Main Character Monday #5

dead brokeWelcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

 

Today’s Guest is Andrea “Andy” Warren from DEAD BROKE by Linda Fulkerson. Thank you for joining me.

A life verse is a scripture that has spoken to you deeply, impacted the way you live your life, or become like a theme verse for your life. What would you say is your life verse?

Life verse? You know I’m mad at God, right? I mean, he let my dad get killed. I kind of quit speaking to Him after that.

Is that a pouty face? Seriously?

Oh, all right. I’ll answer your question.

I was stuck at my brother Tommy’s cottage – that’s a long story – anyway, I saw Dad’s Bible sitting on the kitchen counter, and I picked it up. Don’t over think that. I didn’t pick it up because it was a Bible – I picked it up because it was my dad’s, okay?

The book was worn from use. I flipped through the yellowed, dog-eared pages, noticing notes scrawled in many of the margins. Then I remembered this verse my dad used to quote to me when I was a kid. “So, we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6). I always thought that was kind of cool. I mean, I know God’s not exactly a super hero, but He’s got a lot on mere mortals.

I had a lot of people after me at the time, so the thought of them being “mere mortals” and realizing that God was on my side was pretty comforting. I mean, at least I was hoping He was on my side. I sure needed some help.

What person from scripture do you most relate to?

Oh, probably Peter. He’s always putting his foot in his mouth. I’m right there with him. Good thing I have a big mouth, because I have BIG feet!

The New Testament says that all the law and prophets can be summed up in two commands: love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Which of these two commands do you feel you have the most trouble following?

Well, it’s not exactly that I don’t love God, but I sure do get irritated at Him sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. I’m sure the feeling is mutual. I have no problem loving my neighbor. But my mother – now that’s a different story! That woman . . . oh, never mind!

Solomon asked God for wisdom. If God gave you the same opportunity, what would you ask Him for?

Ha! Wisdom! I could sure use some of that. But no way am I gonna ask for it.

Seriously, though, if I got some sort of genie lamp from God where I could get anything I wanted, there’s no doubt what I’d ask for – I’d ask for my dad back.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Hang in there. God’s not so scary as you might think. When I got locked up in the county jail, I actually prayed. Don’t look so surprised. It even felt good.

Preacher Paul helped me a lot. He was kind of like that Clarence guy, who hung out with Jimmy Stewart’s character in that movie – what’s it called? Oh, yeah – “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Anyway, I got tired of Preacher Paul at times, but he helped me get out of more than one tight spot.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Milk Chocolate. Why? Because my mother likes dark.

Autumn or Spring? Autumn – it matches my hair. Well, sort of.

Coffee or Hot Cocoa? What kind of question is that? Coffee. Duh! And I prefer White Chocolate Mocha, but there isn’t a barista within 30 miles of this podunk town I’m stuck in. Unless someone opens up a nice coffee shop in the next book, I guess I’ll keep drinking mine black. *heavy sigh*

If you could describe Linda Fulkerson in three words, what would those words be? SLOW TO WRITE.

Come on, Linda. Book One came out over a year ago, and I’ve been hanging out, stuck in Crooner’s Corner, waiting to find out what you’ve got planned for the rest of my life. Start typing, girl!

Thank you Linda Fulkerson for introducing us to Andy Warren. If you’ve enjoyed getting to know Andy be sure to head over to Amazon to get your copy of Dead Broke and find out more about her story. 

Forgiving Isn’t Easy

“Say you’re sorry and give each other a hug.”

Growing up, it’s likely we all heard this phrase. After the heartfelt “sorry” mumbled under the offender’s breath, the adult would turn to the offended. The new mandate became, “Now tell him you forgive him.” The offended would then mutter an equally heartfelt “I forgive you”.

The idea is good. Teach children to accept their wrongful actions or attitudes, while simultaneously giving them a lesson in forgiving wrongs done to them. Now, I’m not knocking the use of this tactic. I’m sure I even used it with my own children. Looking back, however, I can see some problems with the method.

Think about it. Was their ever a time when you followed your parent’s request with sincerity? Probably not. More than likely, you were still heated about whatever got you riled up enough to do whatever you did that you shouldn’t have done. Your apology, even asking them to forgive you, was empty of real feeling just like the hug that followed. The offended didn’t want your hug anyway. They definitely didn’t want to forgive you. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out from the glares and hateful mutterings that took place when parents weren’t watching.  The plea for forgiveness and the giving of it were meaningless, except to get you out of hot water with the adults. Besides, this method also teaches children that to extend forgiveness, forgiveness must be sought after by the offender. What happens when they run into people who hurt them without regret? Will they simply hold onto the wrong done to them?

I understand why adults try to instill the idea of seeking out and giving forgiveness. Children don’t realize how crucial these practices are to having healthy relationships, not just with others but with God. I’d wager a lot of adults don’t get it either. But harboring a grudge, not forgiving wrongs done to us, puts us in a dangerous place.

The residents of Hades, Mississippi found this out for themselves in Whitewashed, by Amy C. Blake. As she returns to her grandparents’ home to begin her journey into adulthood as a student at the local college, Patience believes everything is working out perfectly for her. It doesn’t take long for her path to become rocky. Verity College isn’t all she expects. Built out of an old plantation, the school is more run-down than she remembers. Add to that the sordid past of the plantation and undercurrents of distrust and dislike among the small town’s residents, and Patience soon finds herself tangled in a web of deceit and facing a mystery that could end up costing the lives of those she loves.

As the plantation’s past and Patience’s present are woven together, Patience has to work to find the truth before it’s too late. Patience’s quest for understanding is muddied by those who haven’t allowed themselves to forgive past wrongs. The grudges they carry make them all seem guilty, and Patience can’t see past that to find truth. In some, the hatred and lack of forgiveness has left them bitter and susceptible to rash actions. In one, it’s led to a broken mind and a sick plan to bring vengeance down on those who are seen as committing the wrongs. Finding truth would have been much easier for Patience if the people of Hades had practiced forgiveness.

While it takes a very broken person to let an unforgiving spirit lead them to a place of psychotic action, it doesn’t mean harboring an unforgiving spirit is safe for any of us. Forgiveness works to accomplish several things. For the one who offended, forgiveness can show the love of God. It can start the people involved on a path of healing for their relationship. It can help the offender more clearly relate his or her actions to the consequences of those actions for the one they hurt. Seeing first-hand the pain or hurt they caused can help keep them from practicing those behaviors again.

But what if the person doesn’t want or seek forgiveness? There are still benefits to forgiveness. First, scripture tells us that we are to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:31-32, Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13). That means we are to forgive freely, often, and before forgiveness is even sought. It’s not an option. When we withhold forgiveness, we sin. Our sin puts up walls between us and God. Forgiving others helps keep our relationship with God strong. Another positive effect of forgiving is that it frees our emotions from being controlled by what the other person has done. As long as we harbor a grudge against someone, we give them a measure of control in our lives. Because we are called to forgive as Christ forgives us, doing so helps us have a greater understanding of what Christ has done and continues to do for us.

Just because God asks us to forgive doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are some hurts so deep that giving up the right to hold those hurts against the offender is a definite struggle. Our temptation is to pick the pain back up each day, holding it close as a protective shield to keep from getting hurt again or fuel to keep our anger burning. This is especially true when the hurt comes from a betrayal or when the sin has hurt someone we love. In times like these, forgiveness may have to be a daily decision. But the good news is that forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice, and it is a choice that will make a huge difference in your life.

By the Book: Is there someone you are withholding forgiveness from? Consider how God has forgiven you. Ask Him to help you learn to extend that forgiveness to others.

Side note: It’s important to remember there is a difference between forgiving and putting yourself back into a bad situation. God requires forgiveness, but forgiveness does not always require a relationship to continue. Pray for God’s leading if you feel remaining in a situation may not be God’s best for you.

Even if He Does Not

We live in a scary world, full of unknowns. Yesterday, a boy opened fire on his classmates at a school two hours from where I live. I have friends watching the marriages of those they love fall apart. Other friends are supporting their loved ones as they deal with life-threatening diseases. Job losses, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks are a staple of the evening news.

Events like these leave a mark on our lives. They change and challenge us. They can leave us unsettled. There isn’t an answer out there that makes sense when a child, barely old enough for school, is fighting cancer. The idea that we live in a fallen, sinful world doesn’t make it easier to accept it when the relationship we’ve invested our energy in dissolves into lawyers, judges, and divorce.

These things happen, and we can’t make sense of why. The lack of control and understanding couple with the questions of what is going to happen next to create a perfect storm of fear swirling around us and, at times, in us. Fear is powerful. Fear has been the catalyst in many poor decisions. Fear has provided the bricks that have built walls between loved ones. Fear has dared hurting people to fire arrows of hate at the ones they’re supposed to love and protect in a warped attempt at protecting self. What causes one to fear may not faze another. It doesn’t make it less potent. And reactions to fear are as varied as the things we fear.

Some of these reactions are depicted in the fictional lives of Melody Mason and James Montgomery in A Melody for James, by Hallee Bridgeman. Melody faces betrayal and a near death experience before coming out on the other side in stubborn rebellion against her fears. Even facing a potentially dangerous stalker, Melody pushes through refusing to give in to fear. It’s not logical, but it’s what she feels she has to do to keep fear from controlling her life.

James, on the other hand, has known his share of loss. Without answers to questions of who or why, James learns there is only One he can lean on to get through. But faith doesn’t keep James from struggling when the past and present collide. The depth of loss he suffered paralyzes him as his path gets tangled up with Melody’s. The threat of losing all he’s worked for and cares about becomes a challenge to his faith. His desire to freeze and Melody’s desire to rebel against the fear pit the two against each other until their relationship comes to its breaking point. And it’s all because of fear.

Their fictional story rings true to our own struggles with fear, and I wish I had better answers for those times. So often, we fall back on scriptural reminders that God will work good out of any bad situation we face if we let Him. We remind ourselves that with His help we can do all things, and that includes going through whatever we are facing. We look at ourselves in the mirror are try to encourage ourselves with a pep talk that includes us not being given a spirit of fear.

All of these things are true. Each one of them has power to help us through the fear-filled times. But sometimes, we’ve heard them enough that we don’t really hear them anymore. We cling to the idea that we will get through this and be better than we were when we started. One way or another, that is true. But we tend to see it in very physical terms, that the situation will pass and all will be well.

A scripture I have been thinking about recently reminds me it doesn’t have to happen the way I want it to in order to believe God is still in complete control. “And they lived happily ever after” doesn’t need to take place for God to be worthy of my devotion and unwavering trust. It’s a story we’re all familiar with, and we focus on the good ending every time we tell it to a group of children in Sunday school. We recount the story of three brave young men who stood up to a king for their God, and they were rewarded with a trip to the fiery furnace. With gusto, we act out the declaration that there are not three but four walking around in the fire and one is like the Son of God! We revel in the calling of the men from the fire and the king’s change of heart. But that’s not the part of the story that has struck a chord with me.

I need you to back up a little. Go back to Daniel 3:17-18. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” The three Israelites believed God would deliver them, but they didn’t have that promise. What they had was an angry king and a furnace hot enough to kill men who simply approached it. They had an unknown outcome, and a situation that would strike fear into the heart of the strongest of people. But they also had hope.

This hope wasn’t in God resolving the situation the way they wanted or even the way they believed He would. “But even if he does not”, that is a powerful statement. These young men knew they had no control over what the king would do to them, just as we can’t control what men are going to do in our lives. They knew they had no control over the outcome any more than we have control over the events in our lives. Like is so often the case, they didn’t have the answers to what was going to happen. What they did have was a deeply ingrained belief that whatever happened, God was in control and would not abandon them in their time of need. Even if God chose to let them die, they knew He was still being faithful to deliver them from this evil king into His presence. Their hope wasn’t in what man would do. Their hope was in who God was. And who God was, He still is. I pray when fear inspiring situations come into my life, I am able to stand as they did. I pray I can remain strong, with my hope anchored in who God is despite the storm raging in my life.

By the Book: To have hope in who God is, we have to know Him. Spend time searching out scriptures that remind you of who God is and what He is like.

Main Character Monday #4

MRP-Micki-Clark-Dont-Ask-Me-to-Leave-360x570

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

 

Today’s Guest is Rachel Miller from Don’t Ask Me to Leave by Micki Clark. Thank you for joining me Rachel.

Could you please share with us your favorite Bible verse?

Well, naturally, I love the book of Ruth, but especially Ruth 1:16: “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

Is there a person from the Bible that you most relate to?

Oh, man. Definitely Job, there for awhile. I mean, I know he had it worse than me. He did. But you know, it felt like my whole life was just one big cycle of death and destruction. I lost my parents, I lost my husband. Really, I lost my way. What embarrasses me a little is that unlike Job, I kind of lost my faith too. Thank goodness for Nadine, who pulled me back in. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Is there one of these characteristics you find easier to show than the others? Hmm. Well, I guess gentleness describes me the most, but I do try to be kind to others. You just never know when someone else needs that. I know I certainly did.

Which one is the most challenging for you?

Patience. Ha! No, seriously. Patience for sure. I guess I’ll always struggle with that one. I mean, I’m patient for some things, like waiting on pizza to come out of the oven. But I tend to be impatient with people when they aren’t like me. I wasn’t patient with my sister-in-law Olivia. I’m still trying to make up for that.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

You never know how much time you’ll have with anyone. Anyone. Cherish every moment. Dance in the rain. Eat the extra slice of pizza. Laugh like no one hears you braying like a mule.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Oh, dark, definitely. It’s so decadent.

Beach or Mountains? Never been to the beach. But, I totally love hiking the mountains. One of these days I’d like to give the Appalachian Trail a run for its money.

Sweet Tea or Lemonade? Oh, gag. What is this nation’s obsession with sweet tea? Uh-uh. Nope. Can’t take it. Lemonade, although if it could be strawberry lemonade, with chunks of strawberries stirred in. . .

If you could describe Micki Clark in three words, what would those words be?

Hardworking, loyal, and determined. She gives 110% to everything. She really needs to learn to back off of some stuff, because she has a big tendency to overextend herself.

Thank you, Rachel Miller for allowing me to interview you and to Micki Clark for sharing Rachel with us.

Don’t Ask Me to Leave is available in e-book and paperback from Amazon. And don’t forget, book reviews are a great way to help your favorite authors get the word out about their books. After you’ve checked out the Main Character Monday books, don’t forget to leave your Amazon review!

 

 

Unrefined Grace Club

My friend, Ramona and I are the President and CEO of the Unrefined Grace Club. It’s not that we are not graceful people. We have grace. It’s just in its most raw and unrefined state. My unrefined grace often asserts itself as a lack of balance. I could trip over air. Come to think of it, I probably have at one point or another. Don’t believe me? Let me illustrate.

Do you remember Pogo Balls? These demon toys came straight from the pit and, thankfully, have returned there since the 80s. Imagine two sturdy playground balls joined together at the top making a strange rubber eight. Around the center of this monstrosity is a plastic platform, not unlike the rings of Saturn. The whole idea was that you stood on the platform and bounced up and down. It was a portable trampoline of death and destruction, and my cousin had one.

Enamored with the “it” toy of the time, I jumped at the chance to try it out. (See what I did there?) So, on my grandma’s front porch, I climbed on and started jumping. Here’s a hint for the day you run across one of these toys in a vintage toy shop. They are not meant to be used with bare feet. Just as I was getting the hang of it, my foot slipped, and I couldn’t regain my balance. I fell straight into the storm door. My bent right arm went through the glass, elbow first. From his place at Grandma’s table, my brother thought it looked like a scene from an action movie. My cousin’s eyes were wide as she pointed to my upper arm. I saw blood flowing, and I freaked out. An emergency room trip and several stitches later, I determined I wouldn’t be using the Pogo Ball again. I did not have the necessary sense of balance.

I’ve been learning a lot about balance since I embarked on this writing adventure. I’ve experienced what I once only had head knowledge of: writing is about more than just writing.  There is editing on the book I’ve written to get it ready for publication. But I also need to write on my next book. I need to keep reading for my blog and also to grow as a writer. Time has to be set aside for social media from Facebook to Twitter. Learning to market my book requires time as well. Not to mention, each of these tasks has sub-tasks attached to it. Add to that my full-time job as a receptionist, my family that needs to eat, and my work with local ministries, and I have more demands on my time than I have actual time. It is easy to become overwhelmed in the face of this lengthy to-do list. To accomplish it in the best way possible, I need one thing, balance. If I fail to exercise balance in my writing life, I’ll spend too much time on one part without giving the other areas the attention they deserve. I can write the best novel out there, but if I never do anything to market it, no one will ever read it. I can read a hundred books, but if I don’t use what I read, I’ll have nothing to blog and I won’t grow as a writer. It’s all about balance.

There is something to be said for balance in our spiritual lives as well. Becoming a Christian starts with faith. It takes believing that Jesus is God made man, sent to earth to die in our place for our sins. God’s forgiveness and salvation is a gift we cannot earn through anything we do (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9). Scripture is clear that our adoption into God’s family is all about Him and not us. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for works. If our faith is true, it changes us. Real faith will produce action.

Think about it. I can study electricity and know how it works. I can have it installed in my home. I can make sure my light fixture has the perfect bulb with the perfect wattage. I can say I believe in the science behind electricity, but if I don’t flip the switch, I will remain in the dark. If I wanted to be in the light, and I had real faith that electricity was the answer, I would turn on the light. Real faith in something, true belief, brings action.

That is the balance we need in our spiritual lives. We understand that salvation comes through faith. But we also understand that true faith will produce change in our lives (James 2:14-26). That’s not to say we’ll be perfect. We’ll fail time and again and have to fall back on the grace that brings forgiveness. But if we believe God is who He says He is and He has done all He has said He would do, it won’t leave us unchanged. Our faith will lead us into living our lives according to what we believe. Faith and action work in harmony with each other, providing perfect balance in our spiritual lives.

By the Book: Is there balance in the activities of your life? How about your spiritual life? When you look at the scales, are faith and action balanced? If not, consider why. Is the works side of your scale too heavy as you try to earn your salvation through your own efforts? Or is the belief side heavy with head knowledge of God and His gift without really accepting it for yourself and letting it change who you are? What is needed to restore balance in areas that are lacking?

We Are Family

I have more families than I can count. I have a literal family. I’ve had a few church families throughout the years. When my children were toddlers, I had a mothers’ group family. One especially close to my heart is my SICC camp family. The faces in that one have changed through the years, but all of them are still family.

Looking back, I see the importance of each family group in specific times in my life. My literal family has helped shape who I am from the beginning.  My moms’ group family helped me navigate the tough toddler years. Though each church family has impacted my life, my Scottsboro church family was there when I needed a little more spiritual encouragement and love. I owe them greatly for helping me find joy in serving. My camp family, well, I can’t even begin to tell you what it means to me. I can’t imagine my life without each member. They’ve been there since I was six months old, and they play a part in many of my best memories and most of my spiritual development.

Recently, God has added to my family list. In this new writing adventure, He has gifted me with two amazing groups. One is a local Christian Writers’ group. God has used this group to motivate, challenge, and encourage me. We have fun, but we also prioritize growth in our writing. They helped me review and prepare Faith’s Journey to be sent to publishers. They were the first people to know about and celebrate with me when I got the contract for publication.

My other new writing family is made up of the Mantle Rock Publishing authors. I’ve never actually met any of the people in this family. We talk only through social media. But this amazing group has taken me in as one of their own. They’ve answered questions and given tips on everything from using social media to running a book launch party. We cheer each other on and learn from each other. Some have been in the family a long time, but others are relative new comers like me. It doesn’t matter. We all have something to add to the family.

That’s the great thing about chosen families. They each have a special place and fill a special purpose in my life. Each member adds their own unique twist to the family unit. They contribute something special that no one else could give in quite the same way. And, hopefully, I bring something of worth to each of them too. We make each other better, stronger. That’s what family is supposed to do.

That’s also what the church is supposed to do. God didn’t create us to work independently of each other. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 are two of several scriptures that compare believers to a body. Each body part is unique in what it does and how it does it. Each body part is necessary to the health of the body. It’s why we are encouraged not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). We were made to teach and encourage each other. We are meant to rejoice and cry with each other. When we show love to each other the way God intended, the world sees it and amazing things can happen. The first chapter of Acts details many times that God worked through His people and the result was an increase in believers. What starts off each of those miraculous times of ministry? Unity. The church was unified as one family of believers.

So what keeps us from working that way now? Why do so many believers choose to strike out on their own rather than being part of a body? It’s because our church families are like our literal families. If you have siblings, you know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to live without conflict in close quarters with people who are vastly different in personality and likes and dislikes. Sometimes, jealousy creates sibling rivalry. How can we admit our sibling’s idea is a good one? Won’t that mean our own idea wasn’t a good one? Why does that family member always seem to do the one thing they know bothers us worse than anything else?  Rather than holding tight to the things that unite our family, we let the differences deplete our patience, tearing us apart.

The things that creep into our literal families also threaten our chosen families, even spiritual families. What God designed to be one healthy body working in love and showing the world a different way to live, becomes a body riddled with the disease of sin. The family God gives us for our good becomes so dysfunctional that family members become estranged. As members strike out on their own, there are two losses. The person that leaves loses opportunity for the support and encouragement God meant for them to have. The ones that stay lose a little more of their ability to impact the world for God as the world judges them to be no different than everyone else. And who wants to be part of a dysfunctional family?

By the Book: Do you have a church family? If not, what keeps you from it? Ask God how to heal the hurts and find the family He has for you. If you do have a church family, is it working together as one the way God intended? Are you doing your part to help it function in love? Ask God to show you how to be the spiritual family member He designed you to be.

Main Character Monday #3

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

 

Today’s Guest is Dinah Devereaux from A Most Precious Gift by Jacqueline F. Wheelock. Thank you for joining me.

A life verse is a scripture that has spoken to you deeply, impacted the way you live your life, or become like a theme verse for your life. What would you say is your life verse?

The verse that shores up my confidence in who I am is taken from Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” When life’s circumstances try to reduce me to feeling “less than,” this verse reminds me of the heart of God for all his children, and that includes me.

What person from scripture do you most relate to?

I definitely connect to Esther who had her own reservations about meeting a crucial life challenge, but ultimately she pressed forward with what she knew was the right thing to do. It must have been beyond frightening for the young Jewish queen, on behalf of her people, to confront the king uninvited. To me, her philosophy of “If I perish, I perish,” is one of the great quotations of the Old Testament. Like the Hebrew boys who were thrown into the furnace, Esther’s trust in God to do what was best was mightily rewarded.

The New Testament says that all the law and prophets can be summed up in two commands: love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Which of these two commands do you feel you have the most trouble following?

Loving my “neighbor” has not always been easy for me, but I believe this command demonstrates loving God with “all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”

Solomon asked God for wisdom. If God gave you the same opportunity, what would you ask Him for?

I believe fear is one of Satan’s strongest and most effective weapons against believers, so I would ask for total trust which I feel results in total peace.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Nothing in life comes close to the importance of a well-maintained relationship with God—not even marrying the hero in a romance novel and living “happily ever after.”

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Definitely milk chocolate.

Autumn or Spring? Autumn is my first choice. That burst of cool days and warm colors is always exhilarating.

Coffee or Hot Cocoa? Coffee wins.

If you could describe Jacqueline F. Wheelock in three words, what would those words be? Idealistic, self-effacing, determined

I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Main Character Monday.  A Most Precious Gift is available as an e-book or paperback on Amazon. It’s sequel, In Pursuit of an Emerald, is also available on Amazon.

Out of the Ordinary

Have you ever watched God work out the impossible in your life? I’m not talking about death defying miracles, though those count. I’m talking everyday situations God moves in to leave His mark on the events.

Recently, someone stole my checking account information. It’s horrible to realize someone stole your private information. It’s worse when they overdraw your account leaving returned check fees to pile up. But it’s awesome to know, God intervened.

It was the day after a holiday at work. Because I wasn’t feeling well and we weren’t busy, I was allowed to leave at noon.  On my way home, I stopped for orange juice to get some extra vitamin C. My debit card was declined. Confused, I checked my account. It was overdrawn, and returned checks were just waiting for two o’clock to earn hefty overdraft fees. I called my mom to see if I could borrow enough from her to cover the checks. I raced to her house, raced back to the bank, and deposited the money just in time. While I waited for the deposit slip, I checked my account details. Scrolling through charges, I saw a company my family has never used. I pulled to the front of the bank and went inside to speak with someone about the fraudulent charge. I spent the next several hours on the phone with half a dozen different people reporting the fraud and getting our accounts straightened out.

The reason I share this is because God intervened. When someone needed sent home, I didn’t have to be chosen. But I was. If I hadn’t had respiratory issues, I wouldn’t have stopped for juice. If my card hadn’t been declined, I wouldn’t have known about the overdrafts. Without my mom loaning me the money, I wouldn’t have been able to avoid extra charges. Without time as I waited for the deposit, I wouldn’t have immediately found the fraud and been able to go sinto the bank to fix it. And all of this happened at just the right time to allow me to fix it without missing work or having to put it off longer leaving my account vulnerable to further theft.

God worked every detail out in the best possible way. I’m thankful for that, and I give Him the credit for it.

In terms of the bigger picture, that is one of the small things He has done. There have been so many others in my life from smaller daily occurrences to more drastic life-changing times.

Sometimes, it’s all God. Other times it is God working through His people, but it’s still God. However, we shrug it off, attributing it to luck or karma. God intervenes, and then, life goes on like nothing has happened. Why?

Becky Hollister experiences something like this in Under This Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer, though her realization comes after devastation that threatens to keep her from seeing God’s intervention. After losing her family, Becky’s world is changed. Her carefree life on the prairie is interrupted with uncertainty and fear. At one point, she approaches the town, and her feelings are summed up beautifully. “At last, Miller Creek appeared in the distance, serene and peaceful, as though nothing out of the ordinary had taken place.”

Becky’s experience left her changed. It left her life changed. Yet, everything around her went on as usual. The discrepancy was difficult to process, as it should be in those situations. She faced something horrible, and her faith in God was tested.

Should things like that go unnoticed? Whether it’s devastation like she faced or seeing God at work like I did, shouldn’t it make a difference in the world around us?

Too often, we’re guilty of being the town. We experience God moving in our lives working things out, but we go on living  “as though nothing out of the ordinary” has happened. Throughout scripture God’s people celebrated and remembered God’s hand at work in their lives. They set up twelve stones after crossing the river as a testimony to what God had done. They celebrated the Passover each year to remember their deliverance. David wrote Psalms of praise honoring God for His interventions. Time and again, the people remembered and celebrated God’s work in their lives.

What happened when they failed to remember? Abraham and Jacob took matters into their own hands and wreaked havoc in their families. The ones God delivered from Egypt lost their chance to enter the Promised Land. The nation of Israel was taken captive by other nations again and again.  They forgot the God they were supposed to be serving.

It happens to us too. When God touches our lives and we don’t take the time to praise or remember, we begin to forget Him. We begin to think we accomplish it all on our own. We don’t think we need Him as much, and our witness suffers. In Matthew, Jesus says to let our light shine so others see our good works and glorify God. In John, every time the people saw a sign, it says they believed because of it. All throughout the New Testament, we are called to glorify and praise God because of what He has done and is doing in us. The reason is two-fold.

Remembering strengthens our faith. It helps us see Him when the devastating things happen. It also shows God to those around us. It’s time we start letting others know when “out of the ordinary” things, when God things happen in our lives.

By the Book: Consider all God has done for you, even in the messes. Praise Him and share that praise below in the comments. What He has done for you may be an encouragement for someone else today.

Main Character Monday #2

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

Today’s Guest is Mary Wade Kimball from Rescued Hearts by Hope Toler Dougherty. Thank you for joining me.

A life verse is a scripture that has spoken to you deeply, impacted the way you live your life, or become like a theme verse for your life. What would you say is your life verse?

Jeremiah 29:11 “’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.’” Unfortunately, I had to learn this verse the hard way. I was always a people pleaser, especially my parents. They’re wonderful people, believers, too, but they had a different plan for me than God did. I felt a lot of guilt striking out on a plan different from theirs after college, but Brett and his grandmother helped me see more clearly.

What person from scripture do you most relate to?

Lydia from Acts 14 is one of those minor characters who can teach big lessons. She’s a business woman, “a dealer in purple cloth,” who worships God, who listens, believes, and responds. After she and her household were baptized, she invited Paul to stay in her home. She’s a business woman who loves the Lord and offers hospitality to His workers. I love her!

The New Testament says that all the law and prophets can be summed up in two commands: love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Which of these two commands do you feel you have the most trouble following?

Wow. That’s a hard question.  I think it’s loving Him with all my mind. I always have a full plate with trying to keep my business afloat, keeping my customers happy, coming up with new designs, doing my volunteer work. I hate saying, “no,” to people who ask for help. Sometimes my focus is on fifty other things instead of Him. Some days are a struggle to begin with Him instead of jumping onto my to-do list.

Solomon asked God for wisdom. If God gave you the same opportunity, what would you ask Him for?

I’m always praying for wisdom and discernment, discernment to distinguish His voice from my desires and attitudes.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Besides reading about me in Rescued Hearts, you mean? Sorry. Seriously, God’s plans are the best. His will is the best place to be—even if being there feels really hard. Pray for discernment for His will and then for courage to live it out.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Dark, dark, dark!

Autumn or Spring?  Autumn so that I can snuggle up by the fire!

Coffee or Hot Cocoa? Strong, sweet coffee!

If you could describe Hope Toler Dougherty in three words, what would those words be?

Family-oriented, Calm, Non-housekeeper

Get to know Mary Wade even better. Read Rescued Hearts, available on Amazon.