word is true . . . even when something seems impossible. 

Jesse Florea has worked at Focus on the Family for more nearly twenty-eight years as the editor of the children’s magazines—Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. He has written or edited more than forty books, including the Defend Your Faith apologetics Bible for kids and the Case for Christ Young Reader’s Edition with Lee Strobel.

Categories
Encouragement Writing craft

Finding God at the Spelling Bee

JulieLavenderheadshot2.jpg
Julie Lavender

Most of my newspaper bylines result from faith-based stories that I locate on my own. I enjoy sharing God-stories in the newspaper.

As a newspaper stringer, however, I often have the opportunity to cover news-related stories, and I can honestly say I enjoy most of those stories, too. Some are a bit of a yawner, though, and three-and-a-half hours of spelling words fell in that category when I covered a school district contest a couple of years ago. Towards the end, two young brilliant boys went back and forth for thirty-five rounds before Elikem Gato stumbled on the word “mukhtar,” and Eric Lim was declared the winner. 

Oh, dear – Elikem’s back, I mumbled quietly when I entered the auditorium to cover another spelling contest. This could go on forever.

I was lulled into amazement at the kids’ performance, just like last time, with the first pronunciation. 

When “folksiness” tripped up seventh-grader Nicholas Cortes, Elikem Gato correctly spelled “beneath” and “flail” to become the spelling bee champion. 

Gathering my journalist’s paraphernalia, I made my way to the winner. I snapped the obligatory trophy shot with his school principal and grabbed cute shots with his family, too. Both parents and two brothers congratulated Elikem and beamed with pride. 

All I need is a couple of quotes from the champion, and I’m outta here.

 “How did you prepare for the spelling bee, Elikem?

“I study a lot with my brothers – in the car, after school, at home. We call out words to each other. We grew up memorizing Bible verses at home, so memorizing words comes a lot easier for us.”

Elikem Gato with parents.JPG
Elikem Gato with his parents–and the championship trophy.

I paused from my writing and made eye contact with the youngster. His dad, a college professor, added in his beautiful Ghana-cadence, “We try to train our kids to live out their faith, to let the them know the importance of knowing Jesus and trying to live for him as best as God can help us.”

My grin widened almost as much as the trophy-holding champion’s, and I chatted with the family until the maintenance guy turned off the lights in the auditorium as a not-so-subtle hint.

I had my God-story for the newspaper after all, about a champion of words and the Word, and I couldn’t wait to get home to write the article.

Thank you, God, for reminding me that you’re with me in everything I write. Even when I don’t expect to find you there! 

BIO: Julie Lavender, author of 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories (Revell), loves finding God in the little stories and the big stories with each newspaper article she pens. Author, journalist, and former homeschooling mom, Julie is a wife, mother of four, and grandmommy of one.

Categories
Encouragement Humor

On Reading

C. Kevin Thompson
C. Kevin Thompson

Reading—and the love for it—is not a genetic trait. Parents who read wish it was. However, reading is developed as a love, a passion, or it is shunned just like any other activity. Find me a person who loves to read, and I can find that person’s antithesis who would rather wait for the movie or TV show to come out.

Or just play video games instead. (Maybe “evil twin” is a more apropos term for this character…Just kidding!)

Case in point. I’m a writer. I have three daughters. Two of them like to read. One hates it and does it out of necessity, not enjoyment. All three grew up in the same house, had the same parents—one of them an author in the children’s later years.

The other day, I was at the home of the one who isn’t a reader. She proudly showed me her new bookshelf in their new office area of their new home. On the top shelf sat a copy of all my books, save two (one of them a reprint copy, so we won’t hold that against her). She thought she had them all.

The Letters

She talked about how she recommends them, although she’s never read all of them. She says it with a smile. We understand each other, although I know reading would enhance her life in ways she has yet to experience.

She’s proud of her daddy, and that means a lot. She supports me—her father, the author—whenever she can. But no matter what the book, even my latest novel (and she has read it, by the way, albeit the first pre-publication manuscript), my daughter still smiles and make no bones about her unwillingness to read, even though The Letters was just nominated as a finalist for a prestigious award and came in Second Place is another prestigious award.

Would I love her more if she did read all of them? No. Of course not.

We’d just have more to talk about, that’s all.

 

Kevin Thompson is a former English teacher who believed that if he was going to teach students about writing, he should put his money where his mouth was. Since that time, he has written three award-winning novels and serves now as an assistant principal at a public high school.

Website:                                  www.ckevinthompson.com/

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

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