Tag Archives: Vonda Skelton

Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opps with a Contest, Conferences & Who Won Rebecca Davis’ Book?

newspapersYep, it’s the 3rd Tuesday, time for some Writing Opportunities selected just for you! (And be sure to read about the cool Writing Opportunities Contest we’re running this week.)


What a special “writing opportunities day” we have today! Here’s the deal: Last year I shared a call-out for a compilation book, Love is Out There: True Stories of Hope for Single Women Over 30by Melissa Williams Pope.

Well, Melissa recently contacted me with the good news that the book is out and one of the ladies who was published in the book says she can’t say for sure, but she might have read the call-out here! Yay, another confirmation that writing opportunities lists can help…as long as you’re willing to do the work!

So we came up with a cool contest. After studying the writing opps below, simply leave a comment sharing which of the listed opportunities you’ll be looking into. Each commenter who notes a specific opportunity will be in the drawing a copy of Love is Out There: True Stories of Hope for Single Women Over 30, donated by Melissa. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Here are some of Melissa’s Insider Tips from the Editor’s Side of the Desk:

- If you’re looking at a Callout and wondering if you should give it a go, the answer is YES.
– Read submission instructions carefully and follow them.
– It’s not always easy, but write bravely, from your heart. Readers are looking to connect and to feel understood. It’s hard for them to do that if you’re hiding.

To find out more about Melissa, visit her website at TheBusyQuill.com. Melissa Williams Pope can’t resist a good love story and seeing dreams come true! Originally from Los Angeles, Melissa holds advanced degrees in pastoral ministry and classical acting, and is a freelance writer, actor, singer and former church staffer. Even though she spent about a decade crisscrossing the globe from Europe to the South Pacific, Mr Right still miraculously found her! She currently gets to enjoy living the newlywed life with him in Auckland, New Zealand.

Now, here’s your new list of opportunities. Which ones interest you?

1.  DaySpring Cards is always looking for quality material. DaySpring Editorial Guidelines here.

2.  Chicken Soup has a long list of needs. Varying deadlines posted for each category. Chicken Soup wants stories!

3.  Just Between Us Christian Women’s Magazine writing guidelines.

4.  Pennsylvania Magazine wants pieces about Pennsylvania. Click on Downloads for guidelines and instructional pieces.

5.  Guideposts Magazine may be interested in your story! Be sure to study the magazine and follow the link to writer’s guidelines.

6.  Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Open for submissions June, 2015, so gets started working on your story now!

7.  The Lookout  – Several of my friends have written for this magazine!

8.  Celebrate Life Pro-life Magazine writing guidelines.

9. How to Write for LIVE, take-home quarterly for adults

10. Today’s Pentecostal Evangel is open to freelancers, but most articles are done by assignment. Be sure to follow instructions to increase your chances for publication.

11. Sew News wants articles and project ideas from you.

12. Creation Illustrated Magazine writer’s guidelines here.

13. Living Better at 50+ is running a Mother-Daughter Story Contest for Mother’s Day. Check out details on the LivingBetterat50 Facebook page. Scroll down to find the details in a post dated April 15.

Okay, so that does it for this month’s writing opportunities. I hope you’ll find something of interest here and then post a comment telling us about it and you could win a free book next week from Melissa Williams Pope!

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Now it’s time to check out upcoming Conferences to help you take the next step in your writing and speaking!

 

Don’t miss out–be sure to attend at least one conference every year!

1.  Orange County Christian Writers ConferenceApril 24-25, 2015, Santa Ana, CA

2.  Writing Success XXIV: April 25, 2015, Stoneboro, PA

3.  Colorado Christian Writers Conference: May 13-16, 2015, Estes Park, CO

4.  WordGirls Writer’s Getaway: May 14-16, 2015, Duncan, SC

5.  Northwest Christian Writers Renewal: May 15-16, 2015, Redmond, WA

6.  Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference: May 17-21, 2015, Ridgecrest, NC (I’ll be there and would love to see you there!)

7.  Write To Publish: June 3-6, 2015, Wheaton, IL

8. West Virginia Writers Conference: June 12-14, 2015, Ripley, WV

9. St. David’s Christian Writers’ Conference: June 24-28, 2015, Grove City, PA

10. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference: June 25-27, 2015, Elizabethtown, KY

11. Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference: July 29-August 1, 2015, Langhorne, PA

12. Atlanta’s Christian Writing Conference: August 20-22, 2015, Marietta, GA

13. Christian Communicators Conference: August 26-30, 2015, Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Asheville, NC. We are currently full, but the waiting list is open. Every year ladies on the waiting list have been able to attend. Maybe this could be your year! 

14. American Christian Fiction Writers Conference: September 17-20, 2015, Dallas, TX

15. Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 9-10, 2015, Grand Rapids, MI

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Rebecca Davis cover BJUP With Daring Faith

 And who won Rebecca Davis’ book?

 

Random.org says the winner is Ruth West! Ruth, simply contact me with your snail mail address and your Rebecca will get your book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win a book, here are direct Amazon links to some of her books:

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Thanks for Tweeting!

@VondaSkelton shares Writing Opportunities-Guidelines-Contests-Conferences #amwriting #getpublished (Click to Tweet) 

 

Don’t forget to leave a comment with a writing opportunity that sounds interesting to you and you could win Melissa Pope’s new book!

Happy writing!

Vonda

 

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Parting Words From The WORD…Are We Haters or Lovers?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

This week, I read another powerful blog post from my friend, Lori Roeleveld. The title grabbed me immediately: I’ve Been Marked as a Hater. I fully expected it would be another report of a Christian conservative friend being labeled a hater by Facebook, simply because of her stand on all things Christian. But that wasn’t the focus of the post.

Instead, it was a report of Lori’s own conversations with young people who are believing satan’s lie that if we stand up for right and truth, we must hate the sinner.

I have one thing to say about that: Jesus stood for truth, but sat with sinners.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Jesus did not tell us to hate. He demonstrated love. Regardless of how we feel about sin, love must be the evidence of the truth…

…Even if the culture can’t grasp the concept and continues to spread a lie of hate.

Lori says, “Could it be our mission to recover love?” To snatch it away from the evil one? I hope you’ll read her post and meditate on her challenges. I can’t get them out of my head…or my heart.

I pray God’s blessings on the work of your hands and your heart.

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give Away with Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis headshotHello, friends. Well, it’s the 2nd Tuesday and that means it’s time to read about another writing success. Today’s guest is my friend, Rebecca Davis. I met her several years ago through her husband, Tim Davis, who is not only a successful writer, but a sought-after illustrator as well. Talk about a talented family!

I’m thrilled to share Rebecca’s writing journey, as well as a new fork in her writing path. Be sure to leave a comment for Rebecca and you’ll be in the running for your choice of one of her missionary books!

Welcome, Rebecca. First of all, please introduce yourself and tell us how you got started in writing.

I’m a wife and mother of four. I wrote my first book, With Daring Faith: A Biography of Amy Carmichael, about 28 years ago. Then I raised and homeschooled my four children. Now that the youngest is finished with homeschooling, I have more time for writing and speaking.Rebecca Davis cover BJUP With Daring Faith

I started writing as soon as I could write—I’ve always loved writing stories. I began writing professionally when the Lord opened the door for me to work for a Christian publisher. That was about thirty years ago.

Tell us about the Hidden Heroes series of true missionary stories that you’re writing.

The series is published by Christian Focus Publications; the first one came out in 2010, and I’ve done an average of one a year since then. The sixth one, based in Iran, is scheduled to come out this fall. As far as I know, this is the only series of its kind in publication. Each book is set in a different location, and for each one I gather true stories from that location. I’m looking for amazing stories that aren’t well known—many of them have been hidden away for decades in old newsletters or magazines or out-of-print books. On my website, I tell the story of how I began writing the first Hidden Heroes book, With Two Hands: Stories of God at Work in Ethiopia.

I remember announcing the release of that book back in 2010, and now look at what God’s done! Where can we find out more about the rest of your books?

withtwohandscoverAt the website, www.hiddenheroesmissionarystories.com, you can see a synopsis of each of my books and read a sample chapter of each one. You can also find reader reviews and teacher helps, and find out more about me and the dramatic storytelling presentations I do in schools and churches.

We also have a Facebook page called Hidden Heroes Missionary Stories where I post up-to-date information about what’s going on with my books, other mission projects I’m working on, and other pertinent information. When I finish a draft of a book, I ask for volunteers to be reader families for me—to read the book out loud to their children and make suggestions as to how to improve it. Reviewers win a free copy of the book they’re reviewing.

You said these are true stories. Are these books straight nonfiction?

No, they fit in the genre of creative nonfiction or narrative nonfiction, the genre that memoirs would fit in, basically factual, but with details put in to help it come alive. I love including conversations and sensory details to help the readers feel as if they’re there in the middle of the scene.

But actually, I want so much to maintain accuracy in my stories that I do my best to find the missionaries I write about and ask them to read their chapters and give me corrections. The book that came out last fall was Hidden Heroes #5, Lights in a Dark Place: True Stories of God at Work in Colombia, and I needed to find six different missionaries that I had written about in that area. I succeeded in finding five of them (the earliest was no longer living). One of them was David Howard, Elisabeth Elliot’s brother, and when he sent me all his corrections, he said that he appreciated my desire to show him what I was writing, because others had written about the work in Colombia and hadn’t always gotten it accurate.FannyCrosby2

So when people say, “But you included conversation!” I can tell them that the missionaries themselves read these stories and agreed that the conversation accurately represents what really happened.

I like that idea. Tell us more about other books you’ve written.

I already mentioned that I wrote the first children’s biography of Amy Carmichael, who was a missionary to India. That one was With Daring Faith, and it won the CS Lewis Award for Outstanding Christian Juvenile Literature. I also have a new series of biographies for the lower elementary grades, called Potter’s Wheel Books: Showing Children the Master Potter at Work. Fanny Crosby: Queen of Gospel Songs is the first book in that series, and Joy Ridderhof: Voice Catcher Around the World is the second. The third should be coming out this year.

You told me in our email conversation that God has recently led you into a different area of writing. Tell us more about that.

Yes, that’s the book Tear Down This Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches (an introduction for those who will hear), published by Ambassador International, and in fact it came out just a few days ago. It’s a very different area of writing, for sure! Here’s the story of how God brought that about:

Riderhoff1God has allowed me to be the friend of several women who confided in me about sexual abuse in their past. Then last year, I went to a writing conference and came away longing to be a ghost writer, helping other people tell their stories. I figured it wasn’t that different from doing the kind of writing I had been doing with the missionary books.

Shortly after that, the Lord brought me in contact with Dale Ingraham, a pastor whose wife was an incest survivor, who had self-published a book about sexual abuse. I saw that his heart about the issue and mine were the same. So among other things, I helped him get the book organized, added voices of many experts in the field, added voices of abuse survivors, and changed the story of his and his wife’s journey into memoir form. I had thought it would be a ghost writing effort, but the publisher wanted my name to be on the cover as well, so it’s considered a collaborative work. Dale is the primary author, and I have “with” billing. You can see more about the book at www.teardownthiswallofsilence.org. This was a labor of love, and I truly loved doing it. We’re praying that it will help open the eyes and ears and hearts of ones who love Jesus to hear and see and embrace the 20-25% of people in our churches who have been sexually abused. We believe that something beautiful will happen when we do.Rebecca Davie HH#5 Lights in a Dark Place cover

Within the next few days I’ll be attending the MK Safety Net Conference in Atlanta, where I’ll have the privilege of meeting several wonderful people who were abused in missionary boarding schools, during some of the same eras I’ve written about in my missionary books. It’s an odd juxtaposition of the stark nature of truth, but I know that God is at work in all of it.

Thank you for an insightful interview, Rebecca. And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Rebecca and you could win a free book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Besides always loving to write, Rebecca has also always loved to teach, and knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. This desire, however, conflicted with the desire to stay home with her children—that is, until she heard about homeschooling. Now, more than a quarter century after obtaining her master’s degree in education, Rebecca has the amazing homeschooling journey. She and her husband, Tim, are eager to see how the Lord will use their four grown children for His Kingdom.

Thanks for Tweeting!

Writing takes varied paths. Interview & Book GiveAway w/@RebeccaJoyDavis #amwriting via @vondaskelton (Click to Tweet!)

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I can’t believe it, but we had no kudos or MoGo7000 reports for this month, so that does it for another Christian Writer’s Den gathering. Be sure to return next week when I’ll have a list of writing opportunities collected just for you!

Happy writing!

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…What Does My Conduct Say?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Several years ago, God convicted me of some things that, to this day, I must continually check my spirit about. I’m not talking about those things that are overtly apparent to the world, but those secret things that others aren’t always aware of. If I’m not walking in the Spirit and listening to His voice, those secret sins can sneak in before I know it.

As a Christian, it’s easy to guard my mouth against foul language…because that’s not something embedded into my spirit. I don’t worry that I’ll rob a bank…because that’s just not something I’m likely to do. I’m not too concerned that I’ll abuse a kid or commit murder or steal my neighbor’s car.

No, the things I have to monitor in life are my thoughts and attitude. Do I hear an amen?

Let’s face it, life isn’t fair, and if I’m not careful, my fleshly woman can stand up and take over, to the point I want everyone to know just how unfair things are.

  • She’s best friends with the judge. No wonder she got that award.
  • Look at them talking. I bet they’re saying bad things about me.
  • Why didn’t I get an invitation to that party?
  • Doesn’t he realize all the stuff I do for him?

Yep, I stand here before you, confessing that, left to my own devices, I can be petty and picky and find the worse in everything. Don’t believe me? Just ask those closest to me, those who have to put up with my insecurities and frailties.

But praise God, there’s hope. Praise God I’m NOT left to my own devices. Praise God , because of the Holy Spirit, I’m NOT facing these conflicts alone.

In Philippians, Paul is talking to the church body about a lot of things, much of it centered around the issues of trials, suffering, and the unfairness of life. In Philippians 1, he says:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27a

  • Overlooked by the judging committee? Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
  • Left out of conversation and suspecting you’re the subject? Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
  • Left out of the party? Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
  • Feeling unappreciated? Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Whatever happens, I pray I’ll conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…because He is the source of my worth.

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

Vonda

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Chip MacGregor: Ask the Agent, Kudos & MoGo7000 Call-Outs & Who Won Cindy Sproles’ Book?

Chip MacGregor headshot2If you’re not following agent Chip MacGregor’s blog, I have three words for you: You need to. Chip is a top-notch literary agent and president of MacGregor Literary. He works with both the Christian and general market and loves sharing his snarky-laced words of wisdom with writers. I’m telling you now, you don’t want to miss his annual Bad Poetry Contest in May–what a fun way to celebrate his birthday!

Today, I’m thrilled to share a recent question submitted to Chip’s Ask the Agent blog series. Great advice for those who are serious about writing. But watch out, you must have your humor hat on or you may not get it.

Thanks, Chip!

Excerpt from Chip MacGregor’s blog series, Ask the Agent: “What 10 editorial mistakes do most novice authors make?”

I suppose if you asked this of ten agents, you’d probably get a hundred total answers, but here are my pet peeves with newbie authors:

  • Too many exclamation points!!!
  • A proposal that has not been proof-red
  • Overpromising, as in “This proposal will sell a billion copies!”
  • FEELING A NEED TO PUT LOTS OF WORDS IN ALL CAPS.
  • Random numbering in an outline.
  • I did this, I did that, I did this other thing, I, I, I.
  • Random commas, that make no, sense.
  • A failure to understand how to properly use “quotation” marks. (Also parentheses. And their attached punctuation).
  • Failing to understand the difference between its and it’s (or there and their and they’re).
  • The manuscript is passive due to the author.

Hint for the humor impaired: There are intentional errors in that list. If you see one, don’t send me aHow Can I Find A Literary Agent cover scolding note or you’ll be banned from the blog. It’s a joke. I know you don’t get it. Just trust me – others find it funny. 

Friends, I hope you learned something about agents and what they’re NOT looking for. And if you’re a writer interested in finding out more agent answers to your questions, check out Chip’s new book, How Can I Find A Literary Agent? And 101 Other Questions Asked by Writers .

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Call-Out for Kudos…I Want to Brag on You!

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!

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Call for MoGo7000 Totals

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in March, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your March results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written in March. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Monday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2015 challenge is underway! Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and you’ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.

Each month that you qualify with 7000 new words, your name goes in the “hat” for the drawing. Reach the goal one month and you’ll have one entry. Meet it 10 months and you’ll have 10 entries!

So what are you waiting for? Get started now and you could have $100 this time next year. And it doesn’t cost you a cent. :-)

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And Who Won Cindy Sproles’ Book, Mercy’s Rain?Cindy Sproles Mercys Rain cover

The winner is…drumroll, please…

Cindy Patterson!

Congratulations, Cindy (Patterson)! I’m so happy for you and I know you’re going to love this book. Simply contact me with your snail mail address and Cindy (Sproles) will get the book right out to you. (Hmmm…could this be a Cindy conspiracy?) :-)

Well, for those of you who are not named Cindy, here’s a direct Amazon link to Mercy’s Rain. I know–and you know–you want your own copy!

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Thanks for Tweeting!

Ask Agent Chip MacGregor, Call-Outs & Cindy Sproles’ Mercy’s Rain winner. #amwriting @MacGregorLit @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet)

Well, that does it for another 1st Tuesday. I can’t wait to see you back next week to meet another author and to celebrate our successes together!

Happy writing!

Vonda

 

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Parting Words From The WORD…’It’s Sunday,’ but Jesus is comin’

Empty tombGood Friday, dear friends. For the past week or so I’ve been seeking the Lord for a powerful message for today. And yesterday it magically appeared…in my Inbox! I realize I shouldn’t be surprised by anything God does, but when He answered my prayers through email, I must admit, I was a little giddy. I was even giddier when James Watkins, “author, speaker, threat to society” gave me permission to reprint it here. This post appeared at his awesome HopeAndHumor.org site and I’m honored that he’s allowing me to share it with you. I hope you’re as blessed as I was by it. Thank you, Jim.

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‘It’s Sunday,’ but Jesus is Comin’ by James Watkins

Author Tony Campolo’s most famous message declares, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’.” But what happens when it’s Sunday and we’re still facing death and despair?

Jesus has been unjustly charged and condemned to die. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. The religious and political tyrants have stopped his rebellious message. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. He has been brutally beaten, stripped, and nailed to a cross. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. Christ is sealed in a tomb, his dead body guarded by Roman soldiers. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.

The message builds to a powerful conclusion when the pastor simply shouts, “It’s Friday!” and the congregation responds, “But Sunday’s comin’.”

But . . .

It’s Sunday in the United States and 4,000 unborn children will be aborted tomorrow. One out of four children will be sexually or physically abused. Five thousand teens will attempt suicide; thirteen will succeed. Sixteen young adults will be murdered. More than two thousand unmarried teens will get pregnant.

It’s Sunday in the United States and this weekend, five thousand parents will tell their children they’re divorcing. One out of every twenty adults will not have a job to go to tomorrow. More than 85,000 people will die. Out of that number, 17,000 will die of some kind of cancer.

It may be Easter Sunday, but throughout the world, people in the pews are still dealing with the effects of abuse and divorce, crime and violence, life-threatening diseases, unemployment or “under employment,” depression, and grief from a the loss of a loved one.

In fact, holidays have a way of compounding a sense of loss. Perhaps there will be one fewer person at Easter dinner because of a death or divorce. Maybe there is less on the table because of financial pressures.

“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’” is not always comforting. But that’s only half of the story of Christ. The Bible’s book of Revelation chapter 19 provides the rest of the promise:

It’s Sunday, but Jesus is coming!

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

It’s Sunday. Environmentalists warn of “global warming,” acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer, and carcinogens in our food, but Jesus is coming!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . .

It’s Sunday. Political unrest and corruption affect virtually every country. Christians are oppressed, persecuted, and executed by ungodly governments, but Jesus is coming!

With justice he judges and makes war. . . . On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

It’s Sunday. Today, two billion people throughout the world will go to bed hungry. Millions throughout the world are suffering from abuse and illness. Many more millions are grieving the loss of loved ones, but Jesus is coming!

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

It’s Sunday. Unfortunately the actual celebration of Easter may distract us from the very Christ we honor by practicing for cantatas, buying new clothes, and preparing Sunday dinners, but Jesus is coming!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be will be with them and be their God.

This certainly doesn’t mean we shut our eyes to the suffering around us. God commands us to do everything in our human power to relieve suffering and to work for justice for all.

But the good news of Easter goes beyond “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.”

It’s Sunday, but Jesus is coming!

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Copyright © 1995 James N. Watkins

Find lots of Easter week columns, cartoons and resources at Hope & Humor. And have a very meaningful Easter week!

Bio: Jim wears more hats than his Aunt Luella! He’s:

 

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Interview & Book Give Away with Cindy Sproles, Author of Mercy’s Rain, Part 2

Cindy Sproles headshot 2I could hardly wait to share Part 2 of my interview with Cindy Sproles, author of Mercy’s Rain. You might want to start with Part 1 of my interview with Cindy Sproles.

Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Cindy. All commenters to both last week’s and this week’s posts will be in the drawing for a free book! Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner. Now, let’s gather back around the kitchen table with Cindy.

I read your book, so I can attest to the fact that it’s not preachy. Tell us how you were able to weave a spiritual thread through Mercy’s Rain without hitting the reader over the head.

I allowed Mercy to ask the question over and over, “Why would a God who was worth a hoot, allow sucha thing?” She continually attacks God, calling Him cruel. The thread comes through love. Samuel (the preacher friend) and the Johnsons love Mercy into the hands of forgiveness. Today we spend so much time trying to PROVE God and prove we are right about God, when what we are commanded to do is LOVE. Once the seeds of love are planted, God will nurture it. The thread of the spiritual context is unconditional love, not trying to fix the person, but loving them into a place where they will allow God to fix them. Our example speaks loud. We should really pay closer attention to it.

Thank you. I needed to be reminded of that. Sounds like you’re committed to the importance of Christian fiction.  

There are Christians who think fiction is misguided. What better way to show redemption than through the eyes of a fictional character? Those characters can say, do, and feel the things we would never allow ourselves to do. People are touched by the stories. I get tickled when folks preach that Christian fiction is bad, when in the same breath they can tell you in detail the last movie they watched. Uh…99.5% of the movies they watch are…none other than fiction. At some point, we have to realize stories have changed the world, moved hearts, drawn people to Christ. There is nothing sweeter than an email from a reader who says, “I loved the story of Mercy. I’m not much on fiction, but this story forced me to stop and face my own demons.”  That is what we want to hear. Yes?

As Christians, we have a higher set of standards to adhere to when we write our fiction. The world tells us to “write where the reader is .  .  . ie, if they curse, stomp, slash or whatever, write it real in the words you would hear.” I disagree. Mercy’s story is hard. It’s filled with horrible abuse, but I never crossed the line. I did not use foul language. I did not draw every gory scene. I didn’t delve into the nastiness of rape. Instead Cindy Sproles Mercys Rain coverI wrote the emotion. When the reader felt Mercy’s agony, their own imagination wrote the graphic scenes. That drew the picture. We have a responsibility as writers to set the standards. One review in a major site said if this were a movie it would be rated R because of the topic . . . not because of the scenes written. So, we can dig down as writers and use emotion to paint a more vivid picture than nasty language or gory details. It’s much easier to write the foul language rather than challenge ourselves to dig deep into the emotion and tell the story.

I so agree! And if we have a problem with fiction or difficult topics, all we need to do is read the Bible! (Okay, now I’M the one standing on my soapbox!) You mentioned that you used the emotion of the characters to demonstrate the horror of sinful deeds. Without sharing any spoilers, what was the most emotional scene for you to write in your novel?

Oh, there are so many, but I think the burial of her baby. That said, you gotta read to find out why.

Oh yes, that was a gripping scene. One I won’t forget. My next question: Writers often desire to teach a lesson in and through their writing, but we as Christian writers also learn something. What was one thing you learned while writing Mercy’s Rain?

God constantly wears at me to be better. I’ve learned that God’s love is what heals. Even in my own life, I’ve made mistakes, had hardships, but God’s love has always healed.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

My voice. I’m very much a mountain girl. The dialect is second nature to me. The mountain folk of Appalachia are kind, gentle, and simple people. They’re truthful. So when I launch into tellin’ you all about my kin, it ain’t so hard to picture who they was or how they lived. A man had to work hard for his earnin’s and he had to pray hard for his survival. But they ain’t a soul alive who don’t find peace on summit of the mountain. They ain’t a soul livin’ who can stand on top of that mountain and stretch his arms up, scrapin’ his fingers against the door of heaven and not see God Almighty peering through the clouds. This is the mountains. Where the breeze carries the whisper of God and trees sing His words. A body just has to stand quiet like. Still. And listen. The good Lord’ll speak when a man chooses to listen and pay Him some mind. J

Oh, I love your voice, and look forward to more opportunities to read it. What’s on the horizon for you now?

I’m currently working on the next two books in the Appalachian Novel Series. I want to be a writer that listens to His call and writes the whispers He gently speaks into my ear, so we pray for good words and blessing.

Cindy Sproles booksigningAny chance you would share the first chapter of Mercy’s Rain with my friends?  

I’ll do one better. Here’s the link for the excerpt of the first three chapters of Mercy’s Rain. I hope you enjoy them and I hope you’ll take time to grab the book.

Wow, Cindy, thanks! Hey, did y’all catch that? You can click on that link and read the first three chapters of Mercy’s Rain—for FREE! So what are you waiting for?

Bio: Cindy Sproles is an author and speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is a conference teacher and speaker, working conferences all across the country. Her devotions are found in newspapers all over the eastern seaboard. Cindy is the executive Editor of ChristianDevotions.us and InspireAFire.com. She is the author of four devotionals and compilations and her first fiction novel, Mercy’s Rain is now available. www.CindySproles.com

Thanks for Tweeting!

You’ve never read a novel like Cindy Sproles’ Mercy’s Rain! Win a book! @CindyDevoted #BookGiveaway on @VondaSkelton #MustRead (Click to Tweet)

Friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Cindy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book from Cindy. Be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Hope to see you back on Friday!

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Grace to Come Back Home, Part 3

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at grace, particularly the concept of finding the grace to come back home. These conversations began after my pastor, Larry Scott, led a sermon series on this very subject. As I’ve mentioned before, the outline points are taken from his sermon, but I’m adding some details and insights I feel the Lord has given me to share. I pray this has been an encouragement for all of us. Click to find The Grace to Come Back Home, Part 1 and The Grace to Come Back Home, Part 2.

Here’s Part 3 of Grace to Come Back Home: There is No Condemnation for Those Who Belong to Christ

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to come back home to the Father. Disappointment, confusion, and/or despair are often reasons for the separation, but they don’t have to continue to keep us separated from Him.

We must remember there can be consequences for leaving God behind: We lose fellowship with the Father and the Body, we lose rewards and joy. Those losses are clear and evident, but do we realize we can cause others to lose as well? When we fall away, we lose our effectiveness as His children, possibly becoming a stumbling block in their own walk with God.

But regardless of how far we fall away, we can be confident in the fact that God’s door will always be open. As Pastor Larry said, God will never reject His children when they come back to Him. Here are some of the reasons. (There are many verses to support these points. I only include a very few.)

1.  Grace is unconditional.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22 (NIV)

2.  Salvation is not based on performance.

…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…. Titus 3:5 (NIV)

3.  Jesus already took the punishment for our sin. Punishment is retribution for the past; discipline is training for the future.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NIV)

4.  Jesus understands our weakness. He’s not waiting to zap us.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)

 

5.  He doesn’t hold on to grudges. This truth is beautifully demonstrated in Peter’s life. After Peter had so blatantly denied Jesus three times, Jesus’ response to Peter after His resurrection was one of love and forgiveness.

After His resurrection, Jesus reinstated and encouraged Peter in John 21:15-19 by asking him three times, “Peter, do you love me?” In each incidence, Peter replied that yes, he loved Jesus. Jesus’ three responses were: “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” In other words, Jesus was giving Peter the encouragement he needed to step out in faith again. And as the book of Acts clearly shows us, Peter–the same one who denied Jesus three times–boldly goes forth to preach powerful messages of conviction, forgiveness, and grace through the blood of Jesus Christ.

We started this series with Peter and we end it with him. Peter is you, and he is me. Although he loved the Lord, Peter, a disciple and one of the most intimate of Christ’s friends, not only fell out of fellowship with Jesus, but turned his back on him as well. But praise God, even when Peter was out of fellowship, his relationship with Christ wasn’t over.

And neither is ours. Broken fellowship does not mean broken relationship with Him. His grace never ends.

There have been times in my life when I’ve fallen far from God, but praise Him, I can never fall so far that I can’t find my way to come back home.

All we have to do is turn around, and He’ll be there. Arms outstretched, ready to receive me back into fellowship with Him.

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

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Cindy Sproles, Author of Mercy’s Rain

Cindy Sproles headshot 2Wow, wow, wow. Friends, have I got an interview for you! Today’s guest is my long-time friend, author, speaker, and Christian Communicators grad, Cindy Sproles. Cindy and I met years ago at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, and she’s been a dear friend ever since. You may know Cindy as director of Writer’s Advance Boot Camp or through ChristianDevotions.us or Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, but now I introduce her a master storyteller of unforgettable fiction. I’ve never read a book like her new novel, Mercy’s Rain. Never.

There were many important aspects to discuss related to this unusual book, and with having a 5th Tuesday this month, this was the perfect time to do a two-part interview. Be sure to leave a comment for Cindy and you’ll be in the drawing for a copy of Mercy’s Rain. Then return next week for Part 2.  And yes, if you post comments both weeks, you get TWO entries! (Be sure to return April 7 to see if you’re the winner.)

Okay, let’s get started. Welcome Cindy! You have a long career writing and teaching writing. Congratulations on your debut novel! Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

Thanks for having me. I’m a true born and raised mountain girl. Raised in the mountains of East Tennessee. I started writing seriously in my mid-40s. I always knew I wanted to write but I never afforded myself the privilege. I had a family, two jobs . . . there just didn’t seem to be time for frivolous ventures. But God piqued my interest, then called me. I listened, attended my first conference and the rest is history.

I know we didn’t talk about this, Cindy, but I want to include the back cover blurb for Mercy’s Rain so readers can get insight into the overall story. I hope you don’t mind. 

Mercy Roller was raised by a twisted father who wore the collar of a Pastor, and chose to be Jesus, judge, and jury, by his own appointment. Abused, broken and bitter, Mercy lifts the hand that takes the Pastor’s life. In one swift action, she becomes what she despises most about the Pastor. Now she seeks redemption. Can the unconditional love of a mountain preacher and his friends, guide Mercy to find peace?

Having read your book, I’m dying to know how you came up with the idea for Mercy’s Rain.

Funny what goes through your mind at 3 a.m. I had the title for Mercy’s Rain long before I had the story. But one morning I couldn’t sleep so I flipped on the television and got one of the old time, down home, spittin’ and hollerin’ preachers. It made me laugh, but I thought, “Wouldn’t he make a great bad guy?” I turned the channel and landed on a documentary (which to this day I still do not know the title of) but it was on sexual abuse in children under 7 years of age. It broke my heart. The more I thought on it the more I realized the perfect storm had formed. Mercy Roller was born.

You wear so many hats, how do you protect your personal writing time?Cindy Sproles Mercys Rain cover

Sometimes it’s hard. Between the ministry of Christian Devotions, the devotions that pour in, project management for LPC and editing, it gets testy. But I’ve learned, you make the time. And I do. When I write on my own, it’s restful for me. I do wear many hats, and I find myself not always having the sympathy for writers who whine they just don’t have time. If you love to write, and you know that is your calling – and you are serious — you make the time to be obedient and write. Folks make time for everything else. This is no exception. (I’m on my soapbox, aren’t I? Sorry.)

Was the transition from non-fiction to fiction an easy or challenging one for you?

It wasn’t hard, but it was different. I wanted to do fiction right and so I studied the fiction writers I love, Alton Gansky, Steven James, Ann Tatlock, Yvonne Lehman, Nicholas Sparks, DiAnn Mills, Francine Rivers. These folks are masters of the art. I’ve taken their classes at conferences, sucked in everything they taught, and it paid off. It was an adjustment to write fiction. I fell into all the first time fiction writers blunders, but I quickly learned. So it wasn’t hard, but it took practice. I still feel like I need practice. Fiction is a fun place to go to let go of all your inner fears, wild ideas, and imaginary friends. Just put them in a story.

Why did you choose the particular theme in Mercy’s Rain? What do you want your readers to gain from the book?

First off, Mercy’s Rain was not geared to the Christian Market. I wrote it to the secular market. There were a number of things I wanted to accomplish:

1) I wanted to thread the underlying idea of redemption and its availability to everyone. The Christian world’s television evangelists falling to sin and bearing it in a very public manner gave me an easy “in” to the secular market. That market of readers tend to call Christians hypocrites, so why not capitalize on their already established ideas? By their standards, who doesn’t love to hate a preacher?

Cindy Sproles booksigning2) I wanted to address two difficult subjects. The first to the Christian market: Worship your God Almighty, not your preacher. I’ve seen so many congregations crumble because they put their faith in the man, not God. I wanted to address this issue. Let me be clear. I don’t have a vendetta against ministers. I went to Bible College and married a minister. But I do want people to understand that preachers are men . . . men who can be equally as tempted, who can fall to sin, just like everyone else. I also want folks to know that just because they are preachers doesn’t mean they can’t have the same redemption you and I get. It’s a balance. And one that can easily tip either direction.

The other topic was one of child abuse. I was just broken-hearted to watch that documentary that morning and see infants murdered from the cruelty of their abusers. Maybe I could address it with a deep passion through the eyes of my character Mercy Roller. We see and hear about these types of abuse on a daily basis, but we choose to look the other way. I don’t want you to look the other way. I want you to be aware that these horrible things happen and it’s up to us to help find a way to stop it. I’ve had a lot of folks blast me over this subject. “How could someone who calls themselves a Christian be warped enough to write such trash?” My case in point. We don’t want to see this horrible state of affairs.

My husband and I watched a show called In an Instant this week. It was a horrible story of spousal abuse. Half way through the show I was in tears. This stuff REALLY happens. It wasn’t a figment of this poor woman’s imagination. She was nearly killed. So call me warped if you like, but Christian or not, we have to open our eyes to this and become active in working together with authorities, doctors, and support groups, to find legal and appropriate ways to combat abuse to both women and children.

3) Finally, I wanted the world to understand that Christians ask God the same questions – Why do you allow these horrible things to happen? But it is through our deeper relationship with Him that we see God is present in every situation. That’s what sets us apart. Faith, trust in the higher power of Christ. God doesn’t create the sin, but He is ever present, even when we do not see the reasons why. I feel sure God cries at the atrocities some can concoct.

My goodness, Cindy, I can’t imagine how difficult it was to go through the emotion of writing Mercy’s Rain. Thank you for your faithfulness to bring such difficult subjects to the forefront for Christian readers.

Friends, I hope you’ll return next week to see the conclusion of this interview as we see more of the hows and whys Cindy wrote Mercy’s Rain as she did.

AND there’ll be a special gift for everyone who returns next week–you don’t want to miss it!

Thanks for Tweeting!

I’m sorry but Twitter and/or ClickToTweet are on the blink this morning, so here’s a Tweet you can copy and paste into Twitter, if you would, please. Thank you!

You’ve never read a novel like Cindy Sproles’ Mercy’s Rain! @CindyDevoted #BookGiveaway @VondaSkelton #MustRead http://bit.ly/1ELi2tB

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Parting Words From The WORD…Grace to Come Back Home, Part 2

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Last week I shared the first part of Grace to Come Back Home, based on a series of sermons my pastor, Larry Scott, has been bringing to our church body. If you missed it, I hope you’ll check out that post first, titled 4 Causes for Falling Away From God. This week we’re looking at the symptoms associated with becoming separated from God.

5 Symptoms of Falling Away From God

Today we’ll take the next step by evaluating our own lives for the symptoms of falling away. Please note that much of the outline is taken from my pastor’s sermon, but most of today’s commentary is taken from my own experiences of life in evangelical churches.

1.  We stop giving. We take the tithe hostage, using it as leverage to try to get our way. We act as if it’s our money, when in truth, it’s all His. 

2.  We stop spiritual disciplines. Have we stopped seeking His face in prayer and studying His Word? Are we avoiding His answers and turning a deaf hear to His voice? If we can avoid Him on an ongoing basis, we are treading on dangerous ground.

3.  We find fault, we complain about everything, and become dissatisfied with the people, places, and things of God. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to point to others as the reasons for our problems than it is to take responsibility for ourselves. A Christian who is on a continuous fault-finding, disgruntling mission is very likely a person who is falling away from God.

4.  We disconnect. We stop spending time together as part of the church body; we resign from roles and ministries; we avoid Sunday School, choir practice, and ministry opportunities.

5.  We leave. We leave the fellowship. We leave the church. We may even be at risk for leaving Christianity. Yes, sometimes God really does take us in a new direction, at a new church. That’s not what we’re talking about here. In the case of falling away from God, leaving the church can actually mean we’re leaving God. Perhaps we left Him behind long ago.

Yes, I’m the first to admit that many of these things can be evidence of a problem at a specific church, rather than evidence of falling away from God. But the difference is in the heart, it’s the motivation. I’ve had friends in churches who have truly felt led to leave the local church for whatever reason, and they’ve gone on to grow in the Lord and work hard for the Kingdom.

But let’s face it, sometimes we’re deceived by the evil one. He leads us to blame the church, the pastor, the leadership, the programs, and everything else related to the church, when in truth, he’s enticing us to run from God.

And then there are other times when these complaints are simply our excuses, providing culturally-acceptable rationale to withhold our money, stop our study, complain, disconnect from the body, and leave the church…when in reality, our motivations, and perhaps our secret sins, are compelling us to leave God behind.

Do you find yourself struggling in one or more of these areas? If I’m honest, I have to admit that sometimes it’s easy to fall into them, completely unaware that Satan is the one holding the reins.

Living the Christian life means we must continually evaluate our hearts and examine our relationships with the Lord. After all, the first step to receiving His grace is knowing who and where we are. The second is reaching out and taking hold of the grace to come back home.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

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

Vonda

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