Category Archives: Ramblings

“Various random thoughts ”


Sunset Sail with Guest Blogger, Barbara Parentini

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It’s Guest Blogger Day! Please join me in welcoming my dear friend, Barbara Parentini, as she takes us on a whimsical sail through the ups and downs of writing.

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Hands for Soldiers and New DVD!

janeyturner3Since this is July 4th week, it's only fitting that we talk about our military. But instead of talking generalities, I want to tell you about my young friend, Janey Turner and her Hands for Soldiers ministry. Janey does more than talk.

Janey has always had a heart for helping others, so when the eight-year-old wanted to send care packages to soldiers in foreign lands, her parents weren't surprised. She stood in the middle of her kitchen, holding a list of names. "I can only pick one soldier? But what about the rest of them?"

Her mother studied the list of seven military men and women serving in Iraq. "McKissick Elementary isn't the only school sending care packages. You just pick the soldier you want. Someone else will take care of the others."

"But what if somebody gets left out? They'll think no one in America cares about them." "Sweetheart, you know you can't send a package to everyone."

Janey hugged the list. "I know. But I can try."

And she did. She started by using her allowance to send packages to all seven soldiers sponsored by her school. Then she canvassed her neighborhood and asked neighbors and friends for the names of other soldiers who were away from home. Enlisting the help of her grandmother, Janey bought more supplies and sent more packages.janeyturner2

And the names kept coming. Realizing her project was getting too big for her family to handle alone, she came up with a plan. First, she made an appointment with the mayor of Easley, South Carolina, her hometown. After the little girl explained her plan, Mayor Chris Christopherson donated money and promised to help spread the word. Then Janey visited the Easley police department, who gave her 144 pencils to put in the care packages. It was only the beginning. A few months later, with a card table set up in her living room, Hands for Soldiers was a booming ministry.

Using clear plastic gloves, Janey fills each finger of the glove with candy, toothbrushes, toothpaste, pens, mints, ChapStick, and gum. In the center of the glove, she adds a special gift like a baseball, a Bible, or a set of cards. Each goodie-bag has a decorated, hand-made card that says, "Thank you for your service. You deserve a big hand. Love, Janey."

But packages aren't limited to the names on the list. Janey sees that each recipient receives a box containing 25 to 30 care packages. "That way the soldiers can share with others in their groups." She also sends extra candy and gifts for the troops to share with children. "I want the kids to know Americans love them, too," she says.

janeyturner1Janey–now 14 years old–has sent over 17,000 care packages to soldiers around the world. From Iraq to Afghanistan, and Japan to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, our fighting men and women know someone in America appreciates them; someone in America cares.

If Janey could start this program when she was only eight, what can we do? We can help by donating money for supplies and shipping, and donating supplies for the packages. Needed items include:

  • Small Bibles
  • Hard candy, Sweet Tarts, suckers, Tic Tacs, bubble gum and chewing gum
  • Tooth brushes, tooth paste, hairbrushes, small combs, baby powder, nail clippers, breath mints, mouthwash, dental floss, shampoo, razors, deodorant, BAND-Aids, lotion, ChapStick
  • Pens, pencils, notepads, baseballs, playing cards, key chainsamericanflaglarge

Janey is also a recording artist who performs at special events around the country and will be singing at the Greenville Drive professional baseball game in Greenville, SC this weekend, July 11, at 7pm. 

For more information about Hands for Soldiers, a 501(c)(3) charity, check out Janey's website

You can also reach Janey at 503 West Main St., Easley, SC 29640, 864-306-3607, jane-keith@charter.net.

Whether it's a time of peace or a time of war, thousands of men and women are scattered throughout the world, protecting us and our freedoms. They need to know there is a God who loves them, regardless of where they are.

Thank you, Janey.

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Drumroll, please…

My new demo DVD is here! And what fun it was! I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think. And please share it with your women's ministry friends and event planners. I'm booking 2011 events now and would love to be with you. :-)

At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I want to take a moment to brag about the great people at EVM, the producer of both this video and of my Solomon's Beloved video. First of all, they are always so patient with me (and if you know me and technology, that's a LOT of patience!). They worked with me from every angle to come up with just the right material, tone, and length. And they are more affordable than any reputable company I could find out there.

You can check out a portfolio of their video work here (Yes, I realize I'm not there yet, but maybe I'll show up one of these days…hint…hint…hint). 

A couple of my author friends have also had EVM create their websites, and both are very happy with the results. EVM develops websites for writers, insurance agents, dentists, restaurants, and anyone else who needs a professional site for their business. If you have a minute, you might want to take a look at their website portfolio, too. 

After working with EVM for years, I can tell you they have taken good care of me and have always delivered what they promised–and more! I look forward to working with them on several new video projects in the next year. As you can tell, I highly recommend them!

(Don't forget to check out the video. I think you'll like it. :-)

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womenwhorequest Statewide Prayer Retreat for Women

If you live in the Upstate SC area, I'd love to see you at Women Who Request by Prayer, a statewide women's prayer retreat, July 30-31 at Anderson University in Anderson, SC. I'll be speaking on The Prayer of Repentance and will be leading a Prayer Closet Session on Repentant Prayer. Other speakers at the upstate event include Ruth McWhite, Brenda Blankenship, and Tiffany Watkins.

The remaining SC retreats will be in Myrtle Beach October 1-2 and Winnsboro October 29-30.

For more information or to register, please visit the website

Praying women can change the world!

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I Need Your Kudos!

Had a new article published? Signed a contract? Released a new book? Have a new website or a new ministry? We want to celebrate with you!

Next week is kudos week, so contact me WITH THIS INFORMATION:

  • NAME
  • STATE
  • GOOD NEWS
  • LINK TO PUBLICATION, IF AVAILABLE AND APPLICABLE
  • YOUR WEBSITE

Thanks! Can't wait to hear what God's been doing in your lives!

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Blog Tour Contest–Deadline July 15!csslogo

Do you have a 2010 book you want to share with the world? Well, here's your opportunity to get a free Blog Tour! (Remember to read and follow instructions carefully!) 

Be sure to let me know if you enter your book in the contest and we'll announce it on the blog. Maybe we could generate some votes for you!

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And even though I think I referred to this passage recently, it's exactly what we need to meditate on this Fourth of July week:

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Humble…pray…seek…and turn. And then He will hear…forgive…and heal.

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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To Blog or Not To Blog? By Guest Blogger Jean Matthew Hall

jeanhallheadshotWell, today is a fifth Tuesday, which means it's Guest Blogger Day! Jean Matthew Hall is Coordinator of the planning team for the Write2Ignite Conference for Christian Writers of Children's Literature. I've had the joy of teaching and keynoting at Write2Ignite and highly recommend attending if you're interested in writing for children. Jean's credits include essays and poems published in Mature Living, Sasee, The Vision, Bible Advocate, The Christian Communicator; devotions published in Open Windows; and personal experience essays published in anthologies such as The Embrace of a Father, Whispering in God's Ear, Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul, The Ultimate Gardener, and Christmas Miracles.

Please join me in welcoming my friend and fellow writer, Jean Matthew Hall.

To Blog or Not To Blog?   By Guest Blogger Jean Matthew Hall 

To blog or not to blog? That was a big question for me a couple of years ago. I finally made up my mind not to use my time blogging, but God had other ideas. A few weeks after I made that decision God awakened me in the wee hours of the morning and told me clearly, distinctly to start a blog.

"And what am I supposed to blog about, Lord?"

"Your prayers."

"You mean just write my prayers out and post them on a blog? That's going to be awrite2ignitelogo lot of typing, God."

"No, Little One.  Just blog the prayers I tell you to blog–those that will show your readers how to open up their hearts to talk to Me honestly, and to listen to Me willingly."

I'd learned better than to argue with God about such things. So, I got out of bed and planted myself in front of my computer and Blogger's basic tutorial. Thus began our blog My Conversations With God.  It's "our blog" because it belongs to me and God. He does the speaking, the inspiring; I do the typing.

Blogs have several purposes:

  • To grow a following
  • To develop a platform
  • To market products and services
  • To inspire, advise, warn, encourage, inform or educate others
  • To gather feedback

The purpose of My Conversations With God is strictly to inspire people to be transparent with God. I want to show readers that prayer doesn't need to be formal or flowery or formulaic. Prayer needs to be honest and sincere.

My Conversations With God doesn't have a big following-a couple of hundred people. But I hope and pray it has a huge impact. I pray it gives people permission to talk to God openly and sincerely. To tell God the truth about what's happening in their lives. [He already knows all about it anyway.] And I hope it gives readers assurance that God really IS listening to their heart cries.

I must say that our blog has had one unexpected affect on me. It has helped me to write tight. To trim fatty adverbs and adjectives. To avoid redundancy. To write with a narrow focus. To stick to the topic at hand. To write short and to the point, and to write regularly and on schedule.

About a year after starting My Conversations With God, I started a second blog for writers. Here too, I try to keep it focused and encouraging. No whining aloud.  (Well, at least not very often, anyway.) Jean's Encouraging Words for Writers is my opportunity to be transparent about the things I'm learning as a new writer. I hope my readers can see their own growth steps reflected in my posts. I also analyze a variety of books from my perspective as a learning writer.

Both blogs emphasize transparency. I believe it's the best way to learn from each other, to encourage each other, to affirm each other as Christians, as writers, as human beings.

If you're debating with yourself about blogging, take a risk. Give it a try. But remember a few things:

  • Keep a narrow focus. Don't ramble or try to be encyclopedic.
  • Post regularly and often.
  • Keep posts short. 200 – 400 words is great.
  • Give readers opportunities to receive your posts via email or feeds.
  • Give readers take away value-something that will add to their lives.

Who knows how our words, freely offered over the Internet, will impact others?

God does, that's who.

Vonda here: Jean, thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight on blogging. You've certainly given us a lot to think about. I remember my own struggle with whether to blog or not. Yes, it requires a commitment, but what a joy to meet friends from around the world! 

For more information about Jean, check out these links:

My Conversations With God  

Jean's Encouraging Words for Writers 

Jean's website 

Write2Ignite! 

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cecmurpheyminutesinheavenDon't Forget to Mark Your Calendars for the Free Cec Murphey Writer's Seminars!

Saturday, July 17: We're honored that Cec Murphey, author of over 100 books, including the New York Times bestseller, 90 Minutes in Heaven, will present two free writer's workshops in Upstate SC!

10AM-12noon: Christian Supply, Spartanburg, SC (Writer's seminar 10-11, booksigning 11-12)

2PM-4PM: CrossWay Christian Supply, Greenville, SC (Writer's se
minar 2-3, booksigning 3-4)

Contact me to preregister with your name, address, and email and you'll be in a drawing for a free Cec Murphey book at the bookstore!

Cec will also be speaking at my home church, Westside Church, Simpsonville on Sunday, July 18 in both the 10:45AM and the 6:00PM services. Visit the church website for more info.

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And the Winner is…

Liz Welsh! Liz, be sure to email me with your mailing address and your preference of Pat's books, and it will be in the mail to you! Congratulations!

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 As we continue our journey as writers and speakers with the most important message to share, let's remember these words of our Savior, Jesus Christ:

 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing." John 15:5

Go and bear much fruit.

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Food Fight? by Guest Blogger Jill Baughan

jillbaughanheadshotIt's Guest Blogger Day and today's guest is Jill Baughan, an author and speaker who helps people unleash the power of play in their lives. Jill was born in Bluffton, Indiana, where she learned to laugh and throw up at the same time while riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at the annual Bluffton Street Fair!

Jill is no stranger to painful experiences, such as the sudden death of her father when she was ten, and a long battle with infertility as an adult. But even though the challenges of life have changed her, her innate wildness remains unshaken. "Though there are times when part of me mourns what's lost, sighs at what's here and trembles a bit at what's to come," she says, "I still want to hop onto a Harley, swing like Tarzan from a vine, and toilet paper somebody's house." (Jill sounds like my kind of girl!)

Jill's latest book, Born To Be Wild: Rediscover the Freedom of Fun, helps men and women unleash the power of play in their own lives. (I've read her book, and let me tell you, it was like reading my life!)  Her message gives us a new ability to:

  • fit more fun into our days
  • restore adventurous dreams we may have postponed
  • multiply joy by sharing our fun with others
  • use moments of fun to heal in times of grief and loss
  • renew our relationships with God by using fun as an act of worship

Jill says that until she can actually make a living by playing around, she will continue to be an adjunct English instructor at Virginia Commonwealth University.  She also serves on the worship ministry team at Cool Spring Baptist Church.  Jill and her husband, Ben, live in Mechanicsville, Virginia, just outside of Richmond. Be sure to check out Jill's website.

So readers, sit back, grab a Yoo-Hoo and a Blow-Pop and enjoy a few fun-filled minutes with Jill.

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Food Fight? by Jill Baughan

How's your relationship with food these days?

If you're fighting with it, I invite you to make up, play nice, and enjoy what it has to offer: immediate pleasure, yes, but also an approach to life that can add a lot more fun to your days.

I myself understand the battle, though, since my own started the summer of my nineteenth year. That was going to be the summer, I decided, when I would finally lose weight.

Although I could have joined a weight loss group, or any one of a number of other reasonable ways, of course, I wouldn't choose that path. For pity's sake, why be reasonable when you could be radical and stupid? So I counted calories, setting my daily limit at 900. In a couple of months, I had lost twenty pounds. And a significant portion of my mind with it.

Before school started, I was so desperate to be non-deprived, I actually looked with lust at a few stewed prunes my mom was cooking on the stove-and before I knew it, I was frantically retrieving every prune in the house, throwing them in a pot of heated water. Indeed, I thought they were magnificent, which is very sad. Even as I write this, I think about how sick it is to finally bust out of a diet on something like stewed prunes. But before my whole food orgy was over, I had eaten 26 of them.

Yes, that's right. Twenty-six stewed prunes.

Do I need explain why I had to call in "sick" the next day?

Shortly after that, it was thirty-two chocolate chip cookies.

And one time, the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that were in the freezer called my name. I ate 125 of them in five days. That would be about twenty-five a day for five days in a row. Obviously God, in a merciful act of grace, had given me an asbestos stomach.borntobewildbookcover

Maybe you've found yourself in a similar place-stuck in a deprivation mindset that wouldn't let you go, bouncing between eating too much "Whatever" with a big scoop of guilt on top, and stoically sticking to a "plan" where you wake up every morning and your first cranky thought is, "What can't I eat today?"

I mean, really, shouldn't we be having a little more fun with our food?

Geneen Roth, a teacher, speaker and writer on emotional eating, says "Yes!" when she admits that, "I can't remember going without chocolate for more than 24 hours. [Preach on, sister!] Chocolate makes me happy to be alive. [Yes, indeed!] Every day, after lunch, I have one piece of 77 percent bittersweet chocolate. One piece, that's all. One piece fills the mouth, saturates the taste buds, evokes heaven on earth."

And couldn't we all use a little of that?

Then she suggests a new way to eat (read: have fun with!) foods you love: "Consider taking one piece. One bite. One chunk. Most of the time we are so busy wanting the next thing, the piece that we don't have, that we don't allow ourselves to enjoy the one that's in our mouth. When we are busy focusing on what we don't have, we don't pay attention to what we do have."

Good advice for eating. Good advice, also, for life.

What has God put in front of you, right now, to fill your spirit, saturate your senses and evoke heaven on earth?

Is it a special relationship with a friend or loved one? If so, take a moment today to phone, email or (wow, who does this?) speak a little affirmation into their busyness…or loneliness.

Is it two legs that can take you from Point A to Point B? Then take a walk outside-even a short one-and enjoy the fresh air and freedom.

Is it something goofy that makes you laugh? The smell of soap in your shower? The softness of your dog's fur? A song that lifts you out of the dumps?  A teeny tiny sign of Spring in your yard? Or, yes, even a piece of chocolate that has somehow suddenly, miraculously, appeared within reach of your hand?

Then go on. Enjoy-not only your food…but also the one bite, the one chunk of life that God is offering you today.

Vonda here: Thank you for your fun piece, Jill. I think I'll go grab a Hershey's Kiss and…fill my spirit, saturate my senses and evoke heaven on earth.

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Another Conference to Add to the List–This One on the West Coast

I just learned of another writer's conference coming up soon. The Orange County Christian Writers Conference will be held May 1 in Irvine, CA. There are two contests (one for publication), but you'll have to hurry, the deadline is this Thursday, April 1.

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The Introductory Price for the Writing for Kids Package Will End This Weekend!

If you've been putting off ordering the special writing-for-kids package, now is the time. The introductory price will expire April 3, but this week you can get TWO downloadable classes and handouts–Teaching Biblical Truth through Secular Fiction and Write a Novel Children Will Love–for only $22.43, a savings of $7.47!

And be sure to check out the other classes, How to Have Magazine Editors Calling YOU! and Opportunities for Christian Writers. You can learn to write in the comfort of your own home!

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godstruthrevealedcoverAnd the winners are…

…Marsha Fisher and Cindy Jones! That's right, Kathy Howard has graciously decided to award two books! Since Marsha was the first name drawn, she'll get her choice and Cindy will get the other one. So girls, just send me your mailing addresses (and Marsha, be sure to let me know which book you want) and they'll be on their way.

Thank you again, Kathy, for telling us about your journey and your much needed books, and for donating two books to our readers. It has been a joy to get to know you. I pray God's blessing on all your upcoming projects!

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And this week, as we reflect on the message of the cross, let's remember the words of John, spoken of the One Who left the glory of heaven and came to live among us, a sinless Man who died and arose…all in the name of love:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

(Cross photo courtesy of ChristianPhotos.net)

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Looking Out for Number One

guitarandmanmediumchristianphotosIn today's world, it's all about me . . . and it's all about you. It's all about what we want and what we need and what we'll do to get it. While game shows demonstrate how to wheel and deal our way to financial freedom, reality TV delivers a one-two punch of alliances and backstabbing. It's done in the name of entertainment, but if we're honest, we all secretly dream of being the top dog. Numero uno. The big cheese.   

Well, I hate to brag, but, well, I've been number one, and . . .let me tell you . . . it feels good! When I was ten years old, I won first place in the 4-H Talent Show for my rendition of the song, "Side-by-Side." My partner, an upside-down broom with a construction paper face, shared the spotlight. We won ten dollars together. It was a heady experience, and I was hooked.

But my number one status was soon forgotten and I had to find a way to recapture my position. Although I absolutely hated country music, I understood the need to sacrifice for my art. (Sounds so much better than compromising for my goal!) So I borrowed a guitar, took some lessons, and learned a few chords. Before long, I was a regular on the Ben Leonard Show every Saturday morning at 7am (Yes, there really is a 7AM on Saturday morning!). Decked out in a brown cowgirl hat and matching vest, I strummed the borrowed guitar and sang about broken hearts and hound dogs.

It was the peak of my musical career. Within months, the world's infatuation with a miniature Loretta Lynn wannabe was over (well, at least the infatuation of all eleven viewers who were awake at 7am on Saturday morning–including the five members of my own family). There I was, a musical has-been at the tender age of twelve.

But the point is, even as a pre-teen, I was willing to do almost anything to be Number One in my little corner of the world. It didn't matter that I didn't like country music. The important thing was, I liked the position. I liked the praise.

I wasn't alone.

Since the beginning of time, mankind has been fighting for position and praise. Yes, we all hope to be the big shot at some point in our lives. And it begins long before we're adults. Just spend a few minutes in the church nursery and you'll see the evidence of our collective self-centeredness. Without any training whatsoever, toddlers know how to build alliances and backstab their way to what they want–and they'll fight and bite to get it. As kids, we push and shove and try to garner the number one slot.

Then finally, we grow up . . . and common sense tells us if we don't look out for ourselves, who will?

That's the opposite of what Jesus says.

Satan delights in this all-consuming sense of self-because he led the way.

Our first introduction to this devil of deception is in the garden. And the scary part applepickermediumchristianphotosis, before he ever met Eve, he knew her. He already knew what it would take to deceive her. He knew he didn't need to orchestrate an elaborate presentation, he simply had to introduce confusion through doubt.

He smiles at his little ingénue. "Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'"

It didn't take long for Eve to dance around the truth and come up with her own variation of reality. But the bottom line is, Satan formulated a lie and introduced doubt into the picture. And then he took the next step, he accessed her innate sense of self-promotion: "You will not surely die . . . you will be like God . . . ."

Yes, the Father of Lies came up with the Mother of All Lies: "You can be right up there with God. You can be Number One."

Writer-friends, listen–just like Satan knew Eve, he knows us! He knows us and he's selling us a lie. One that says our worth is in direct proportion to our position!

And Satan's lie feeds our self-centered focus.

But Jesus tells us the truth. And His truth says we become "more" only when we become "less." In Mark 10, beginning with verse 32, Jesus is walking with His disciples on the way to Jerusalem for the Triumphant Entry. He has just told them–yet again–that He will soon die. But this time He tells them more. He tells them that He'll not only die, but He'll be mocked, spat upon, and flogged prior to His painful, humiliating death. Oh, I can't imagine how hard it must have been for our Lord to share the heartrending details of His upcoming death!

But even though the disciples had heard the message before, they still didn't get it. In Mark 10:35 James and John respond to Jesus' painful report by asking (and I paraphrase), "Yeah, okay, well, listen, Jesus, we've got something we want to ask You." 

How sad. There was Jesus, pouring His heart out to those who were supposed to love Him, who were supposed to be devoted to Him . . . and they didn't seem to care. But Jesus doesn't reprimand them. Instead, He simply asks, "What do you want me to do for you?"

James and John continue their self-centered request. "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." In other words, "Can we be the big cheese with you? Can we be the top dogs, too?"

Oh, how their words must have hurt Him! He was preparing them for the worst, and all they wanted was the best. The best for themselves. 

I can just imagine the disappointment in His eyes as He releases a sorrowful sigh. His shoulders droop and His head slowly shakes back and forth. "You don't know what you are asking."

Then, as the other disciples gather around, He says this (and again, I paraphrase): "If you really want to be number one, you have to become nothing. If you really want to be first, you have to be a servant. Just like Me. I didn't come to be number one, I came to die . . . for you."

Oh, friends, that brings tears to my eyes! He is God in the Flesh! He is our Mighty Warrior, our Prince of Peace, and the Savior of the world!

Why are we fighting for position and praise? Why are we trying to be number one when the only Number One of all time became Nothing . . . for us?

crossandmanAs followers of Christ, we must take on the mind of Christ. And in order to have the mind of Christ, we must become servants. We must take off the royal robes and put on the slaves' rags.

People need to see Jesus in action, and if we're willing to serve, they'll
be able to see Him . . . in us.

What can we do in our writing lives to be the hands and feet . . . . in order to share the heart and mind of Christ?

(Photos courtesy of ChristianPhotos.net)

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Speaking of Hearts…

My new friend, David Hollar, sent me this link to a powerful video, The Parable of the Heart. I sat at my computer and cried. Do we have the heart of Jesus? Do we really?

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Call for Kudos!

Hey, writers–it's that time again. Time to celebrate God's blessings in your writing and speaking life. So if you've had a recent publication, received a new contract, gotten a new website, or any other writing or speaking achievements, please email me and I'll share the good news next week!

IMPORTANT: Please include your name, your state, your good news, and any links to the publication and/or your website. Thanks!

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And the Winner of Deb Dunn's Book, Stupid About Men Is…

Lynn N! Congratulations! Now Lynn, just email me with your mailing address and the book will be on its way to you!

IMPORTANT FOLLOW-UP: Deb has taken to the time to address some of your comments and questions about romance at her website. Here you can read her excellent advice on how to deal with some of the difficult issues of life.

Thanks again, Deb!

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And now, as we continue our journey as writers of Truth, let's consider this: Are we seeking to glorify Him, or ourselves? If we're honest, we have to admit it's a constant battle, isn't it? Oh, that we'll be focused on seeking to serve Him! We can do that by following these simple words, said by John the Baptist:

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30

Let's work hard…to become less.

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Encouragement from Guest Blogger Linda Greer

lindagreerheadshotCan you believe this is the last blog entry of 2009? I don't know about you, but for me, this year has flown by!

In addition to being the last blog post, this is a fifth Tuesday, meaning it's Guest Blogger Day, too. Please join me in welcoming Christian Writer's Den reader, Linda Greer, as she shares her thoughts with you. And be sure to check out Linda's blog, Spiritual Heartbeats.

Dear Fellow Writers and Bloggers,  

Vonda has allowed me to be your guest blogger this month, so let me introduce myself. My fave authors are Oswald Chambers, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Max Lucado, and A.W. Tozer. I'm a published short story authoress and an aspiring novelist of a romantic fiction. It seems this novel genre is selling well these days. My project has been in the process of evolution for about three years now, but the plot is just now starting to be fleshed out. Three years, you say? Well, Rome wasn't built in a day either.

If writing has taught me anything, it's this: you must develop patience and perseverance to wait upon the Lord's timing. The more I write and learn about writing, the less qualified I feel as a writer. After coming from the education field of math and science, I know repetition of problem solving makes for better problem solving. And so it is with writing. The more you write, the better you get at the craft. The more excellent works you read, the more excellent your writing becomes.

When I was in first grade, I was surrounded by brothers and aimed my sights at being a tomboy. My second grade teacher had different ideas and sentenced me to read a book every two weeks. It was agony for me then. I would rather be playing kick-the-can in the streets or swinging a baseball bat instead of sitting down to read a stupid book. God had plans for me to learn the English language long before I got to know Him and decades before He nudged me to start writing for Him these past three years. My closest blood relations give me poor reviews, of course, but I remind myself even Jesus was rejected in his own home town.

In January of this year, I branded my writing with a blog entitled Spiritual Heartbeats and have posted at least monthly whatever has been on my heart at the time. Prompted by God's spirit, I find it fulfilling to share myself candidly with readers and writers. We're on a short journey here on earth, and when you've passed the half-century mark like me, you realize eternity is not that far away. If I'm to help those Soldiers of the Cross who march behind me, the time is now.

Instead of playing baseball, I'm now playing "catch-up ball". There are a myriad of stories I want to write and encouragement I want to give to fellow believers. I've got plenty of tough life lessons to draw on for material–so many stories to tell, so little time. Shouldn't I make a T-shirt out of such a catchy phrase? Perhaps it's too banal.

All kidding aside, I challenge you, as Christian writers, to be uncommonly good at what you do and to "do it as unto the Lord." Remember Paul's progression in Romans Chapter 5:
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
    And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Rom. 5:3–5, NIV)

Blessings and Agape,
Dr. Linda B. Greer
Upstate SC

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And the Winner of Kathleen Y'Barbo's Book is…

Colleen! Just contact me with your mailing address and your book will be on its way!

And don't forget, Kathleen has more than 30 books, so you'll want to check out all her books at her website.

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Have You Ever Wanted to Write for Kids? Here's a Your Chance to Win a New Downloadable Class!

Writing for children is not easier than writing for adults! Children are discriminating readers who expect quality. Write a Novel Children Will Love will show you how to use plot, characterization, and dialog to drive young readers to your books. Mp3 file and Handout included. (Be sure to click back to the website from PayPal in order to receive your download instructions.) 

And, as with each new class, the first person to order a download will immediately get a refund! Ann Wayne and Kimberly Jackson have been the winners of the first two classes. You could be next!

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Do You Live in Upstate SC?

My first event of the year will be January 7 at Riverside Baptist Church in Greer, SC. I'd love to see you there! For more information or to make reservations, contact Frances Stone at fdardenstone@yahoo.com or call the church at 864-879-4400. It's going to be a fun night as we laugh together. Oh, and Solomon's Beloved will be there, too. :-)

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clockfreeimagesAs 2009 comes to an end, I look back on the year with mixed emotions. It's been a hard year for me, as I know it has been for some of you.

But at the same time, it's been a year of many blessings. You, dear readers, are a huge part of that blessing. Thank you. Thank you for your encouragement by joining me week after week here at the Christian Writer's Den. I pray you've found something of worth here, something that will help you on your writing journey. Writing is hard. Praise God, we don't have to do it alone.   

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

(Clock photo courtesy of FreeImages.co.uk)

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This Isn’t What I Signed Up For!

babyfeetchristianphotosGary and I married young, right after my high school graduation. It was during the days of Viet Nam and Gary was in the Air Force. A year and a half later, we were anticipating the birth of our first baby. As a mature nineteen-year-old who had helped raise three younger siblings, I had a keen sense of maternal instinct. And that maternal instinct told me natural childbirth was the way to go.

Now, let me say right here and now, I know natural childbirth can work. As a matter of fact, I delivered our second baby naturally with the help of Lamaze breathing and relaxation techniques. But with this first pregnancy, I'd never heard of Dr. Lamaze. I didn't practice breathing-I mean, what was there to practice? I'd been breathing all my life without anybody's help, thank you very much! So, after minimal consideration and absolutely no preparation, I announced to Gary and the world that I was going to have a natural childbirth.

I didn't know what I had signed up for.          

I'm sure there must have been books on labor and delivery way back then, but I didn't need them. My mother taught me everything I needed to know. "Now, Vonda, it's not like it is in the movies. In the movies, the woman is walking across the room when she suddenly grabs her stomach, bends over, and yells, ‘Ohhh!' Then she immediately leaves for the hospital and has the baby within an hour. But that's not how it happens. In real life, you'll feel a little twinge and wonder if it might be something. A little while later you'll feel another little twinge. At some point, they'll come closer together and you'll know it's time to let somebody know. But there's no rush. It'll be hours or days before anything really happens. I was in labor three days with you."       

My day came. I was walking across the room when I grabbed my stomach, bent over, and yelled, "Ohhh!"           

But the twinges never stopped. One pain would end, only to have another immediately follow. All I could think was, "If these are the twinges my mother talked about, and I have three days of them, I'm going to die!" My obituary would read that my first child was born motherless because I wasn't woman enough to take the twinges.

We immediately left for the hospital. It took about fifteen minutes to get there and amazingly, I was still alive when we arrived. By the time we pulled up to the emergency room entrance, natural childbirth was no longer an option. I didn't give a rip about the benefits. Instead, I was screaming. "Drugs! Give me drugs!"           

So much for maternal instinct.         

Within an hour, we had our beautiful eight-pound baby girl, Christina. And I was still alive! (I also found out I wasn't a wimp after all. My first indication that I was in labor weren't really twinges after all, they were the "get-yourself-to-the-hospital-because-this-baby's-a-comin'-any-time-now" contractions!)     

Yes, although I knew I wanted to be a mother more than anything in the world, I admit, at that moment of my first "twinge," I seriously considered reneging on my contract. After all, it wasn't what I had signed up for.           

There are times in our lives when things don't turn out as we expect. Sometimessunrisepastorscott the results are more than we could ever hope for, but other times they're less than we envisioned.          

That's when we wonder what happened. That's when we wonder if we signed up for the wrong thing.

I have the joy of hearing from brothers and sisters every week. And although their situations vary, their message is often the same. They're hurting. They love the Lord, are sold out to His purpose for their lives, but they're still suffering. This isn't the life they signed up for. The truth is that circumstances, the sins of others, and the evils of this world have seemingly taken over and are giving them a life other than the one they envisioned.

And it's not their fault.

It wasn't Paul's fault that he was beaten, thrown over the wall, and left for dead. It wasn't Stephen's fault that he was stoned to death. It wasn't Jochebed's fault that she had to give up her precious baby and place him in a dangerous river. It wasn't their fault!

And yet, because sin entered this world through the door of the deceiver, they all suffered.

And we will, too.

We'll have hard choices to make, experience undeserved trials, and watch our loved ones suffer because of the sin of others.

If you're struggling with the consequences of the sin of this world, I'm praying for you. For strength, wisdom, discernment, comfort, and the peace that can only come through the power of the Holy Spirit. And I pray you find that peace in these words of Jesus:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Praise God that we have a future that overcomes the pain of the past . . . because He has a past that overcomes the pain of the future!

(Sunset photo courtesy of my pastor, Scott Mackey. Baby feet photo courtesy of ChristianPhotos.net)

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This Week's Winner is…morningcoffeewithjamesbookcover

Before I announce the winner, let me just say thank you for your amazing response to Renae Brumbaugh's interview! I praise God that He allows this blog and these amazing friends to encourage and teach us all. As a matter of fact, I heard from more than one person who said after reading campclubgirlsbookcover Renae's interview, they have started or will be starting a blog! Wow!

And now, the winner is Megan Vance! Megan, be sure to contact me with your mailing address and the book will be on its way!

And for those of you who didn't win
, don't despair. You can get your own copy of Renae's books, Morning Coffee with James and The Camp Club Girls' Mystery at Discovery Lake. Just click the links and you'll be ready!

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Next Week is Kudos Week!

We want to know what God's doing in your writing and speaking life! If you've had a recent article published, received a contract, signed with an agent, started a new blog or website, or any other step in your writing/speaking journey, please contact me, along with your home state, the details of the good news, and a link, if possible. I'd love to include it in next week's kudos list. We want to celebrate what God's doing!

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And now, as we begin another week together, I hope you find comfort in these words from David, written when he was suffering at the hands of his own son.

You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

May your head be lifted up this week.

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Which Side of the Coin? by Guest Blogger Ray Simmons

raysimmonsphoto2This is the fifth Tuesday of the month–Guest Blogger Day. Please join me in welcoming Ray Simmons. Ray resides in the Atlanta area with his wife, author Cynthia L. Simmons. He holds a BBA in business with an emphasis in accounting from University of GA and works as Chief Financial Officer for SEI/Aarons. At Grace Community Church he serves as both elder and Bible teacher. He writes poetry and studies Hebrew, Greek, and philosophy. He and Cynthia have five children. Together, Ray and Cynthia offer a weekly tea party for friends or acquaintances who have questions in apologetics, philosophy, Scripture, or politics. In February of 2008 Ray was diagnosed with encephalitis. As a result of the infection he has experienced significant brain damage. While he still recovers from the impact of his illness, doctors are amazed at his recovery.

Ray admits his life has changed. But in this letter to the Elders of his church, Ray shares the joy of knowing God has blessed him, even through this trial. We could all learn a lesson from Ray.

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Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

My life has changed.

A small example: I could not go to a newly married friend's party today. He, and later, his fiancé attended our tea party several Tuesday nights. They made themselves well known and cared for by our family and friends. But instead of going to his party, I must rest on Saturdays so I can teach at church on Sundays; rest Sunday afternoon and evening, so I can work the following week.

The blame for this is the 1 in 500,000 chance that a common virus, infecting millions of people in our country, would attack my brain. The attack triggered a fever, which would take a doctor 6 days to diagnose (only after a Grande mal seizure) and treat with the anti-viral drug, acyclovir. If a herpes simplex virus-1 brain-attack victim is not treated with acyclovir within four days of viral fever, their death or severe physical or mental disability is likely.

Though my brain damage, over 4cm by over 3cm in size in the left temporal lobe, with thousands of neurons destroyed, was consistent with the 6 days, the effective damage to my abilities was a miracle. The virus apparently picked the neurons that would have the least possible effect on me; a circumstance that can be called nothing but a miracle.

So, how should a person feel who was the one attacked in a life time when 499,999 people are not, and yet survived better than 99% of those who were also attacked? I can tell you that I felt singled out for attack…and miraculously prevented from nearly all possible injury.

When I look at the first side of the coin, I see an effect that was not caused by any choice that I made, nor any choice of any other human being on the face of the earth. It was a result of Adam's sin and the corruption of the world sin caused in general. I can not blame myself nor anyone I know. The only one left to blame is God who chose to allow it to happen to his servant, Ray. Why would He choose me? I see in myself disappointment and doubt.

I have to turn the coin over to look at the "other" side. When I look at it, I am full of thankfulness and faith. Who could have prevented my death or disability but God in his mercy? Who could have found reason to limit the damage but a God of grace? Who could have placed the damage of the brain at the exact point that would cause the least impact? If the damage had been 1cm to the right, left, up, or down, the impact would have been exponentially worse, from death to total disability. Who could have guided the virus to that exact spot? God Alone, Praise Be His Name!

With which side of that coin within my gaze should I now choose to live my life? By the Love of God, by the Father's Grace, by Christ's Redemption and Forgiveness, by the Holy Spirit's Power and Groaning, I choose the "other" side. If I had been disabled or killed, there still would be an "other" side. But my "other" side is wonderful right now.

So what results are coming out of this pain to me, my family, my friends, and my work?

People at Church say that I am much more passionate and persuasive in my teaching of God's word than I was.

People at Work say that I am more emotional in my interactions with bankers and auditors resulting in more respect and much better negotiating results than before.

At Home my wife sees a Husband who comes home from work exhausted with little left for her. Yet she gives me patience and support that is inexplicable apartraysimmonsphoto1 from God's grace and love in her. She has been the most wonderful wife I could imagine in such a circumstance. My children have seen both sides of the coin and have considered. They too continue to love me with miraculous love.

People at Tea Party see arguments for God's existence and way unchanged, unconditional love for them, and a miraculous ability to stay alert until past 11:00 in the evening.

So is it "good - on balance"? God never promised that it would be "good - on balance" over a year-and-a-half time period. Romans 8:28-30 says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." I know that I, my soul, w
ill be in a glorified, eternal body after the resurrection; that I will be with my family, my church, and my friends that are fellow believers in Christ, also clothed in their resurrection bodies; that I will experience no pain, disappointment, or death; that, above all, I will stand in the holy, glorious presence of the Most High God clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit and fully experience the pleasure of Abba! Father!

For Him,

Ray

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mysonjohncover The winner of Kathi Macias' book is… 

Cherise Bopape! Congratulations, Cherise! Just send me your mailing address and Kathi's book, My Son, John, will be in the mail to you!trainofthoughtmethod

Thank you all for your kind comments and encouraging words for Kathi and me. They brightened our days this week! And if you'd like your own copy of Kathi's new book, My Son, John, or her book on writing, The Train-0f-Thought Writing Method, just click on the links!

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And Here's Winner Number Two!!!

Ann Wayne is the winner of the FREE copy of Opportunities for Christian Writers, the first audio offering in my new Writer's Workshop. When I notified Ann that she'd won the prize, she said she was listening to the download at that very moment…while sewing curtains…as her grandson slept! Now, how's that for taking classes without leaving home??

It's easy to have your own writer's workshop. Simply download the teaching, along with the handout (which includes the resources) and listen at your convenience. Follow the suggestions and you could be on your way to seeing your name in print! 

More classes coming soon!

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Upcoming October events in your area…

  • Southern Christian Women's Conference, October 10, Plymouth, NC. Want to spend the day with southern sisters, laughing and celebrating the Lord? Then you won't want to miss this fun event! I'll be joining Deborah Dunn, author of Stupid About Men, and Julie Morris, author of Guided by Him weight loss program. And don't worry if you weren't born in the south, after all, being a Southerner is really just a state of mind! ;-) But act fast–the deadline is October 5.
  • LifeBridges Conference, October 23-24, Day 3 Church, Granite Falls, NC. I'll be joining Mrs. Rachel Lee Carter, Mrs. North Carolina for a life-changing weekend. Only $20 for the entire event! I'd love to see you there! (When you visit the site, I'm the one WITHOUT the crown…) ;-)

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Music to work, rest, or worship by…soakingnet

If you haven't already, I hope you'll check out Soaking.Net. It is some of the most beautiful, inspiring, peaceful music I've ever heard. I turn it on every time I work at my computer or in my office (For your convenience, I always have a direct link on the right side of my Home Page). Just hearing the first notes of the first song calms my spirit and gets me focused on the task at hand, whether it's work, rest, or worship. You can even open it and leave it running, regardless of what you're doing. I set mine to continually repeat the entire cycle, allowing it to run in the background of my mind and my hearing all day long. Thank you to Andre Lefebvre for allowing me to link my site to his beautiful music. What a blessing!

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Do you get weary? Tired of the demands on your life? Tired of the hardships, the struggles of living and working in a fallen world? I know I sometimes do. But it's at those times that God often sends encouragement and help in the form of a friend. He did that for Paul, too.

When we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.                       2 Corinthians 7:5-6

If you're weary this week, I ask the Father to send a Titus to comfort, encourage, and help you. And if you're not weary, I hope you'll look for an opportunity to be a Titus to someone else. We need each other.

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Writer, Fear Not!

neverfail1annvoskampOkay, go ahead. Admit it. You know it's true, so just go ahead and say it: You like to write. You find joy in writing. You may even feel you've been called to write. The question is, why aren't you? Why aren't you writing?

I'll tell you why. You're afraid. I know…because sometimes I'm afraid, too. The truth is you and I and every other writer in the world experiences fear at times in our writing life. But what could possibly cause us to fear putting pen to paper or, as in most of our cases, fingertips to keyboard?

First of all, we're afraid of failure. I hope you'll go back and read my story of meeting the late Gary Provost at my very first writer's conference. It's a humorous look at failure through the eyes of a fearful wannabe writer. 

Bottom line: We're afraid of rejections. And yet, as any working writer knows, the path to publication is paved with rejections. I know because I've had a few myself. As a matter of fact, I received 63 rejections before ever getting anything published! Sixty-three! I often wonder, What if I had stopped at 63? What if I had never sent the 64th query? Oh, I know it probably wouldn't have made much difference to the reading public, but I promise you, it would have made a huge difference to me. I can't imagine my life without these past 16 years of writing and learning and rejections and likeminded friends. What a joyful struggle it has been!

But we can be so fearful of failure that we fail to even try. And that, my friends, is the definition of true failure.

Believe it or not, the second point is we're afraid of success. Yes, you read right. We're afraid we won't be able to measure up to the expectations. What if we create a knock-‘em-dead proposal and get a contract? Then we'd actually have to write a book! What if we have a book published and then they want another one? What if I can't do it again?

Fear of success is the fear of failing to do it again.

Third, we fear the cost. We fear the cost of time, money, and energy. I was teaching at a writer's conference recently when a woman said, "But I'm 60 years old and haven't written anything. If I start now, it'll take at least a couple of years to write and rewrite a book, probably another year to get an agent, and another couple of years to get it published. By the time the book is published, I'll be 65 years old!"

"So," I said, "how old will you be in five years if you don't write the book?"  

Yes, it costs to learn how to write. It costs money to attend conferences and buy books. It costs time to learn the craft and go through the process of writing, rewriting, and submitting. It costs energy that could be used to do other things.

But it also costs time, money, and energy to go to college, prepare for the future, and find the right mate in life. Good things in life cost something. Jesus makes that clear when He talks about the free gift of eternal life. (Luke 14:25-33)neverfail2annvoskamp

And lastly, we fear transparency. Let's face it, much of our writing comes out of the hurts, the disappointments, the mistakes, and the losses of life. Our pain is often the source of compelling scenes and stories that captivate our readers. But that ability to connect with our readers through pain requires us to be real, to be willing to admit our failures and confusion, to be willing to remove our masks and let our true selves be exposed.

Even after all these years, I'm still afraid. Every time I write of my failures in life, every time I speak of them, this fear hits me again. Will they think less of me? Will they decide I have nothing to offer because of my failures?

And yet, it seems that it's at those times when I'm most vulnerable that God shows Himself most powerful.

When we're fearful, we can find comfort from the words of our Father, written for all eternity in the pages of His book. Here are but a few:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."     2 Corinthians 12:9

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." (Paul speaking) Acts 20:22-24

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

God has a plan for our writing. And whether it's to be a multi-published author or one who simply writes of His love on the pages of a journal, if we truly feel called to write, we must. We must rise above the fear and walk in obedience. And at the end of our lives, we-like Paul-will be able to say,

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.    2 Timothy 4:7

Fear not!

(Today's Never Fail photos are courtesy of Holy Experience, an incredibly beautiful site of words and images created by my new friend, Ann Voskamp. I hope you'll check out her site. I know you'll be blessed by it!) 

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And the winner is…

sharonfawcettbookcover The winner of Sharon Fawcett's book, Hope for Wholeness: The Spiritual Path to Freedom from Depression is…Glenda!! Congratulations! Glenda, contact me with your snail mail address and your book will be on the way!

And thank you to all who wrote such heartfelt words about struggles with depression, whether your own or someone else's. I hope you won't let this opportunity pass you by. Get your copy today.

And thank you, Sharon, for your transparency in writing this book. Your honesty has already allowed lives to be changed.

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Call for Kudos!

It's that time again! Let us celebrate God's blessings on your writing and speaking. If you've had an article, devotional, script, or anything else published (or gotten the word that it'll be coming out), received a book contract, had a book come out, signed with an agent, gotten a new website, started a ministry, or any other peice of good news, I ne
ed to hear from you this week!

Please include your state and any links to books, articles, your website. We want to celebrate together!

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And now, as we meditate on the call and the fear and the need for transparency, let's remember the testimony of the woman at the well. She didn't have a doctorate degree in theology. She'd never studied the subject of apologetics. But after meeting Jesus, she couldn't keep quiet.

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" They came out of the town and made their way toward him…Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." John 4:28-30, 39

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,
Vonda

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Coke, Sweet Tea, and Grace: Ingredients of a Novel

computer_smallI took one last look in the mirror, then touched up my lipstick, primped my hair, and brushed my teeth…again. Everything had to be perfect! After all, I was having dinner with an editor from a major CBA house and a well-known author, also with a major publisher. I whispered a prayer for direction and discernment. I should have prayed for bigger hands.

At the restaurant, we were quickly seated at our tiny table, Major CBA House Editor on my right and Successful Well-Known Author with Another Major House on my left. Within seconds, the cute, perky waitress took our drink orders. I really wanted a good ol' Southern sweet tea, but since I was in PA, I knew better than to ask. (Just for the record, unsweetened tea and packets of sugar do not sweet tea make!) So I ordered Coke. Better to be safe than sorry.  Uh…yeah…right.

The waitress returned with our salads and drinks and placed the giant glass of Coke on my right, between Major CBA House Editor and me. The drink needed to be on my left. So I reached across my salad to grab it with my left hand. Have you ever heard people talk about how horrendous catastrophes play out in slow motion as they're happening before their very eyes? Well, I can tell you for a fact, it's true.

I watched in horror as my dreams of publishing with Major CBA House pirouetted to a funeral dirge across the table and fell, along with the oversized glass of Coke, right smack onto the blouse, into the lap, and then onto the tapestry purse of Major CBA House Editor. Now, we're not talking about a glass turning over and dripping its contents onto someone's pants. Nope. We're talking about a supersized glass the size of a watermelon, filled with syrupy sweet, almost-black Coke falling headlong onto said editor's entire body. I wanted to crawl under the table. I actually tried, but the floor was full of feet…and waiters with mops…and waitresses with napkins…and a soaking wet purse carrying the expensive electronic devices of Major CBA House Editor.

For this I brushed my teeth…twice.

I looked up from the floor, my small hands sticky with the evidence of my fall from grace, and forced an embarrassed laugh. "Well, there goes any chance of ever submitting a manuscript to you." I hated the whine in my voice.

Gentle Editor rose from her cola bath, gazed down at me sitting in all my soda splendor, and smiled. "Oh, you can submit it…as long as this scene is in it." She stepped over me and my mess and sloshed to the restroom.

Kind Successful Well-Known Author with Another Major House, still safely stationed to my left, leaned over the edge of the table and peered into my soppy space. "Uh…that went well."

It did! It really did! After all, Major CBA House Editor not only said she would look at my manuscript, she wanted to be IN IT! Now, I would never recommend this technique for approaching editors. Others may not all be as nice as this kind, gracious lady. And also, please note that she didn't say she'd BUY it, she just said she'd LOOK at it. Believe me, there's a huge difference.

But what she didn't know was that at that moment she answered an important question in my story arc. Even though the novel will be loosely based on my experience of caring for my terminally-ill sister, I had been struggling with whether or not to make the protagonist a writer and speaker. After all, I didn't want it to be too close to the truth and possibly stifle the creative process. But this scene is just too good to waste! Now I know the main character will have to be a writer and speaker. Cool!

So, what scenes from your life–or the lives of those around you–can you include in your book? If you've ever heard me teach on writing fiction you know that I use a lot of real life in my books. That doesn't mean the story is about me. The storyline itself may not have anything to do with our life experiences, but that doesn't mean we can't pull hilarious, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, frightening scenes from real life and plop them into the fabric of our books. We simply let those scenes happen to our characters instead of to us. And the good thing is, not only do we have instant access to the conflict, but we also have the emotional reaction that went with it. After all, we experienced first hand the joy, the heartache, the fear, the humor, the embarrassment. We know what it felt like!

Here are a few of the scenes that were taken from the pages of my life straight to the pages of my books:bitsy_hilton_head_cover_100px

  • My daddy really did develop TanTone Suntan Lotion; he really did mix it up in baby bottles; and we really did go to Tybee Island, GA to test it by putting TanTone on our right side and Coppertone on our left.
  • The cabin we stayed in on Tybee Island really had been the Officer's Latrine at Fort Screven.
  • The bully getting his head caught in the porch rail on Amelia Island and Bitsy getting him out by smearing mayonnaise and butter all over his head, face, ear, neck, back, and shoulders? Yep. Happened to my brother. And that's exactly how I got him out.
  • The dishwashing scene where Bitsy and her friends take the clean dishes the bully had just washed and dirty them again so they'd have to be rewashed…over…and over…and over. My cousins and I did that to my Aunt June.
  • Bitsy's dad videotaping the baseball game for team review…and holding the camera backwards, creating scene after scene of his ear? My dad filmed an entire cross-country trip, including the Grand Canyon, with nothing to show for it but his ear.

There are many more, but that will give you an idea of how these scenes from realsttlcover100px life can be used. Of course, Seeing Through the Lies, my women's non-fiction, includes many stories openly taken from real life. After all, people relate to our stories first, then they're open to hearing the truth they need.

So what are you waiting for? Start now making your scene list. I still have my original folder of scenes I started way back in 1993 when I first decided I was going to write a book. Long before I ever sat down to create the story, I reviewed my life and wrote down every scene I could remember. And what a joy it is to pull from it today!

Over the next few months I'm going to be planning my first adult novel. And I can promise you, at some point in the story, the protagonist will have dinner with a major editor, and, well…you know what'll happen next.

And yeah, it'll go well.

(Computer photo courtesy of http://www.freeimages.co.uk)

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Opportunities Postponed Due to Internet Failure

I'm so sorry, but as I'm writing this tonight, my Internet is down. That means I'm unable to make the links for the opportunities I usually list the third week of the month. But I promise you, they'll be included next week. ;-)

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A Last-Minute Addition to the Schedule!

I want to let you know of an opportunity coming up soon. I'll be speaking at the Upstate SC American Christian Writers Meeting in Anderson, SC, Saturday, August 29 at 2:30 at the Anderson County Library. I'd love to see you there!

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And now, as we look back over the scenes of our lives, I hope this passage will encourage us all to be ready to share the Good News of what He's already done for us.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.          I Peter 3:15

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,
Vonda

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