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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.

Categories
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.

Categories
General Inspiration for Writers Writing craft

Asthma Treatments in History

In the process of writing Testing Tessa, I learned that asthma is not a recent affliction but has been around for thousands of years. First mentioned in Chinese records around 2600 B.C.,  the disease wasn’t given its current name until around 600 B.C. when Hippocrates linked the symptoms to environmental triggers. He recommended a concoction of owl’s blood and wine to alleviate symptoms, not recognizing that asthma was, in fact, a disease.

Through the years, other cultures attempted other treatments, including heating of herbs on a brick and then inhaling the fumes in 1500 B.C. Pliny the Elder, in 50 B.C., realized pollen was a contributing factor, and prescribed an early predecessor for epinephrine to alleviate breathing problems.

In the late 1800’s, Dr. Henry Salter tried various non-traditional remedies, including sleep; avoidance of opiates; hot, strong coffee; and the conservative use of belladonna. 

In 1892, Sir William Osler, noted the similarities between asthma and other allergic conditions, such as hay fever. As a result, doctors and pharmacies distributed medications to calm airway spasms. 

Once treating the symptoms was recognized as not solving the problem, researchers addressed the cause and long-term management, including strengthening the immune system, avoiding triggers, and enabling the body to repel the auto-immune reactions.

In my book, Tessa’s interest in medicine and her time of medical training in medical school and under the tutelage of a doctor propels her to read and study the latest innovations in medicine. 

About Testing Tess

In 1868, Tessa, a Mennonite nurse graduates from nursing school and is assigned to the Amana Colonies in Iowa because of her expertise in treating asthma and other breathing problems. Will she be able to use her skills? Or will her gender keep her from helping those who truly need her?

Seth, a widower in Amana, is still nursing a broken heart from his sweetheart’s passing two years before. Now raising their invalid son Caleb on his own, he wonders why God didn’t listen to his prayers for healing for his family. Can he trust God and trust medicine, or is faith in one mutually exclusive of faith in the other?  

Check out the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Testing-Tessa-Donna-Schlachter/dp/1943688761

About DonnaDonna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, Pikes Peak Writers, Capital Christian Writers Fellowship, Faith, Hope, and Love Christian Writers, and Christian Authors Network.

Categories
General Inspiration for Writers

On Telephones & Stethoscopes

Did you ever play telephone with the tube inside paper towel rolls? You aren’t alone. The first stethoscope was nothing but a rolled-up piece of paper. In 1816 Dr. Rene Laennec wanted to listen to the sounds of his patient’s heart. Rather than place his ear on the person’s chest, he improvised. It worked! He coined the name stethoscope and called the process auscultation. About twenty-five years later, Dr. Camman added earpieces so he could use both ears. 

Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband have five grown children and reside in Atlanta. A Bible teacher and former homeschool mother, she writes a column for Leading Hearts magazine. She has written homeschool curriculum, Bible studies, and a series of historical fiction novels. Presently she serves as president of Christian Authors Guild, gives workshops on writing and parenting, and coaches writers. She is fond of history and hosts Heart of the Matter Radio and #Momlife chats to offer women the elegance of God’s wisdom.

Cynthia L Simmons

Categories
General Humor Inspiration for Writers

God’s Humor Is Pretty Fascinating

I’m always fascinated when I read the Bible and identify God’s humor. That’s what happened when I was writing God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature (co-written with my husband, Larry). Our book examines the questions God asks in the Bible. His questions are fascinating because He asks as if He doesn’t know the answers. But of course, He does and that’s what makes it humorous. He knows everything and asks questions to make people think and examine their motives and comprehension.

The book of Job is filled with God asking questions. They are fascinating because many of them are asked with humorous tongue-in-cheek. After God allowed Job to vent his frustration, He pointed things out in His created universe that are pretty outrageous. In Job 38:4, God says to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

It would be easy to picture God as a vindictive, sarcastic, and mean-spirited being because of this wording. But knowing God as a lovingly-purposed God gives us confidence He responds to us in only redemptive and loving ways—even when He’s using humorous, huge contrasts to point out His outrageous obvious deeds—and our lack of power. He’s saying, “Have you forgotten the beyond-comprehension things I’ve done and how it contrasts with you? You can trust in Me. If I can lay the foundation of the earth, I’m in charge. But let me know where you were at the time. Maybe I didn’t see you.”

Thankfully, Job responds with humility after God compares Job’s abilities to God’s incredible works. I don’t have any trouble imaging God’s huge smile as He’s asking His question. He smiles at us also when we understand how He is reaching out to us.

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 55 books and a thousand blog posts and articles. She has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 30 US States. Her books include women’s Bible studies, devotions, Christian living topics, and commentaries. She and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. www.KathyCollardMiller.com

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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
Humor Inspiration for Writers Writing craft

Mining For Gold

Miss Wetherham's Wedding
Miss Wetherham’s Wedding

We think of gold primarily as either bullion or jewelry, but the precious metal has many other uses. In the old days, it was used for tooth fillings and even the odd false tooth. Nowadays, uses range from industrial to medical, to agricultural. For instance, gold is used to treat pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It is liquefied, injected into muscle tissue, and reportedly helpful in 70 percent of cases. 

Writing historical fiction doesn’t only mean researching the time period of the book’s setting. For my newest release, Miss Wetherham’s Wedding, my heroine owns the controlling number of shares in a tunneling gold mining venture that’s gone dry. As I dug up whatever I could find on gold mining, I came across some interesting facts most of us probably aren’t aware of.

Another interesting tidbit is that 10 billion tons of gold circle the world in seawater! Before you start panning, the gold isn’t just floating around in specks or nuggets. In fact, the cost of recovering it unfortunately exceeds its value.  

And here’s something to wrap your brain around:  worldwide, the amount of steel poured in just one hour is more than the amount of gold that’s been extracted in all of recorded history! That’s how rare gold is. 

In my book, Miss Wetherham has neither the money to explore the mine for more gold, or the heart to try it even if she did, for there is danger involved. For these reasons, she finds herself in precarious financial straits–the perfect place to introduce a hero, even if he is, by all report, a rogue. 🙂       

Linore Rose Burkard An award-winning author best known for Inspirational Regency Romance, her first book (Before the Season Ends) opened the genre for the CBA. Besides historical romance, Linore writes contemporary suspense, contemporary romance, and romantic short stories. Linore resides in Ohio with her husband and family, where she turns her youthful angst into character or humor-driven plots. 

Categories
Inspiration for Writers Writing craft

Writing is Like Fighting…

Happy Friday! Today CAN member Carla Hoch inspires us with writing perspectives told from a fighter’s point of view.

Mohammed Ali estimated that over the course of his career he had been hit about 29,000 times. Twenty-nine thousand! Now, I don’t know how many of you have been punched in the face, but it ain’t fun. A solid punch can rock you to your core. And, after the fact, you are sore in places you never thought you’d be. Including your spirit.

Writing is a lot like fighting. You pour your heart into it and sometimes the “win” doesn’t come.   The agent isn’t interested, the editor isn’t impressed. And, it hurts. Literally. Rejection and physical pain ride the same pathways in the brain. Biologically speaking, a solid rejection can rock you to your core just like a punch and hurt you in places you never thought you would. Including your spirit.

Ask a boxer if they ever get hit when they train and they’ll probably laugh. Of course they do. They get hit a lot. And it’s not because aren’t trying or aren’t good at what they do. For boxers, taking punches is part of the process, essential to the product and integral to their profession. Achievement comes with ache. Ali wasn’t the greatest of all time despite those 29,000 hits. He was the greatest of all time, in part, because of them.

The rejections we as writers get are not signs that we should give up. They are proof that we’re doing something right, that we are still in the fight. You know what kind of writer doesn’t get rejected? The kind who won’t step in the ring, who won’t send in their MS. Folks, what if after a hundred punches Ali had called it quits? What if Seuss, Golding, Joyce, Faulkner, Potter, Plath, L’Engle, Kipling, and countless others, had taken their rejections as proof that they weren’t any good, that they should just hang it up?

Writers, achievement comes with ache, punches are part of the process, pain is essential to the product. And all are proof that you are still writing, still fighting. Take the hits. Get ok with them. Expect them. Welcome them. Make them a sandwich and sit on the couch with them. Because you won’t be a success despite them. You’ll be a success, in part, because of them.

Carla HochCarla Hoch is the author of the Writer’s Digest book Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes and proprietor of the award winning FightWrite™ blog. She is a Writer’s Digest author and instructor and regularly teaches workshops on the mechanics of fighting for writers as well as the craft of writing fight scenes. Carla is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter with training in nearly a dozen fighting styles. She lives just outside Houston, Texas with her family and host of mammals.