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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Learning How to Do It All

By Kathryn C. Lang

I can do it all . . . I just have to figure out how to do it all at the same time. I manage a little here. I find a way to do a little there. Sooner or later, something slips through the cracks and I am left wondering what on earth I was doing in the first place.

Top Tips for Doing it All

Know what you really want to do. Having a plan for life (much like you would create for a business) will help to direct the choices. I need to know what I want to accomplish. I need to know why I want to accomplish it. I need to have steps to get me across the finish line. The right plan will help me understand what I really want to do.

Set a goal (or two). Long term goals – where you want to be in five years and ten years – can be the motivation for reaching the next level. Dream big, but dream honestly. I have to be willing to stretch myself if I am ever going to be more than I am right now.

Keep moving. Nothing gets done if I am not doing anything. Sitting around wishing and hoping will leave me starry eyed, but not much more. Action is the difference between a dream and a win.

Get some support. Accountability pushes me when my own motivation has dwindled. It helps to have others that will encourage me in my journey to success – and that will hold my feet to the fire when I am struggling to get moving again.

Cut back. Getting it all done does not mean everything under the sun. Some things will have to be cut. Review the activities that take up the day and find the ones that work best. I need to do what I need to do and sometimes that means not doing what I do not need to do.

I have to know what I want if I am going to get to where I want to be. Investing the time and effort into my what, how and when can be the key to finding my way to do it all.

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Kathryn C. Lang shares words of inspiration through her talks and articles. Learn more about Kathryn at her website You can also purchase her books through her website or most online retailers.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Looking for Christ in Christmas

By Sharon Wilhite

The loud speakers blare from store to store
Until I can hardly stand anymore.
From October through December 25th,
Rudolph, Happy Holidays and the Santa myth..

Frosty and Alvin and Winter Wonderlands,
Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and well-known bands.
After Christmas when this music's all gone,
Was there more to the season than sung in these songs?

Was it jolly Old Saint Nick who appeared to Mary on her Rooftop
and told her of a Savior to be born?

Was it Rudolph with his nose so bright who guided Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem?

Was it the magic in Frosty's hat that brought forth the King of Kings from a virgin?

Were there Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire in the Bethlehem stable?
Was there a Partridge in a Pear Tree outside the door?

Was it Donder, Dasher, and Blitzen grazing on a hillside tended by Santa's elves
who were walking around in a Winter Wonderland?

Was it a Marshmallow World with contented Jews dreaming of a White Christmas and
children dreaming of getting their Two Front Teeth?

Was it Simon, Alvin, and Theodore who took a Sleigh Ride to give gifts to the Christ child?

As followers of Christ, are we supposed to be celebrating a Holly Jolly Christmas or a Holy Christmas?
Will it be a Blue Christmas without the True Focus on Christ?
Are we looking for Santa Claus Coming to Town or remembering Jesus Christ who came down to earth to save us from our sins?

It Is The Most Wonderful Time of the Year but only because "for unto us was born a Savior."
Oh Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the LORD!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


By Rolie Grady

Do you ever wish you could leave the pain of this world and live somewhere else? You’re not alone. Every person carries that dream in his heart. Deep within us lies a true picture of what life was meant to be. It’s a place where everything comes together perfectly….so unlike what happened this last week.

Much has already been said about good versus evil. Why does it take a huge tragedy for us to see the essence of evil? I don’t know. As layers of denial and deception implode, we either sink in the ashes or cry out for truth. At that moment , we are closer to permanent change than ever before.

When my son, Kyle, died in 1990, I already knew Jesus as Savior. His strong grip got my husband and me through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Years went by as we struggled through the deepest pain of our lives. His presence became the turning point. We read the Bible with new urgency, knowing His voice was the only lifeline we had. Our eyes were opened to a different reality, and our ears attuned to the frequency of heaven.

Like our tragedy, this one sought to obliterate all traces of life. The media hypnotically focused attention on a downward spiral of death. Despair sucked the life out of families everywhere, leaving fear in it’s place.

Did God take a vacation on December 14, 2012? No. Like you, I grieve with bereaved parents in Newtown, Connecticut. But I also want to pass on a message I received the next day from Gary Fick, a professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He writes:

“…this morning at the midyear recognition for our current graduates, ‘by chance’ I happened to meet a family whose church is in Newtown, CT. The mom was the Vacation Bible School teacher for some of those killed. She shared that in the morning before the murders happened, she had had a vision of those children climbing all over Jesus on His throne and kissing Him. They were so happy.

At the time, she said she did not know what it meant, but we know now. Right now I cannot understand and I do not really know what to do. But I am comforted by the knowledge that Jesus is with those who have died so wantonly. And I pray again that His comfort and direction will come to us who continue to live in this dark and troubled world…”

When darkness threatens to swallow hope this Christmas, follow me to Psalm 91 and find a well lit refuge. Remember that we can always go vertical, letting the true light of Heaven reveal everlasting life.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas X 7

By various authors and you, too, hopefully.

I challenged our TGBA authors to write a seven word sentence about Christmas. Today's post is the result of that challenge. I hope you enjoy it and will add your own seven word description of whatever comes into your mind/heart when you hear the word "Christmas."

Childhood memories from Christmases long, long ago.  
Michael Elmore

Intentionally reflecting daily on Christ's miraculous birth!
Sharon Wilhite

Love wrapped in cloths--given for us.
Marie Tschopp

Celebrating Emmanuel, God’s love with us, forevermore.
Gail Smith

And from Robin, a seven word series:

Christmas Season in Seven Seven-Word Sentences

By Robin Steinweg

*Christmas lights brighten the ever lengthening days.

*Christmas recital: performed by diligently practicing students.

*Christmas shopping: delayed because of practicing students.

*Christmas music seems slaughtered by muzak loops.

*Yuletide carols being sung by a choir.

*Will the cantata be ready in time??? 

*All preparation is for One alone: Jesus!

Photo courtesy of
Don't forget to add to our seven words of Christmas post.  Merry Christmas, friends!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Hope Christmas Joy

By Jeannette Doran

Advent calls for great stillness in preparation for the coming of Jesus. It is a time of longing and expectancy as we await the coming of Jesus on Christmas. We prepare for the birth of Jesus in our hearts and our world as we pray the scripture, nourishing our souls in praying with the prophets of long ago. Isaiah will fill our hearts with hope and joyous expectation when we read of a time of peace when the lion will lie down with the lamb and the lovely verse that speaks of how someday we will live where “none will harm or destroy another on My entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is filled with water.” Isaiah 11 v.9

As we reflect on the infant Jesus, God’s love is made visible we are filled with joy. In the turmoil of our world today when we learn to live in God’s presence our journey becomes softer. As we carry the presence of God in Jesus into the coming year the joy of Bethlehem and Christmas will warm our hearts over the winter. May the joy of this holy times fill our hearts this Christmas and always.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Christmas Mantra

By Kristi Paxton

The best things in life are __________. (Fill in the blank.)

The word that most often comes to mind is “free.” The best things in life are free. OK. I get it.

I’ve been thinking of a new one:

The best things in life are not __________. (Fill in the blank.)

Here is my top ten list in reverse order, a la David Letterman:

The best things in life are not _________:

10. items I will ever have to dust or dust beneath.

9. low calorie.

8. at the mall.

7. in my jewelry box, nor will they ever be.

6. on TV.

7. caffeine-free.

6. without fur or a tail that wags.

5. labeled with a prestigious name brand.

4. in the newspaper holiday inserts.

3. offered in my pant size.

2. visible or controlled by me.

1. things.

As I approach the holiday season, I must repeat the above list over and over and over. Even so, often I find myself behind the steering wheel, driving to the mall. The newspaper insert is on the seat beside me. I’m heading off to Target to pick up the cute holiday outfit I saw on TV last night, wondering if they have it in my size and if it will still be cute. I’ve been jittery lately, so I order a hot cup of Starbucks decaf at the drive up. My mind wanders to that honking big ring I saw on the Kay’s ad. I hum the tune of “Every Kiss begins with Kay’s.”

Alarmed, I hope I have the courage to immediately turn the car around and head back home where I can brew a real cup of joe. A wagging tail will greet me at the door. I’ll cuddle up with a blanket, close my eyes and make a Christmas prayer for Peace on Earth.

And then I’ll reach for that plate of cookies—food for holiday season thought.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012


By Marie Tschopp

This piece was written as a drama to be used before the lighting of the second Advent candle, the Candle of Peace, which represents the prophets who
foretold Jesus' birth.


Oh, enough walking for an old man. I need to sit and rest a minute. Rest my weary bones. Even prophets like me, Isaiah, need to rest. Oh, you’re new to these parts. Perhaps you don’t know what a prophet is? Come closer, I will tell you.

Some think of a prophet as somebody who sees the future, and this is true, but it is far more. A prophet is Yahweh’s spokesman. He (or she as the case may be) speaks on God’s behalf to convey a message or teaching. We are role models, too. We model holiness and closeness to God, setting the standard for the entire community.

When the message Yahweh gives is one of prosperity, everyone is happy. Everyone loves the prophet. When the message is one of rebuke, the ones being rebuked often try and silence the messenger.

My name, Isaiah, means, “God is Salvation,” which is the focus behind many of my prophecies. God spoke to me in detail about the coming Messiah. My people, the Jews, have waited for centuries for the Messiah to come. We are waiting for Messiah to come and break the chains of bondage and set up his kingdom for us. The Lord spoke to me and said the virgin would conceive. He said to me, “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”

What a great privilege to foretell about the coming Messiah! God also revealed more to me. He said, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

It is only a matter of time before our Messiah comes. The prophecy God gave me is not what I expected. It makes me wonder if we will recognize him when he comes. Time will tell.

Enough talking. I have much traveling to do. But there is one more thing I want to say to you. The God who spoke to me, speaks to you. Be still before him and listen.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


By Sharon Wilhite

I have SO MUCH! Most Americans have More Than Enough, but a lot of the time it still isn't "ENOUGH."
Why??? Because I am not really thankful for what I have, for what God has already given me.
 No wonder God says that, "godliness with contentment is GREAT gain." (I Timothy 6:6)
 May I take Thanksgiving into the Christmas season, thank God, forget "stuff," and BE CONTENT ! (Matthew 6:24-34)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Need before Greed

By Charis Seeley

I’ve never gone shopping on Black Friday. The crowds, the lines, the chaos, none of it appeals to me. I’m not a very aggressive person. Every year there’s a terrible story of someone who was injured at a Black Friday sale. If I went, that person would likely be me.

It is amazing to me that an event that started as a way to get lots of Christmas shopping done has turned into a day of buying as much as we can. And not because we need it or really want it, but because it’s there and, well, we can.

When my mom asked me what I’d like for Christmas this year, I gave her an unexpected response. Since leaving the house and starting my own family, Christmas gifts have become an awkward dance. My husband and I have been blessed and if we really need something, we go buy it. We don’t wait for Christmas to come around. So, really, there’s nothing I truly need; I already have enough.

I know so many adults who say the same thing. What do you give someone that can easily afford what you’re giving them? I’m exhausted of buying gifts that I know the receiver doesn’t need and very well may not use. So I proposed a solution to my mom.

I told her about a Christian organization called World Vision. They work in impoverished parts of the world, helping struggling communities and families. On their website, you can purchase farm animals like chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits, and World Vision will give them to struggling families. The animals provide food, clothing, fertilizer for crops, and can be sold at market to cover the cost of other basics a family needs.

What would I like for Christmas this year? For myself, nothing. My mom feels the same as I do. Our lives are already so blessed. What more do we need? We won’t be exchanging physical gifts this year. Instead, we’re giving our business to World Vision and celebrate the birth of Christ (while skipping all the lines and chaos) and remembering that in Christ, we already have everything we need.

And, honestly? I think it may be the best Christmas yet.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Helen Knueven

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

I am drawn to these scriptures this Thanksgiving. Even though Paul wrote from prison, he wrote with contentment. While in need, he resonated with confidence and a grateful attitude as he realized Christ alone to be his strength.

The Phillipian church, known to be the poorest church, gave Paul a gift that he needed very much. It caused Paul to rejoice for their expressed love.

In this time in our country, we are faced with many uncertainties. Homelessness, unemployment, and the threat of natural and manmade disasters dot our country’s future with question marks. We who look towards the unforeseen future can also look back at God’s faithfulness.

I would like to say Happy Thanksgiving! Because in this all – we who seek the Lord will not be disappointed in our pursuit of Him. He will not leave us alone. His presence is finer and more precious than any possession or experience we have had or still desire. He alone is our strength!

The Lord does not delight in our suffering – not does He necessarily always delight in our abounding – the Lord delights in us.

Today, if you are fortunate to be with family and share a meal, would you let yourself be courageous and reach out to someone? Who knows? Your gift may cause them to rejoice as the Philippians’ gift did for Paul. You may not need to look very far to find someone who needs help or encouragement.

Perhaps you are not so fortunate as to be with family today. Consider He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. The presence in the Lord within you can cause not only you, but someone else great comfort. Who knows how God can use us when our focus is on Him instead of ourselves? Our testimony of Christ’s love is our best gift. Although it’s not always easy to shift focus, when we focus on Calvary something happens. Someone you know needs what you have.

My parents’ secret coping mechanism was finding someone poorer than themselves to share a small meal with. To be honest, it wasn’t always easy finding someone in that situation. But as a child, I thought we were rich! And I guess, now that I think about it, we were after all. It was their way of showing His love to strangers.

Prayer – Lord, you deserve the highest praise and the most extravagant thanks – help me to develop a continual thankful heart. Thank you for your most extravagant gift of your Son, Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Election Promises

By Helen Knueven

Now that the election is over, I decided to list a few of the promises that have been made by different candidates and research the Bible concerning these situations.
Aren’t you glad that God’s promises never overwhelm Him? He never compromises – He delivers what He says He will and there are no grid-locks. He sure gets a lot of bad publicity, but it doesn’t make him nervous. No checking the polls to see how long He can sit on the throne.
So whoever you voted for in the American election – the most important question is – in your heart of hearts – who are you voting for? I’m so glad that when we vote for Jesus we can be sure that we are in the winning party that will never end. I also was warmed to find this scripture that God has voted for those who believe in Him!
I Thessalonians 1:4 - For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
I hope this encourages you as you look to God’s long-term plan for those who worship Jesus Christ.


1 We will secure all loose nuclear weapons in the world within four years.

  • A Isaiah 11: 6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.
  • B Isaiah 2:4 And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.

2 We will create secure borders.

  • A Psalms 147: 14 He makes peace in thy borders, and fills thee with the finest of the wheat.
  • B Isaiah 60: 18 Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shall call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.

3 I will double federal funding for basic research over 10 years.
  • A Proverbs 8: 12 I, wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
  • B Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

4 Our military will be so powerful that no one would even think of challenging it.
  • A Psalms 20: 7 Some boast in chariots, and some in horses; But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.
  • B Psalms 62: 11 Once God has spoken; Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God;
  • C 2 Chron 20: 21-22 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: "Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever." As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.

5. I’ll ensure that every classroom will have a quality teacher.
  • A Psalm 119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
  • B Psalm 32: 8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shall go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
  • C John 15: 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
6. I’ll see to it that we use more renewable energy like wind and solar power.
  • A Rev. 21: 23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light. 24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it.
  • B. Isaiah 40:30-31 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
7. I’m committed to protecting social security.
  • A. Psalms 23: 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
  • B. Psalms 28: 20 A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that makes haste to be rich shall not be innocent.
  • C. Ephesians 1:11-12 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


By Michael Elmore

Walk through the doors of any Wal-Mart, Kmart, J. C. Penney’s or Sears today and you will see the sparkle of bright decorations adorning evergreen trees, hear the cacophony of Christmas music filling the air and have your eyes drawn to row upon row, shelf upon shelf of holiday gifts. Close by, anxious managers will be scurrying about impatiently waiting for them to be purchased.

In the world of marketing and sales, a season devoid of profits that extends between October 31st – Halloween, and December 25th - Christmas Day. It is called Thanksgiving. In the hubbub and rush of business plans and marketing ploys one of the greatest holidays of American culture has nearly vanished. In the world of cash registers dinging and carolers singing something of great significance has become lost. In some peculiar way we have lost not only the meaning of Thanksgiving but virtually the existence of the holiday itself.

In Psalm 136: 1 the Bible instructs us to “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” In this single verse, God’s Word sets forth an imperative to be thankful. The etymology of the Old English word “thankful” means to be “thinkful”. Being “thinkful” and remembering the first celebration of Thanksgiving is an important way to awaken our slumbering spirit of thankfulness. Perhaps if we remember the religious, cultural and historical roots of Thanksgiving Day, we can re-instill a spirit of thankfulness within our thankless hearts.

Thanksgiving at Plymouth

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. This day is remembered as American’s “First Thanksgiving”. 1 It is astonishing to think that after the deaths of 63 of the original Pilgrim party, these God-honoring people remembered to be thankful.

Familiar story isn’t it? Although that first Thanksgiving is an archetypical story of our American way of life it is in danger of being forgotten between two other more popular, profit-producing holidays.

It’s good to be reminded to be thankful at least once a year. So in the Spirit of the holiday, I ask that in the middle of family, feasting and football games, please take a moment and remind your children and your children’s children why this holiday is so important to us. I encourage you at the Thanksgiving table to turn yours eyes toward heaven, “from where our help comes” and give thanks to God “for his love endures forever”. Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be just another holiday; it can once again become sacred to all.

1 (Accessed November 9, 2011)
2 Please watch Chris Tomlin’s video “His Love Endures forever” at this link to further inspire a spirit of thankfulness in your heart.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Press On to Victory

By Kathryn Lang

“Press on: Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Calvin Coolidge

Press on because the only thing standing in the path of your success is your own mind.
Press on because there is nothing that is as bad as you make it out to be in your mind.
Press on because the mind can barely comprehend the amazing blessings that the Father bestows.
Press on because you may not know in your mind the what, but you know in your heart and spirit the Who and that makes all the difference.

I dove competitively when I was in high school. Every year I went up against the same girl. Every year she beat me. The last year I competed, I spent the night before terrified about getting beat again. I HATE to lose. I called up a friend and he told me if it was stressing me out that bad then I should just go home. My coach pushed me to dive despite my fears. She beat me again. But my fears did not. That was my first lesson in pressing on.

A college professor told me that my writing would never be worth pursuing. My grandmother told me that writing was not something you did for a living because they called them starving artists for a reason. I still wrote. And eventually the internet began to open up avenues for me to pursue my writing with boldness. I am still in this lesson of pressing on and discovering more and more that it is not the talent, but the pursuit that will get me there.

My son started gymnastics last year. He struggled for a while to master the balance beam. He worried about falling off. He worried about messing up. “Keep trying” was the encouragement I offered, until I saw him one day on a log out in the back yard. “Pretend the balance beam is a log.” It made a difference. Sometimes pressing on means seeing things differently (and with a little imagination). I hope that this is the beginning of teaching my own children the value of pressing on.

Press on. Never let the world tell you what you can do. Never let circumstances define you. Never let problems dictate the path. Press on.

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Kathryn C. Lang shares words that she hopes will encourage and inspire others. She desires to see others discover their unique purpose and to pursue that purpose with boldness. You can learn more about Kathryn at her website Her books are available through her website and also most online bookstores.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


By Robin Steinweg

Good Norwegians
Equally good Swedes
All agree
They have their needs

Meat and potatoes
High on the list
Sweets come next
Well, you get the gist

But blowing the rest
All to smithereens
Is a drink they sip
From mugs, saucers, canteens

Morning, noon, night

Any time in between

Coffee’s integral to their cuisine

From what I have gathered

Or been able to glean

They’ll use any means

To get their caffeine

Savored cold or steaming
It’s their cure-all vaccine
The tonic they crave
Here’s cup number umpteen

How happy, how content
When they embody this scene
A fragrant cup
And a good magazine

Teacher, homemaker
Student or marine
Coffee is fixed in
Their daily routine

Although this black potion
Runs in my genes
I’m still of the notion
Coffee’s full of beans

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Swinging in a “Swing” State

By Guest Blogger, Joanie Shawhan

Swings. Swings conjure up memories of my carefree childhood. Higher and higher I flew. I grabbed the chains, pumped my feet and sang at the top of my lungs. But life in a “swing” state has violated this childlike innocence.

A new kind of violence has emerged–political assassination. Traditional commercials bowed to scandalmongering campaign ads. Even Fact Check struggled to sift the truth from the lies.

Debates replaced primetime shows, making the boxing ring appear to be a two-step. Shout. Sneer. Interrupt. Raise a fist. The match is on! Fight over, (oops, debate over). A winner declared.

The presidential campaign trail led to my city not once, but twice! With two large lakes surrounding us, the traffic was rerouted to make way for the entourage of 18 police motorcycles, two black limos with darkened windows, followed by a train of white vans loaded with the press corps. We waited at stoplights while the lights changed from red, to green, to red… No alternate route. Streets barricaded. The 9-5 work force hindered. For security reasons, university classes cancelled.

Robo callers barraged my voicemail with unsolicited political opinions. “Unknown Number” inundated my private phone line, overtaking the volume of personal calls. As the election approached the finish line, I performed the one act that any self-respecting person would do¬–take the phone off the hook.

Now, the election is over. Promises made only to be broken. The other driver, my only traffic hindrance. Verbal assaults and slander return to the soap operas, violence to primetime. The phone is silent. (Did I put it back on the hook?). Chili’s fired-up favorites, adventures in the F4 pick-up and the breakfast of champions have made a peaceful return to my commercial screen. With multiple reruns, education for the aging population is underway once again featuring Boniva, Ginkgo Biloba, Lifeline and Depends.

Santa, snowmen and twinkling Christmas lights will soon replace glaring yard signs. Life is back to normal in the “swing” state.

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes articles of encouragement for women undergoing chemotherapy and is available for speaking engagements. Two of her articles have recently appeared in Coping with Cancer magazine. Joanie enjoys designing jewelry, knitting, and playing guitar.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gives Thanks With A Grateful Heart

By Marvin Ferguson

As the holiday season once again approaches people are excited with all the joy it brings.

A plentiful supply of food will decorate a family table. Bulging eyes will easily wet many appetites. There is so much to choose from. No body goes away hungry.

And as winter starts to grip the landscape snow may blanket a small town where you live. It sounds like traveling through the woods to grandmothers house. Through a howling wind we bundle up in our best selection of clothes.

Or perhaps you live in a warmer climate where you can dress moderately in colorful attire. The sun shines bright beneath a clear blue sky in a mild breeze as a feeling of happiness travels through your veins like DNA.

I have so much to be thankful for until I visited a warehouse in a remote part of town. There was nothing attractive. It reminds me of a railroad yard like in Walt Disney's movie "Lady And The Tramp."

Inside, people lined up in tattered worn out clothes reaching out for some food and some much-needed clothes. And in a slow low sweet tone I heard them whisper, "Thank you sir," or just plain, "thank you." Their bulging eyes with a tear trickling down a cheek told the whole story. And goose bumps went down my spine watching them walk away with a bag full of groceries while dragging a box full of garments.

Happy Thanksgivings everybody, and I hope you have many more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Gum Samaritan

By Gail P. Smith

"Grammy, do you have some gum?"  Four-year-old Naomi has already figured out that I'm the "Gum Grammy."  I checked my purse and when I didn't find any we headed up to the counter at Caribou Coffee to get a pack of "Peppermint Vanilla" sugar-free gum. Mmmm, sounds yummy, right?

 Naomi tried one piece and, of course, hated it.  I put it away in my purse, pulling out a piece from time to time, but I never really looked at the package. I mean, who looks at gum packages?

As I got to the last of the gum and pulled the empty package out of my purse to pitch it, the back of it caught my eye.  It read: "Each tray of gum provides 7 meals in American communites." It continued on and hopefully, I've made the above photo large enough for you to read the "FACT" part for yourself.

"Wow," I thought, "I only spent $2 provided 7 meals? That's a lot of bang for your buck." I turned the package over, looking for a loophole of some kind and on the inside I found this:

Unexpected to say the least, but very cool nevertheless. I cut the card out and did my good deed.  I called my daughter from the grocery store to ask if she needed anything.  I was able to help her out by buying the veggies she needed for dinner that night. I delivered them and marked off square #1 and gave the card to her to "pay it forward." She has since passed it on to someone she helped out by babysitting.  Pretty good for just a pack of gum.

To find out more about Project 7 I visited their website where I discovered their mission statement: "We make everyday products for good that help fund seven areas of need across the globe. Join our community and help 'Change the Score.'” They make the point that people think because they can't volunteer, they can't do anything. 

But Project 7 founder, Tyler Merrick believes, "We can change the world simply by changing what you buy. Little purchases can make a big impact."  "Little purchases," like a package of gum, that can feed 7 hungry people.

But, hey, don't take my word for it.  I'd invite you to take a look at Project 7's  website and see for yourself the things they are doing to help the average consumer help change the world. Or you can take a look at them on YouTube.  Check it out.  Maybe there is some small thing you can do to make someone else's life better.

"Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’" Matthew 25:40 (The Message)

It's just a little thing to us, but who knows what God can make out of it? That's one pack of gum that left a real sweet taste in my mouth.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


By Marie Tschopp

Author Michelle Medlock Adams recommends writing in rhyme to spur creative thought as an aid against writer’s block. After staring at a blank page, for 20 minutes and 56 seconds, I decided to give it a try. Here’s the results:


Cain and Abel were the first brothers
The only ones as there were no others.
Eve was their mom, Adam their dad.
Abel was good, but Cain was bad.

God said he wanted an offering
And Abel brought the best he could bring.
But what Cain gave was not at all good
For Cain did not live the way he should.

Cain was jealous and thought, “Just you wait!
In my hands is my brother’s fate.
I’ll silence Abel, that little squirt.
I’ll plant his body right here in the dirt!”

God knew exactly what Cain had done,
And was saddened Cain was such a bad son.
He punished Cain and said, “You must leave.
Move away from your parents, Adam and Eve."

Cain left his family, set out on his own,
For he had to reap the seeds he had sown.
Cain moved east of Eden to the land of Nod
And spent the rest of his life tilling the sod.

Okay, so I’m no Robert Frost or Michelle Medlock Adams, but it was fun. Try it. You’ll like it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


By Sharon Wilhite

The other day I saw a sign that advertised "Unlimited Zumba, only $32 per month!" My first thought was, "Wow! How much zumba could one do in a month, and would it be worth $32?" My second thought was, "Just think of the many 'unlimited' benefits God promises His children - benefits worth more than any amount of money could buy. Here would be God's advertisement: "UNLIMITED BENEFITS! FREE UPON JOINING!" (read your Bible or go to your local church for details)

FREE membership! (Rom.5:18 - "...even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men...")

FREE benefits:

Unlimited Mercy (Psalm 23:6 - "Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...")

Unlimited Grace (Romans 3:24 - "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.")

Unlimited Forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7 - "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.")

Unlimited Love (Romans 8:35-39 - "...neither death, nor life...nor height, nor depth...shall be able to separate us from the love of God...")

Unlimited Joy (John 15:11 - "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and your joy might be full.")

Unlimited Peace (John 14:27 - "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you...:)

Unlimited Blessings (Proverbs 10:22 - "The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.")

Unlimited Life (John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.")

Remember, membership is FREE upon joining. It costs you nothing - it cost Jesus EVERYTHING! (Hebrews 12:2)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Filling Inner Emptiness

By Michael Elmore

People live such utterly meaningless lives. Victor Frankel, a survivor of the Nazi Concentration Camps wrote a book entitled, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” In it, Frankel suggests that the reason he survived the Concentration Camps while multiples of tens of thousands didn’t was because he found a sense of meaning that gave him a sense of purpose that kept his hopes and himself alive.

It is my belief that most of us walk around with huge gaping holes in our souls that I describe as a feeling of emptiness. Emptiness is an extremely painful but all too common condition. The deal is that people seem to be on a constant hunt to find something, someone, some career, some addiction, some something – most anything to fill the inner emptiness they pathetically bear. Most of us would do anything to fill the “holes in our souls”. Have you ever had this feeling. Most of us have – I put myself in that category too.

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (c. 325) expressed much the same thought, “Our hearts were created for Thee O God and our hearts remain restless until they rest in Thee.” Similar phrases echo throughout the centuries by Christian writers and philosophers. Rene Descartes, a French mathematician in the 18th Century coined a most perceptive axiom on the subject. Descartes wrote, “Within all of us is a God-shaped void that can only be filled by God himself.” Sandu Singh, a Christian missionary and philosopher from the sub-continent of India during the 19th Century echoed the same thought when he wrote, “The human heart is such a tiny thing but only the infinite God can fill it.”

I have recently been reading in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, meditating on the words of the man who Scripture says was the wisest man that ever lived – Solomon. I think Solomon was particularly aware of the inner emptiness that he felt. And his empty feels must have been great because he attempted to fill them in such numerous ways. Read along with me some of the things Solomon attempted to use to fill the inner vacancy his heart must have felt.

In the first seven chapters of the book of Ecclesiastes he describes all of his personal attempts he tries to use to find fulfillment. He tries scientific discovery (1:10-11), wisdom and philosophy (1:13-18), entertainment (2:1), alcohol (2:3), architecture (2:4), property (2:7-8), and luxury (2:8) and least but not last, sex; the man had a thousand wives and 700 mistresses. Solomon turned his mind towards different philosophies to find meaning, such as materialism (2:19-20), and even moral codes (including chapters 8-9). He found that everything was meaningless, a temporary diversion that had no purpose or longevity. After all of his personal efforts to fill the emptiness that he felt within, Solomon concludes that every one of his diversions is “utterly meaningless”. In fact, he states over 35 times through this relatively short book of the Bible that every attempt he ever made to find fulfillment and fill the emotional hole of his life was futile, pointless and meaningless.

A song that recently came out on the radio asks an interesting question, “Have you worn out the world yet?” I think that Solomon did. The world held no meaning, no purpose, no satisfaction for him. I think another song might resonate with King Solomon if he had lived today – “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. It captures much of the same essence.

However, I do not believe that we have to end this little essay on a note of despair; Solomon didn’t. At the conclusion of his book we catch a glimmer of hope that Solomon finally found the one thing that would fill the “hole in his soul” – he comes to accept that faith in God is the only way to find personal meaning. He decides that life is brief and ultimately worthless without God.

In the end he concludes by advising his readers to focus on an eternal God instead of temporary pleasure. After years of attempting to fill the inner emptiness he felt as only a man as wealthy as a king could do, Solomon found that God alone could fill the inner recesses where the constant ache demanded to be filled. By focusing on God and the purposes for which God had created him to fulfill, Solomon assuaged the pain he felt and discovered the secret to absolute meaning.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Of Republicans, Democrats and Aliens

By Kristi Paxton

I have an idea, well, actually two of them. This would be the spot where my family would collectively groan and roll their eyes. You may join them if you like.

At age 58, I’m past the stage where I believe any president—Democratic, Republican, or Martian—can meaningfully change the way our political system works or fails. No election winner has profoundly changed the way I’ve lived my American life. What’s the popular quote: “If you keep doing the same things the same way you will keep getting the same results”?

We’ve all watched the ads. (Read “witnessed the wasting of millions of media dollars.”) We’ve all answered our phones. (Read “wasted countless hours on phone polls.”) We’ve all endured the debates. (Read “listened to hundreds of empty promises, both sides.”) Rah, rah, rah.

Once again we will elect a figurehead, and it doesn’t really matter which figurehead. Both candidates promise to fix the past, pave the way for a bright future. Blah, blah, blah. One man has the benefit of hindsight: he’s tried it, and knows it’s not that easy. The other man has the benefit of ignorant bliss: pure optimism where all dreams can be accomplished with a fresh start. Both men love their country and plan to make it better. They want the same results: more jobs, less national debt, improved education. They’ve said it themselves.

And now for my ideas for an improved election process. (I love creative license) My outline follows. A bunch of non-partisan smart people can work out the details.

Feel free to groan now, or choose the process you like best:

Process Number 1: The candidate who gets the most votes wins. The runner-up becomes vice-president. Force the two parties who claim to love their country to work together to improve it. You might say, "You stupid person. Dumb idea. Nothing would ever get done.” I may answer, “Soooooo. How is that different from any of the last ten administrations I’ve witnessed?”

Process Number 2: Forget the cut-throat, empty-promise, money-wasting TV ads. End the jangling phone polls. Instead, about six months before Election Day, broadcast black and white identically formatted television/newspaper/internet lists of 3-5 changes each candidate would make. Include concrete ways each would accomplish proposed changes.
Don’t picture candidate names, faces or political parties on the ads. Simply label them Candidate #1 and Candidate #2. Let people vote for the candidate they prefer based only upon his/her plan. Reveal the name of the winner after votes are tabulated.

And if the two candidate parties above really want to help their country, let them donate their campaign millions—saved by using the new low-cost processes—to the cause of reducing national deficit. (Or job production research or teacher salary increases)

Or maybe we should just elect the Martian.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shifting the Blame

By Kathryn C. Lang

My writing opportunities continue to expand. My dreams continue to grow. My results stay the same . . . and I look around wondering how these opportunities are not meeting up with my dreams.

I want to blame someone else. I want to point the finger at the economy. I want to deflect the truth from where is sits squarely – I am not where I want to be because I am not doing what I know I need to do.

All of the words of encouragement from friends and family will not get me there.
All of the plans for the future (and for the now) will not get me there.
All of the “ifs,” “buts,” and “maybes” will not get me there.

Intentions are great, but they do not build dreams. Only my actions will ever take me to that place of exceeding abundance that I desire. I can, if I think I can and then act in a way that brings the thoughts to life.

So, even though I want to point in another direction, I know where the true and only fault lies. I am squandering my “talents.” If I want to be in that place of the servant that received more, then I have to take action. I have to put the talents to work with a heart determined to reach the purpose of the Master and bless Him upon His return.

It is not about my feelings – although feelings will always try to step in the way.
It is not about the others around me – although people have a tendency to put a kink in my day.
It is not about my circumstances – although circumstances will push me to run or tie me down and make me stay.

Developing Consistency for Action

- do something. Something will often lead to something else which may end me up in the place where I should have been all along. Not doing something will increase the difficulty of getting started in the first place. Momentum begets momentum begets momentum . . . do something.

- get away. The clutter of life can hinder hope. I love my family, but sometimes a few moments alone can be all that I need to recharge. Alone, I can be still. Still, I can hear. When I hear the direction then I can be secure in my steps. Sometimes I have to be willing to get away.

- offer praise. Thank the Lord for all that He has done – in the moment, in the day and in life. Look around at all of the amazing blessings. Write down the good, positive and uplifting things. Hope and faith thrive in a heart committed to offer praise.

“You have been chosen by the ultimate judge above for many great things ahead. I see the light around you.” These words were recently shared with me about my walk and my writing. Confirmation that I am aimed in the right direction. Now I just have to be willing to fire!

What actions will you take to begin the momentum towards your dreams?

# # #

Kathryn C. Lang shares words of hope and inspiration with a desire that others she encounters will learn to pursue their own purpose with boldness. You can learn more about Kathryn by visiting You can also find all of her books on her website or at most online bookstores. Kathryn was recently award the SELTI 2012 – the nation’s first tourism fiction award - for her short story, “Digging Up Bones.”
The story will be featured in her third novel from the Big Springs series, REMEMBER, available in 2013.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


By Jeannette Doran

Fall is a time of fulfillment, joy and gratitude. We see the fruit of our labors and rejoice with thanksgiving. Over the past year we have worked towards the fulfillment of our desires. We have worked the land with firm hope for the abundant harvest. We begin to see the beauty of the countryside rich with vivid color. We feel the cool breeze; delight in the golden fields, orange sunsets, the wheat and corn waving in the wind. We remember our toil of the past year, our times of furrowing the fields and sowing the seeds. We are grateful for having given time to pruning, weeding and watering during the summer times of rapid growth. As fall comes we gather the harvest and store for the months ahead. Carefully we collect the seeds for next year’s planting. We prune and clear the land for winter’s long sleep. Seeing the fulfillment and fruit of our toils we gather together in thanksgiving giving joyful thanks to God and one another.

Our preparation for autumn’s fruit is a reflection in our spiritual lives. We work our inner furrowing in the land of our souls and we carve out spaces of growth towards a deeper intimacy with our God. All phases of growth are necessary. The desert periods bring rest, deep silence and darkness. These times ready the land of the earth and our souls for the furrowing of the fields and the seed sowing. In the spiritual realm we till the barren soil of our souls through vocal prayer, spiritual reading and reflection and periods of silent prayer. We spend time sitting still waiting for God’s work in the darkness and silence. All of these works eventually bring about the fulfillment of our desires. It may take a lifetime but we see as time deals gently with us so does our Beloved richly reward us. In our soul’s growth our inner being needs furrowing; we want to allow the Spirit to till the soil of our souls, to prepare spaces for seed sowing. We plow as we clear our minds of negative or fearful thought and begin to plant the tiny seeds of faith, compassion, hope and joy. These are watered with God’s grace sprinkled throughout the moments of our days. These seeds will grow and blossom as we nurture them. Our Carmelite rule invites us to meditate day and night on the Word of God and encourages us that a holy thought will guard us from all harm. We grow in faith as we focus on the truths of our faith such as the reality that the Creator of our universe dwells in the center of our being. Deep within our very being our God finds a home, a dwelling place. What a profound truth of our faith! Reflecting on this truth of our faith will fill one with hope and our hope grows as we experience God’s presence in our daily lives. Our hope is fulfilled and this creates a reciprocal love or a loving relationship with our Creator who so longs for our love in return. May we all know the rich abundance of autumn’s harvest and may this overflow into our spiritual growth and fulfillment.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

In the Garden

Photos By Gail P. Smith, text by C. Austin Miles, from the hymn, "In the Garden."

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
 The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
I'd stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me is falling,
But He bids me go, through the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I Believe in Heaven

The Great Blog Adventure has a special post today from well-known authors Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk. As you know, anything can happen when those two get their heads together and you may have just the story they are looking for for their latest book "I Believe in Heaven."

Needed: Stories for a New Book, “I Believe in Heaven.”

Twila Belk and best-selling author Cecil Murphey have contracted for a book called “I Believe in Heaven,” scheduled for spring 2013 release. (In fact, you can already pre-order the book on several websites!)

We want 3 types of stories:

1.First-person accounts of someone who died, went to heaven, and returned. (E.g., Don Piper or the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:1–10.)

2.First-person, near-death stories (such as those who felt they saw themselves above the operating table during surgery, went through a tunnel and into bright light before being whisked back to their bodies).

3.Third-person stories of those who have been at the bedside of a dying person who saw angels or Jesus coming to take them to heaven.

Don't delay--Deadline for stories is November 20, 2012.  You can also help Cec and Twila by sharing this information on your own web sites and with any and all author's groups you might be aware of.  Thanks so much for all your help.

For guidelines on how to submit and further information:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Both Sides Now

By Kristi Paxton

The flight attendant stood up front, and her mouth told all about our plane and our seatbelts. She admonished people sitting in the evacuation row. Her downturned lips did their job. Her heart and mind were elsewhere. Maybe she was mad.

“There is something about her eyes. I don’t know what it is,” said my seat mate, a new friend I’d met at the Christian Communicator’s Conference in Asheville, North Carolina.

“She is tired, hates her job and is worried about something at home,” I responded, suddenly recognizing the emptiness in our attendant’s eyes, the dark bags holding them up. I’d seen that expression in my mirror for the 26 years I’d spent in a job that didn’t fit my passions. In a flood of memory, I saw sick children I’d carted off to sitters those days. My dad, dying of congestive heart disease, I’d left at home alone while I scurried off to a job I didn’t love.

We landed rather roughly, and a look of relief came over our attendant’s face. My friend and I were happy to be released from her care. The feeling was mutual, I bet. “Please fly with us again!” Our hostess forced slight upturns at each end of her mouth.

“I’d rather have bowel surgery in the woods with a stick,” I thought. I’d been reading Bill Bryson on the flight and my brain borrowed his eloquence.

My connecting flight, on the other hand, was announced by Trudy Blair, the hostess with flair, the ying to that earlier flight attendant’s yang.

“Welcome to our little plane with a big heart,” said Trudy. “Let me know if there is anything I can do to make your flight with us a little more fun.” And then Ms. Blair turned her back to us and applied a red karate scarf across her forehead. “Just call me Gram-bo!” she said, and then proceeded to tell us all the serious rules and regulations of her little big-hearted plane. Chop-chop. Now we were cozy partners on a grand adventure.

Gram-bo maneuvered the bulky cart down a skinny aisle, looking each of us in the eyes. She tried to figure out what we liked best, cookies or pretzels. We felt like she’d offered T-bone steaks or baked Alaska. If she failed to make someone smile, Trudy found out what made her guest click, and then handed over more cookies.

“You do a really nice job!” I exclaimed, enjoying the glimpse of a time when air travel was exciting, attended by glamorous stewardesses. “How do you keep it up?” I wondered aloud.

“Well, I got my MBA late in life, went to college with the youngsters you know, and landed a systems analyst job with an airline,” said Gram-bo. Of course, I only got to work six years before I was downsized and lost my job. But they offered to give me this, my dream job. This was something I wanted to do when I was 12 years old!” she added. And then Trudy told of her travels and thankfulness at having a second chance. She was probably about my age, late fifties. She beamed.

When she saw how much I loved coffee, Gram-bo went and made a fresh pot. “I think I’ll sit down and have a cup with you,” she said.

Our little plane full of new friends landed smooth as a milkshake. We deplaned, (I squelched a desire to hug Gram-bo good-bye) and I began a sleepy drive home. As my brain replayed the day’s travels, I knew Gram-bo was set for life. But what about empty-faced hostess number one? Slogging away in her home on the plane, where seldom was heard an encouraging word. Could I have offered her a smile or a silly joke, changed her focus for one lousy day?

What if a stranger had encouraged me during my 26-year slump?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Are You A World Changer?

By Lori Boruff

You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had
your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him,
giving him trouble every chance you got.
But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross
actually dying for you, Christ brought you to God's side
and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence.
Colossians 1:21 – 23
Are You A World Changer?

It was my son's cell number that brought me to this meaningful passage in God's word. After his arrest, with wrists reddened by tightened handcuffs and ankles chained together, he shuffled to Cell 121.
That was his home—his identity—for nearly a year.

On the other side of the bars and bulletproof glass, my mama's heart tried to make sense of the pain.
Believing there are no kwinky-dinks when God is involved, I knew 121 was a significant number.
I went to God's word for answers. The Holy Spirit led me to Colossians 1:21

The next three verses filled my heart with hope. It described my son's life having turned his back on God. I understood God knew his heart better than me. The verse became God's promise to me. I believed through Jesus Christ, my son would be brought to God's side and all that seemed lost would be restored.

While in jail, my son did come to God's side. He did a 180 and turned towards God. Five years later, my son is known by a new number—The 180 Zone. He directs hundreds of volunteers who help the hopeless and broken put their lives back together.

This past Saturday night, my son stood on stage with recording artist Matthew West. The singer/songwriter describes my son as a 'world changer.' His newly released cd, Into The Light, includes the song We Are The Broken inspired by my son's real life experience. West calls the song an anthem—a victory song.

You too, have a victory song. It was not written with pen and ink but by the blood of Jesus Christ. By believing he died in your place, you become a world changer because God is The World Changer.

Are you on God's side?
What is the name your victory song?
How is God using you to be a world changer?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

50 Shades of Not-So-Grey

(Today's post is a little different from what you usually read on our blog.  I want to personally thank Charis Seeley for tackling a topic that is uncomfortable to many Christians.  Please read and respond to her insightful and absolutely dead-on post about the current best-seller "50 Shades of Grey."  After reading, I hope you plan to stay as far away from this book as I do.  Thank you again, Charis.--Gail Smith.)

 By Charis Seeley

The Hunger Games is a novel trilogy that’s wildly popular with teenagers. They’re being made into movies and my local Sam’s Club had a themed display for the books. In fact, the series is so popular that this Sam’s Club sold enough of those books that there was empty space on this end cap and the staff had to fill those shelves with another series. What did they suggest for those teen readers? 50 Shades of Grey.

This post isn’t likely to win me many friends. The 50 Shades trilogy has sold 40+ million copies, it’s pornography, and it’s being sold to our teenage girls. That’s right. Today, we’re talking youth, sex, and some hard truths.

What is 50 Shades of Grey? You might have heard the title and a few flitting rumors. It was based on the wildly profitable Twilight series. It features some unconventional and explicitly detailed sex that’s got the married-with-kids-30-something-year-old-wives whispering and raving. It’s being dubbed “mommy-porn” and too many Christians are silent about it.

The story centers around a female protagonist and her love for a man that wants to control her. Control her thoughts, control her actions, control her body, what/how much she eats, where she goes, who she sees, what she does and more. He tracks her movements on her cell phone. He tries to engage her in a sex contract and he does all these things, why? Because he has issues and he “loves” her.

And our women are eating it up.

The author, E.L James, hides all this abuse under an extremely misused umbrella of BDSM. Boiled down, BDSM is a consensual practice of two partners in which one partner is in control of the sexual pleasure. The hinge word is consensual.

Because at some point in this series, the female protagonist tells her “love” interest no, and he ignores her. That’s right. He rapes her. Let me remind you again, this series has sold over 40 million copies.

This is the cover of the first book. It certainly doesn’t look like something the media could dub “mommy-porn” does it? I mentioned that the author was inspired by the Twilight series, but that’s not entirely true. 50 Shades started as an erotic fan fiction of Twilight. The protagonist was Bella Swan and her love interest was Edward Cullen. The cover photos of the two series even look similar. Both have a black background with one object serving as a metaphor or theme from the book. I encourage you to take a walk through the Young Adult section of your local book store sometime because the vast majority of those titles have the same style covers. It’s a marketing stratedgy.

And Young Adult books are for ages 15+.

And now we arrive at my core heart of this post. This abusive, XXX detailed novel series is being marketed to our high school girls. Godly and Christian mothers are unknowingly buying their daughters porn because their church stands silent.

Erotica isn’t new. But before 50 Shades, the covers were half naked men with long hair, riding stallions and holding roses on a beach. The covers of 50 Shades are a neck tie, a mask, and a pair of handcuffs. Twilight was an apple, a bloody flower, a ribbon, and two chess pieces. The Hunger Games is different incarnations of a bird called a Mockingjay set against a solid color background. 50 Shades looks like all the other books teens are reading right now.

And what message are these books giving our youth? That abuse is normal. That if a man loves you, he will control your life, what you do and who you’re friends with. That if he can’t control his sexual need for you, that if he rapes you and sends you lavish gifts, that’s love.

Whether your definition of love comes from a Christian perspective or not, no one should consider this love or something to be glorified and reveled in. This is abuse. This is not a story about a woman that fixes a broken man. This is abuse. This is not about kinky sex, or having a handsomely rich man love you, or finding your happily-ever-after. This is physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. There is nothing “grey” about it.

The silence of our churches and Christian leaders on this series disgusts me. If this were a XXX movie with the same plot and scenes that prominent male members were watching and sharing with their guy friends, our pastors would be outraged at the pulpit. But it’s in a book, not a movie. (Yet. The 50 Shades movie is in development.) And it’s for women. It’s a difficult subject to talk about not least because its popularity is such an odd phenomenon.

The question can be raised that if a married woman is reading these books and finds them erotic, is it really harming anyone? If we assume that she’s lusting for an imaginary character but taking her bolstered enthusiasm into her marital bed, is it that really sinning?

Matthew 5:28 tells us, “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Adultery and lust are not sins exclusive to men.

Wives: Would you encourage this same behavior from your husbands? Reverse this and turn it into a man lusting after a female XXX film star. He’s coming to his wife, asking her to replicate things he watched another woman do, chasing a high created by sin. Again, the picture becomes a lot clearer. We’re dealing with something that is black-and-white Christianly immoral, not something meandering in grey area.

What can you do? Send this post to your friends. Send it to the women in your Bible Study, to your sisters, to your daughters, to your granddaughters. The women most at risk to being taken in by this series are those who are not of this world and buy these books without knowing what’s between the covers. Send it to your pastors. To your elders. To your youth group leaders.

Help break the Christian silence.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


 Photo Collage by Sharon Wilhite

  Red is the color of passion, energy, redemption, and love.
 Wearing red always seemed to give me energy and confidence when tired or nervous during my college days.
From my childhood on I wanted a red winter coat to brighten up a long winter - I'm still waiting.
 Red cars are always a fascination to men young and old - and especially to the highway patrol!
 Red is the color of life continually running through us.
It is the color of new life spilled for us by Christ on the cross.
You can see more of Sharon's work at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Learning to Bend

By Kathryn Lang

I bend, but the storms have helped me develop the strength not to break. Unexpected ice storms cause me to creak. Strong winds storms push me to my limits. The heat of summer forces my roots down even deeper. Through it all I stand.

But there are days when the bending, creaking and stretching seem like to much to take.

It would be easier to quit. The stress and strain of it all seems like a ridiculous choice when the toughest times are at hand. There is an easier way. There is a better way. There is a way that would make me happier. There HAS to be.

Relax in the midst of it all and just bend. Do it right now. Bend your head forward and breathe. Bend to the sides and breathe. Bend just a little and soon you break the hold the storm has on your life.

Today it was working through papers for my dad that had to do with my mom. She died in March, but the pain of her absence hit me with a vengeance I could never have expected. One thing piled up on another thing and soon something as trivial as being put on hold caused me to break down.


I cried. I bent over my desk and let the tears fall for a moment. It was too much.


I wiped the tear and took a deep breath. Pain will happen. Tears will fall. But I will not break. I will keep bending and shifting and bending and shifting until the storm has passed.

Pushing on with a writing career, no matter what direction that career takes, is not for the weak. The attitudes and behaviors of people thrown at something you cared for and molded will cause some to want to fold. Cruel words, rejections, and the lack of sales can all drive you to want to give up. It can push you to the breaking point.

Just bend. When it comes down to it, bend your head down. Now say a prayer. And let the peace that passes all understanding be the soothing water that makes it possible for you to keep bending until you find your way.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


By Marie Tschopp

My name means “Mother of all living.”  I am Eve, created by God from one of my husband’s ribs, a visible reminder of my calling to work side-by-side with Adam, to be his  helpmate. 

Life was good then, back in the garden.  The aroma of the lush, ripe fruit and beautiful exotic flowers was intoxicating.  We played with the animals; Adam had a name for each one!  We had complete fellowship with God, our creator.  Sometimes in the evenings, God would walk in the garden with us.  But, this was before I ruined everything. 

God had given us every tree to eat from, except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  God had warned us that on the day we ate of that tree, we would surely die.  But, the serpent told me otherwise.  He twisted God’s words.  He said that if I ate of the fruit, I would be like God, and I chose to believe him.  I took a bite.  I gave some to Adam, and he ate, too.  Life as we knew it, ended.  A sparrow fell from the sky.  A lion pounced on a lamb.  We looked at each other and were ashamed. 

Now, some hurl verbal stones at me.  “Eve,” they say, “How could you have been so stupid? You had everything a woman could want…a home in paradise, a husband who adored you, fellowship with God—and yet it wasn’t enough.  How foolish!” 

Don’t you think I know that?  When evening comes, and I see Adam’s bleeding, blistered hands from working an unyielding land, don’t you know a part of me dies inside?  When my daughters cry out in agony, don’t you know a knife pierces my heart?  I have a dead son.  Dead at the hands of his own brother.  No woman should ever have to bear that!

If I could go back into time, I would.  If I could change what I had done, I would.  If I could hurl that snake out of the garden, I would.  But I can’t.  I can’t.

Maybe some of you are like me.  You enjoyed a good life, but it wasn’t enough.  A temptation called, and you did not resist either.  Life as you knew it ended.  And, if you could change your reaction, you would.  But you can’t.  You can’t. 

Don’t despair, my friend.  There is hope.  God offers forgiveness.  He knew of our rejection, so he planned for our redemption. 

As long as there is life, there is hope. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, September 6, 2012


By Robin Steinweg

 Do I ever regret time in prayer?

Sadly, maybe before-hand. Like when the pillow is coziest, sleep beckons or I have tasks to check off my to-do list. 

Few things get interrupted like my time for prayer—at least initially. If I sit down intending to pray, the computer will blink at me, the phone will ring, an appliance will act up, the neighbor’s dogs will yap, the garbologist will take a break outside my house with the engine running, a plane will sound as though it’s going to crash, I’ll suddenly think of fifteen dozen things that need to be done without delay, and my dog will beg to go out. And that’s saying a lot, because I don’t have a dog.

The computer can wait.  In fact, I can turn it to face away from me. The answering machine can take a message or the caller can get back to me. I can unplug the appliance and check it later. I can close the windows. I can put in ear plugs. I can pray for the pilot. I can keep pen and paper next to me and add to my list as things pop into my head, and then keep praying. I can remind myself that I don’t have a dog, and tell the devil to get behind me, because I AM GOING TO PRAY anyway!

That’s what it might take—a commitment to pray no matter what. When my sons were little, they knew not to interrupt me from prayer unless one of them was choking or bleeding. Our day would be better if they let Mommy pray. As my wall hanging states, “A day hemmed in prayer seldom comes unraveled.”

And has there ever been a time that I wished instead that I had stayed in bed or run errands?

Just yesterday I nearly didn’t pray because of interruptions. Important things, you know? But I sent up some heartfelt requests for safety for my sons and husband.

In the afternoon my younger son perched atop the log ride at the amusement park where he’s worked for the summer. A sudden bolt of lightning scored the air close enough to him that he felt the static. They closed the park early, and he came home—safe.

Do I regret that I spent the time yesterday in prayer?


Instead, I grow more determined.  Not only to ask for things, but to thank God for listening to me, and to take the time to listen to Him.

Let me rephrase: it’s not taking my time. It’s an investment of my time, and it could continue to pay into eternity!