Inspirational thoughts and random writings from the alumni and friends of Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Introducing Shelly Akins

Who's Got Questions?

The three high school girls look expectantly at me to answer their question during Sunday school: Does God love people who don’t believe in Him? It’s more complicated than a yes or no answer.

Together we have struggled with this question in various forms over the past four years we have been together as a Sunday school class. They have each grown up in the church and in faith, yet as they enter their mid-teen years, they have begun to question what it is they actually believe. Where are the miracles of the Bible in our lives today? Why doesn’t God speak to us in a voice we can hear and understand? Who are we to live and who does God love? These questions continue to crop up during our Bible study times together.

My answer is to them is usually, what do you think? Really, it’s because I don’t know myself. Teaching…that’s not the right word, leading them these past few years has made me grow deeper in my faith and sake myself tough questions about what I believe and why. These three young women of God challenge me in their desire to grow into strong women of God. We’ve learned that some questions just lead to more questions, not answers.

I took my faith for granted and thought I knew what I believed, but in teaching them, I’ve had to really think about the why of what I believe. Why do we have a trinity and if God is one being why are there separate parts? When I pray for God to heal my grandmother (who has Alzheimer’s disease) she only keeps getting worse?

I don’t know. A lot of times, the other members of the class have better answers than I do. In response to the Alzheimer’s question, a classmate commented that we don’t always know God’s plan and we have to have faith that He’s in control.

You want to be challenged in your faith? You want to grow? Teach Sunday school or hang out with young Christians. Sometimes I feel like children, youth and young people are looked down on by older members of the church. They may not have all the answers to their faith, but they do have questions. Will you be the one that they look to for answers and guidance?

Shelly Akins is a small town reporter, a city girl learning about farm life one story at a time. Shelly also likes to write non fiction articles for chidren's magazines. When she's not writing, she reads and reads, especially young adult novels. She is a Presbyterian pastor's wife and the mother of two children. Read more of her writing on hub pages here:


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Real *F*Word

“Excuse me” I said to the back bending over the display of children’s pajamas. No response.

I’d been standing for several seconds behind the busy mom’s shopping cart. Her two cute kiddos sitting in the cart smiled at me and I smiled back with my “universal grandma grin.” I cleared my throat again, a little louder while trying to gauge if I could squeeze by.

The shopping cart was smack in the middle of a narrow gap between two shelves of clothing, a long walk when you’re at the end of the day. I waited a bit more, then gently took hold of the cart handle and lifted it over about 3 inches so I could push by, winking at the big brown-eyed preschoolers as I went.

“Next time say excuse me!” I heard in a harsh tone.

Startled, I replied, “I did” as I continued walking away.

“Not all of us have perfect hearing,” she snarled. When I didn’t respond the ranting began, “That is so rude. You should NEVER touch someone else’s cart…”

I turned around and opened my mouth to tell her that although I was sorry she was having a bad day she wasn’t allowed to take it out on me. What came out of my mouth surprised us both.

“Will you please forgive me for touching your cart?” (Where did THAT come from?)

“WHAT?” she said, as if I’d said another word that begins with the letter “f”.

Between the two of us I honestly don’t know who was more shocked, but I think it may’ve been me. I was surprised that the mere act of apologizing and trying to make things right could elicit such anger.

But maybe I shouldn’t have been. After all, asking for forgiveness is not something our culture is known for. My church had recently finished a sermon series entitled “Forgiveness—The Real *F*-Word”. For five weeks we’d heard about forgiveness, how to forgive others, forgive ourselves, forgive God, and about asking for and receiving forgiveness.
If that weren’t enough, during the same period I’d taught two Sunday School lessons on forgiving to 3-5-year-olds in our Pre-K. Trying to teach such a big concept to little kids challenged me to get to the heart of the matter.  It certainly made me examine my attitudes about forgiving and being forgiven.

I think that all I’d heard and studied must have been mulling in my mind all this time and at the proper time, with no warning to me, the truth that God wanted me to practice just popped out.

“I need to ask you to forgive me,” I said to my fellow shopper. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful by that. I did something that upset you and I’m sorry and I hope you will forgive me.”

The unhappy lecturer continued, “I was worried about my children, you could’ve run off with them. You should never touch someone’s cart with their children in it!”

“I know. You’re right. I shouldn’t have touched your cart. I’m sure you were scared. I have 7 grandkids myself. I’m sorry that happened and I need to ask your forgiveness.”

By this time the woman was utterly confused and more than a little frustrated. No matter what she threw at me I responded the same way as sincerely and meekly as I knew how, by telling her how sorry I was and how I hoped she’d forgive me.

After listening to her for a while longer I finally felt it was time to walk away, leaving her still angry (at me? at the world? at life?) I said once more I hoped she’d forgive me and that I’d learned a valuable lesson from her. She walked away muttering under her breath. But at least she didn’t say she wouldn’t forgive me. I think she was convinced of my sincerity, but was at a loss as to how to react to being asked to forgive.
This was one of those random incidents that get under your skin. I’ve thought on and off about it ever since, starting in the parking lot, asking God “Where did that come from?” I’m glad I asked for forgiveness, I know it was the right thing to do, but it was so unexpected by me and so unappreciated by the one offended.

I’ve come to the conclusion that God had one short lesson for me that day-- Ask For Forgiveness. Don't defend, argue or justify.  It really doesn’t really matter if the actions are innocent, if you've offended someone just suck it up, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. That’s it. Just that simple. Don’t make it a big deal, just humbly ask the person offended to forgive you for the offense.  I learned long ago at a Bill Gothard seminar that even one percent of the blame was enough to ask forgiveness for.

I wish I had a heart-warming ending for this little shopping trip. But I fear the heart that I offended is still cold. But we serve an awesome God. Maybe, somehow, God will use the fact that someone took her concerns seriously and tried to make things right, to speak to her. That is what I’m praying He’ll do.

Lord Jesus you alone know what it takes to soften a hard heart. In your mercy and grace, please call this woman in from the cold to the warmth of your love.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Vicarious Life or a Vivacious Life?

By Helen Knueven

Matthew 14:22-33
Jesus went alone to pray after sending His disciples on a ship. While they were there a great storm developed. At some time of the night, Jesus’ returned to them. He walked on the water, and met up with the tossed ship that rocked the frightened followers.

They were afraid they saw a ghost, but Jesus reassured them. “Don’t be afraid; it ‘s me!”

Peter, struck by the adventure and sight of Jesus walking on water requested, “Jesus, if that is you – tell me to come to you!” Jesus complied – and Peter walked on the water for a short time until the ravishing waves caught his attention and then he began to fall.

Jesus realized Peter’s faith was wavering. He extended His hand and lifted him up. After they entered the ship, the storm subsided. The vote was unanimous amidst the disciples: Jesus was the Son of God!

Many sermons have been preached on this passage. Some point out the necessity of faith and urge us to have more faith and to be less like Peter.

Some say, “Be like Peter! At least he walked on water for awhile.”

Others emphasize the graciousness of our Lord . Though He chastised Peter for doubting, He did not hesitate to extend Himself in two ways: in calling out to Peter to join Him in the water walk, and in holding him up when he began to sink.

Today I would like to share another thought. I would like to focus on what Jesus was doing after He sent the disciples away. He was praying. Time with the Father was valued far above everything else. Of all the people He could be healing, of all the storms He could be calming, of all the profound sermons He could have been preaching – Jesus’ priority was His relationship with the Father.
Jesus could have handled this situation is so many different ways. If He relied on experience instead of relationship, He may have spoken to the waves as He did in Matthew 8:26-27. If He did, Peter would have never walked on water. Nor would the others have witnessed the available power of God for everyone who believes.

Because of His constant communion with the Father – He always knew the best way to handle every situation. Although experience is a good teacher – the Holy Spirit is the best teacher.

Has God placed you in some form of leadership? Can you trust the Lord to develop the faith of the people in your life? Do you unintentionally stop those you lead from growing by managing? Or do you lead from the outflow of your relationship with the Lord? Have your best lessons in life been learned from lecture or by experience? Though Jesus Christ was fully human and fully divine - He walked as a man in obedience to the Father; thereby becoming our example.

Let’s be honest. Human nature is walking on concrete, not water. But we are in this Christianity for the magnificent nature of God.

Only in His presence are we truly transformed.

Jesus does not want us to live on the edge of experience but in the joy of God’s ability and presence through us. My prayer is that our communion with the Father will precede our decisions and life’s occurrences.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Of Swimsuits and Carrots

By Kristi Paxton

Swimsuit season is a bright orange carrot dangling in front of my long, gray winter. Yearly, I anticipate the day I can trade my parka and gray skies for a swimsuit and eternal sunshine. Shopping for a swimsuit feeds my fantasy.

Fantasy over.

In reality, the amount of joy I get from my new swimsuit can fit into a thimble—profound since the volume of a thimble is equal to the volume of a swimsuit bottom. And speaking of bottom, I always struggle with the act of putting mine into any swimsuit. Drat! And so begins swimsuit-disappointment season.

Nevertheless, I suspect that:

1. Most of us look awesome in a swimsuit from age 0 to age 24. We never relish those gorgeous years, since we can’t reconcile media’s airbrushed Barbie with the reality that women are uniquely and individually shaped. Covered up, we shuffle shyly to the water, planning our next diet. We waste youth on the young, missing our day in the sun.

2. From age 24 to age 62.5, we think we look bad in a swimsuit. Why do we believe this? Because our culture defines “looking good in a swimsuit” this way:
a. Capable of modeling in the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue.
b. Having a bottom the size of a thimble.

We do not learn the beautiful truth until age 62.5 when we realize that life is short. For proof, visit any warm climate in the dead of winter. Older-but-wiser humans stroll on beaches, pick up shells, splash in the water, enjoy their day in the sun and smile. They finally live life to the full, just as the Bible advised. Their golden tan bulges look “mahh-velous” when coupled with a smile. And if they do look bad in their swimsuits, well then who really cares?

Yet God has made everything beautiful in its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.
Ecclesiastes 3:11-12, NLT

Kristi Paxton left a 26-year Postmaster career to become a substitute teacher, freelance writer and MadHousewifespokesmodel. She loves her childhood sweetheart-turned-husband, two grown children and a dog named Ziggy. Kristi writes features for the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier and submits pieces to anything that sounds interesting.  Her hobbies include writing, painting, reading, kayaking, skiing, budget travel, drinking coffee and having ideas. She has an idea that she’d like to be on a beach right now. She lives in the woods outside Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine’s Day: Trivial and Not So Trivial

By Robin J. Steinweg

*15% of American women send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day.

*3% of pet owners give their pets valentines. (awww)

*Do you wear your heart on your sleeve? The expression started in the Middle Ages; young men and women drew names from a bowl to discover who would be their valentine. They wore these names on their sleeves for one week.

*I add a little red food coloring to the batter for pink heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine’s Day. For supper. With crispy bacon, sausages, and real Wisconsin maple syrup, candles, and my choice of music (just this once, please). And no boy-type body noises at the table.

*64% of men in the U. S. don’t make advance plans for a Valentine’s date with their sweeties. (Hurry! You still have twenty-four hours, fellas!)

*Sir Alexander Fleming introduced penicillin on February 14, 1929, the same day as Chicago’s Valentine’s Day Massacre. Same year the stock market crashed. On the upside, TinTin and Popeye made their debuts that year.

*People spend millions on Valentine’s Day for food, flowers, cards, gifts, and—chocolate!

*Some of the most expensive gifts:

• A six and a half million dollar pink diamond ring by Harry Winston. (’wonder how much a white one is?)

• A purse by Chanel for over two hundred thousand dollars. (no loose change inside)

• A Guerlain lipstick for over sixty thousand dollars. (doesn’t include poofy lips)

• Nearly three thousand for Manolo Blahnik alligator halter shoes. (I never saw an alligator in a halter, nor in shoes) (uff-da)

One of history’s great gifts of love is the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in memorial of his wife. It took nearly 22 years to build.

The costliest and greatest gift ever? Freedom from sin and the grave!
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now…

…love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:18-21, 22b NIV).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Robin J. Steinweg thinks life is sweet right in the middle of homeschooling, writing children’s books, directing, writing and arranging music, teaching music, and listening for the Music of the Master’s voice. Among other things, Robin writes devotionals for the online magazine The Christian Pulse.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to forgive myself


I was miraculously healed of Crohn’s disease when I was twenty seven years old, eleven years after diagnosis. That was the first time I felt loved. Thus began about an eight year search for God. I started attending church again.

Remarkably I was invited by my banker, Dave to get right with God in an unusual way. This was about a three year business relationship. He treated me as an equal. I remember feeling normal around him, all the while on a downward spiral in my personal life.

I grew up in a home where we went to church three times a week but knew nothing of a relationship with God. It was an angry, abusive, and an emotionally neglectful environment. The only emotion I remember is hate. I hated anyone who might have had something to do with my existence.

One day as I sunk deeper into despair, I wailed to God to please help me to be born again; I felt too stupid to figure it out! Even though I had responded to alter calls in my youth, I was haunted by 2 Corinthians 5:17. “When you are born again the old passes away and everything becomes brand new.” The old had instead gotten older and there was certainly no sign of anything new. I experienced deep disappointment with this awareness. I couldn’t give or receive love, was devoid of joy, hope, and faith. I was a very depressed, negative person.

Not too long after that desperate prayer, Dave told me that he knew something that would change my life. Read Romans chapters one through six every day for thirty days. He said that about day fifteen, I would start to get it. And that’s exactly what happened. Romans 1:19 says “God has shown who He is in Creation and written the truth on our hearts. Therefore you have no excuse.”

My moment of awakening is still very fresh in my memory. As I was reading I realized that I had excuses. Suddenly they felt evil. I was filled with enormous guilt, which opened my eyes for the first time to God’s remedy. Every aspect of being saved is addressed in those early chapters of Romans and I fed on those truths day after day, learning that believing is what saves me. Proof or good works are the result of believing.

Dave then encouraged me to add the corresponding chapter of Proverbs each day to the six chapters of Romans I was reading. After I had that down he added five chapters of Psalms. The Word became my daily lifeline. My mind was being washed with God’s ideas. The grip of despair lifted the moment I confessed sin of disbelief and began to trust and believe in God, but I would not realize that until months later.

I became aware of my sin, and lost my preoccupation with other peoples’ sin. This renewal was happening in spite of continued miserable circumstances surrounding me. I was engulfed with shame.

About three months later I realized that I loved God and understood that I had a relationship with Him. This awareness was new to me in every way as I had not experienced normal bonding with a parent.

After reading the whole book of Romans I went to the ‘card catalog’ at the beginning of my Bible to find the next book to read, just like I did at the library. I chose a book in the Old or New Testament and read it like I read any book. Some books of the Bible were short so I read them in a day. Others took several days. I checked each one off with a date as I finished them until I had read each of the sixty-six books.

This resulted in a new measuring stick for truth. I was surprised at God’s take on religion. The gospels give a quick picture of who God is. What a surprise to discover that losers such as myself were exactly who God was particularly interested in. I experienced emotional healing during this time. I had been numb or shut down inside. I can still remember the place and moment I noticed the absence of shame.

Ever since I experienced God through his Word, I have been amazed at the fads of Christianity that sweep through the Christian community. One such fad is the idea that I can forgive myself. I hear people talking about the need to forgive themselves but have not heard of anyone actually accomplishing it. The Bible never speaks of it. Perhaps it is impossible. When we confess our sins, according to 1 John 1:9 we are promised forgiveness. Forgiving ourselves ceases to be an issue.

I am excited that salvation is not just getting my big toe into Heaven someday, but it is for today. I discovered from reading books of the Bible like a book, Salvation is multifaceted; I can be saved from myself, and from situations with people, and from my past. I have no excuse, nor do I need one. I can become healthy and whole in every way.

Brenda Lysak 
I am a Preschool teacher and Certified Barton Tutor for Dyslexia. It's taken me a lifetime to crawl out of the pit I was born in and the ones I crawled in myself. My biggest step of healing after being born again in my spirit has been developing a career within my interests and abilities. I am very busy with teaching but still working out my salvation with fear and trembling. I love to ski when I get a chance to get outside. It helps speed up the long cold Manitoba winters.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


By Sharon Wilhite

"Honey, can you make me a lunch?" "Mom, I don't understand this math
problem." Brrring - "Hi! This is so and so. Do you have a few minutes
to listen?" "Mom, look at what I colored." "Honey, I can't find any
socks in my drawer!" Brring - "This is the church prayer chain, could
you pray right now for so and so?" "Mom, what does 'purity' mean?"
"Honey, let me tell you about my day at work." And on and on it goes.

.Matthew 6:33-46 records the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.
Verses 30-32 give the prelude. The disciples were exhilarated but
exhausted. Jesus had trained and then finally sent the disciples out
two by two to do what He was doing - preaching, casting out demons,
and healing the sick in surrounding villages. Now, they had returned
and reported back to Jesus. They were depleted physically ("they had
no leisure so much as to eat") and spiritually.

Jesus invited them on a private retreat for 12 to "rest awhile," but
when they got there they found 5000 other folks waiting for them!!
Interruption or Opportunity? A time for Compassion or Complaining?
Jesus chose compassion and took the interruption as an opportunity to
teach a great multitude many things.

The day wore on until evening. The disciples were tired and
said,"Send them away." (Let them go and feed themselves!) Jesus said,
"Sit them down and give them something to eat" before they go home
(YOU feed them). The disciples could only come up with a little food,
but Jesus blessed that little amount and used it to feed thousands.

Result? Instead of a Retreat for 12, it became a Revival and Refreshment for over 5000!!

Refreshment for the disciples? There were exactly enough leftovers
for each disciple to have a basketful - a "doggy basket," if you

Reminder for all of us? "And when He had sent them away (fed), He
(Jesus) departed into a mountain to pray." Jesus needed some quiet
time with His Father. At the end of a busy day full of interruptions,
teaching opportunities, feeding my family, etc., I need to send everyone away - ha! - or put them to bed!
Then I need to find a quiet place to spend talking to my Heavenly Father Who never minds the interruption, won't tell me to go elsewhere to be fed, fills me up tooverflowing through His Word and prayer, and will send me away refreshed to face another day!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Facebook is shutting down!! 3/11/11!!"

By Charis Seeley

If you have email, you’ve received chain mail. Chain mail consists of those horrible letters people send out en masse, usually to warn you of a nonexistent event or to aid a fictitious child. The most annoying people in an address book are the ones who only send these useless, false messages. If you’re like me, you’ve fantasized about sending them the worst chain mail ever written. So, I took stock of my e-mail, and what’s been born bears a strong resemblance to Frankenstein’s monster. While I can’t claim the following to be “The Worst Ever”, it’s certainly the most outrageous I’ve ever read.


Attention Friend!

Due to the internet’s popularity, email has become over crowded! All email providers will be deleting any accounts that receive this email and do not forward it to all their contacts! You MUST forward this to EVERYONE you know, or they will think your account is UNNACTIVE!

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine was going to the grocery store. She got out of the car, locked it with her remote, and walked into the store. But before she even got a cart, she realized she left her grocery list in the car. When she went back out, there was a man in her car! He had used an electronic code grabber when she locked her car, and was stealing her GPS, phone charger, coupon books, you name it! She was able to scared him off with her keychain pepper spray. Frightened, she drove off and onto the highway.

She wasn’t on the highway for 5 minutes when an unmarked cop car flashed his lights at her. Still frightened from the thieving man, she remembered an email I sent her the week before. Pulling out her cell phone, she dialed *77 and got the local police dispatcher. The man over the phone told her it WASN’T a cop behind her, and she should keep driving. When the imposter realized she wasn’t going to pull over, it sped up and began pacing her. The car was full of gang members! They opened fire on her! Still on the phone with the police dispatcher, she ducked behind the wheel until they passed. One of the bullets was contaminated with semen, it pierced her abdomen and she is now pregnant with a gang baby!

An ambulance came to get her, and at the hospital she gave her statement to the police. They said there are a lot of new gangs in the area, and they’re all doing initiations. The Police Impersonation isn’t their only tactic. The police warned her that these gangs will be doing more shooting in the coming weeks. Their targets include young mothers and their children at Wal-Mart and any cars who flash their high-beams on the highway to alert the gang that their headlights are off. The police also said these gangs have been known to use elderly people in distress and the audio recording of a crying baby to lure women out of their homes and into unsafe areas! My brother’s, mother-in-law’s, youngest daughter’s son is in one of these gangs, and he says no one is safe during initiation!!

We aren’t the only ones experiencing this wave in violence, it’s happening all over the country. Presently, in an effort to help, Bill Gates will donate .01 cents to fighting crime for every time this email is sent. It may not seem like much, but if it saves even one life it is WORTH IT!

Fortunately, there is also a Nigerian Prince who is helping the fight against violence. He will match anything you send by 1,000%. If you donate just $5, he will donate $5,000! Just e-mail with your full name, credit card info (number and date!!), social security number, maiden name, home phone number, cell phone number, home address and work schedule! This information will make the transaction smoother, and it’s completely safe!

I know 97% of the people who read this won’t pass it on, even though it is GOD’s will!! If you’re part of the 4% that love and fear GOD pass this to everyone you know! If you don’t, then you HATE GOD!! Pass it on to all your friends/family/children/coworkers/wives and especially all the women you know!

Let’s put an end to code grabbing, coupon thieving, police impostering, bullet babies, and Wal-Mart gang initiations!!! If you don’t know very many people, send it to the same people over and over again!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Don’t Like Spam

…pure doggerel from the pen of Robin J. Steinweg

I don’t like Spam in a can, I don’t like the taste.
I don’t like Spam in an e-mail—the time that it wastes.

Whether pink and wet and slimy or not,
Ground or sliced, cold or hot—
Innocent-looking but nasty inside,
When I see Spam I want to hide.
I don’t like Spam.

I don’t like Spam in a can, I don’t like the feel.
I don’t like Spam in an e-mail—the rot it can conceal.

To get Spam in a can, you must drive somewhere.
Spam in my e-mail floats in on the air.
Spam in a can is a choice you can make.
Spam in my e-mail sneaks in like a snake.

I don’t like Spam.

I don’t like Spam in a can, I don’t like the smell.
I don’t like Spam in an e-mail—makes me wanna yell.

Gelatinous mass of unpleasant stuff
Abominable tonnage of verbal duff…

              I don’t like Spam.
Spam in an e-mail can bear my name.
It can look like one thing yet be nothing the same.
But Spam in a can you cannot disguise;
Chop, grind or casserole it, your nose will be wise.

So if the time came that I must choose
Between Spam in a can and the Not-so-nice News,
I think that I might just make the choice
To toss my can opener… and lose my voice.

                       I don’t like Spam!

EPILOGUE: I loved my password. I called it my own from the first e-mail I ever wrote. My fingers flew over the keys to type it. It was a word that had fond associations for me. I loved my password. Then one day a Spam message arrived with my return address on it. I opened it, curious. My own face smiled at me from a message I would not dream of typing. I was forced to rummage in the attic of rejected possibilities for a new password. Alas.

Though I might reflect on the futility of railing at Spam with my words, the exercise has at least given vent to my feelings. I have taken a stand against both a culinary fixture of my parents’ generation, and against one of mine. Then or now, I don’t like Spam.

Robin J. Steinweg delights in the Lord homeschooling; writing children’s books; directing, writing and arranging music; teaching students 5-85; leading worship; and listening for the Music of the Master’s voice. Among other things, Robin writes devotionals for the online magazine The Christian Pulse.