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Guest blog by Barb HaleyBarb Haley apr 2016 cropped

8 Days until Christmas, and I was thinking …

Unfortunately,
Christmas isn’t MERRY for everyone.

Physical or emotional, chronic pain touches every part of our lives. All day. Every day.

For many, the Christmas season can be the toughest time of the year! It accentuates life’s struggles and often increases a sense of despair and heartache.

Lord, Get Your Needle—I’m Falling Apart at the Seams offers hope as it tackles the tough issues of pain, depression, and loneliness with tender honesty and leads the reader to the loving arms of God. Others have read the book and posted comments on Amazon like the one below.

This book is amazing! Barb GETS IT! She knows what she is talking about when it comes to chronic pain. As a sufferer of chronic pain and failed surgeries, I know what it is like to deal with depression, frustration, and the feeling that God has turned his back on you. The thought that you have to pray harder, read your Bible more, and just keep a positive attitude is everything that Barb talks about as lies from the pit of hell. She talks about how important it is to rely on community and suffer well and suffer real. This book is AMAZING and I would recommend it to anyone who is suffering from chronic pain, or if you have a friend or family member in chronic pain, this will help you understand how to help them!

Perhaps you know someone like this. Someone who is struggling and wishes he/she could blink and the painful Christmas season would be over. If so, you might consider sending the book as a gift in order to provide hope and encouragement.

I’ve lowered the price to make this gift available for as many as possible. May God use the book as an extension of His love, care, and healing.

Barb book

Available on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2AWbDTP

 

Why? Why? Why?

Guest post by James N. Watkins

If you have children, nieces and nephews, or younger siblings, you know that a three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and a three-ton SUV, the truck is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals . . . Just take my hand!”

And on itgoes-right into adulthood!

“Why didn’t God heal my friend?”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Why do I still have acne at 50?”

I’ve worked up way too much spiritual perspiration trying to answer why my second-grade Sunday school teacher committed suicide, why I was laid off from the perfect job in publishing—twice—or why bad things happen to such good people as you and me.

I have learned that while why is often a futile question, God is more than willing to answer other questions. But, like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are in the form of a question.

What can I know?

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).

So, while I’ve struggled with hundreds—probably thousands—of questions about God’s workings, I have grown in my knowledge of who he is. While agonizing about an estranged relationship, I burst into tears—for God. I had described to a friend my pain: “It feels like my heart has been cut out with a chainsaw, run over by a logging truck, and then fed through a wood chipper.” If I was feeling this excruciating pain for one broken relationship, how was God feeling about billions of heartaches? It was one of the few times I actually felt I understood God.

I can also find the answer to . . .

How can I grow?

I’ve always leaned into Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

But what is that “purpose”? The very next verse answers: “To be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). So do other verses:

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b).
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).

That’s our purpose! So ask, how can I grow more like Christ through this difficult time.

Who can I show?

Second Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all ourtroubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (NLT).

The Greek word translated comfort is paraklesis. It is a calling near, summons for help; a prayer, a plea; exhortation, admonition, encouragement; consolation, comfort, solace, refreshment; or a persuasive speech, motivational talk, instruction. And it’s feminine case. No one comforts like a mother.

We offer our best comfort to those experiencing what we have personally gone through.

So, sorry, we can’t always answer the why questions, but we can answer these three.

Condensed from The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling with Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises, and Unpunished Evil by James N. Watkins. Browse and buy at jameswatkins.com/asaph/ 

Psalms of Asaph

Jim is a gifted author. Thank you, Jim, for “writing His answer.”

Jim was on faculty the first year that the Greater Philly Christian Writers went from a day-long seminar to a two-day conference some 30 plus years ago. I can’t begin to count the number of times since then that he has served on faculty.  I’m delighted that he will keynote and teach a three-hour workshop at the new Write to Impact Lives Conference in Lancaster, PA, February 9-10. More info coming soon at www.writehisanswer.com.

 

Reblogged with permission. Yes, we MUST pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all her people.

With President’s historic yet controversial decision on Jerusalem, Evangelical leaders call Christians around the world to pray for the peace of Jerusalem as never before. [Here’s the statement we just released from the Alliance For The Peace of Jerusalem.]

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

Joel-TempleMount2

Time and again, Jerusalem lies at the Epicenter of the momentous events that are shaking our world and shaping our future. This week is no exception.

As a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen — and a Jewish Evangelical — and most recently as a new resident of Jerusalem where my wife and kids and I now live, these issues are not just theological or theoretical for me. They’re personal.

Lynn and I love Jerusalem — we love both Israelis and Palestinians. We love them dearly and equally, as we believe God does. We don’t want to see any more divisions or violence or terror or injustice of any kind. There has been too much suffering, too much bloodshed. We long to see peace between the two sides. We pray and work for the day when both peoples can truly live side by side, and amongst each other, in safety and security and…

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Contrasts

Thanksgiving has again ushered in
the Christmas season.
I am sobered
not so much by the calories I consumed
or the prices in the mall
(although both are too high)
but by the contrasts I see.

There is plenty and want,
joy and grief,
love and hatred,
hope and despair,
the real and the artificial.

Father, please help me to see You
and to share Your love.
Move me to give as Your Son gave
when He willingly went
from the manger to the Cross.

Let there be a difference in me
that is visible and credible—
that points others to Jesus Christ,
who came and is coming again!

A Thanksgiving Hymn

Come, All Christians

Marlene Bagnull
To the tune
“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”

Come all Christians join in song
Praise our God the whole day long
Not just on Thanksgiving eve
But throughout eternity
Thank You God for all You’ve done
For Your Spirit and Your Son
And Your Word that points the way
To bear fruit for You each day

Thank You for this land we love
For Your watch care from above
For countless ways that You have blessed
Giv’n Your strength when we are stressed
Help us never to forget
That in You our needs are met
Change our hearts, our faith renew
Help us serve and honor You

More than Thankful

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 118:29 TLB

Yes, Father, I am more than thankful. Indeed, words can’t begin to express my gratitude for all You have done, are doing, and will do.

Thank You for my family and friends, for my home and health, for freedom to worship and serve You . . .

Thank You for 34 years of ministry and for providing a new vision and new home for the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. And thank You for the added blessing that Dock Mennonite Academy is only ten minutes from my home!

2018 GP Banner

Thank You for the wonderful staff at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado. Bless John, Brenda, Lori and their teams for how they go the extra mile, and then some. Thank You for the thousands of  writers You have enabled us to encourage and equip in our 20 years of ministry there. 2018 CO banner.png

Thank You for the opportunity to direct the new “Write to Impact Lives Conference” with The Munce Group in Lancaster, PA, February 9-10. (The Munce Group offers numerous marketing programs and services to help bookstores target their customers and to simplify their job as independent Christian retailers. Conferees have the option of staying for one or more days of the Munce Christian Product Expo February 11-13.)

Munce logo

Thank You for the critique groups that meet in my home and for the joy of editing Becky Toews’, Between the Lamp Posts, 365-day devotional, and Louise Looney’s, The Best of Days for The Rest of Your Days. 

Father, keep us mindful of Your blessings not just at Thanksgiving but throughout the year. And “make us a blessing.”

not facebooking

Just as writers whine about finding a publisher, we’re guilty – at least I know I am – of whining about the need to build a platform. How am I supposed to even get my book written if I’m required to spend tons of time growing my presence – my platform – on social media?

While, of course, we want to reach people with the message we believe God has entrusted to us, it is critically important that we not get caught up in the world’s way and leave Him out of the process.

In my workshop, “Discovering God’s Plan for Your Ministry,” (one of four workshops I’ll teach Saturday, September 23, from 9 am to 4 pm at the Stay Focused Christian Writers Retreat in Cherry Hill, NJ), I’ll talk about building your platform God’s way. Click here for more info and to register.

Whether or not you’re able to come, I hope you’ll read the message below from D.J. Williams who served on the faculty of this year’s Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. I know it will encourage you so I’m sharing it here with his permission.

Keep writing and living His answer!

Platform Building Versus Storytelling

D.J. Williams

For months I’ve been working on my next novel while balancing the demand to expand my platform so my novels gain greater exposure. I’m fortunate to have a rockstar publicist, who helps me navigate through the mysterious road of platform building.

Platform Building is the buzz word in today’s world of publishing and the gatekeeper to pitching your next book. How many hits do you get each month on your website or blog? How many followers do you have on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? How many clicks from your Facebook and Amazon ads? But the question most neglect to ask is if all of the effort in building your platform through social media results in more books sold. Sure, we hear about the success stories, but they’re few and far between, unless we’re listening to the platform building guru who tells us how easy it is to do in ten simple steps.

For those who feel overwhelmed by it all, take a step back and remind yourself of why you write. What inspires you to dig deeper into your characters? What wakes you up early in the morning or keeps you up late at night as the story pours out of your imagination onto the page? Answering these questions is where your storytelling journey begins because it’s the cornerstone. Building a platform through social media is an extension, but it isn’t the magical solution to success.

My latest post on my website shares about where my writing journey began on the Zambezi River when a spark of a story was rooted in my soul. Social media. Platform building. None of that was part of the equation. Instead, I was compelled to tell a story that haunted me until I was able to take it from my imagination and write it on the page. That’s why I feel compelled to write. That’s why I’m a storyteller. That may not be what an agent or publisher wants to hear because we’re in a day and age where even if you sign a publishing deal, you’ll end up doing the lion’s share of marketing and promotion. And you could have a great following on social media, but that doesn’t mean your book will become a bestseller.

I’ve met with writers, agents, and publishers who prioritize platform over storytelling. The belief is that if you don’t have a big enough platform, then no matter how great of a story you write, you’ll never get anyone interested. But is that really true? Perhaps a great story builds the platform instead of the other way around.

Let’s look at two examples of books within the last few years that seemed to explode out of nowhere — Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) and The Martian (Andy Weir), as well as a veteran bestseller who’s been around since before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — John Grisham.

Here is their social media reach:

Gillian Flynn – Facebook – 101,625 | Twitter – 1,649 | Instagram – 4,233
Andy Weir – Facebook – 62,887 | Twitter – 30.1K | Instagram – Zero
John Grisham – Facebook – 1.5 Million | Twitter – 19.2K | Instagram – 6,665

While some of these numbers look good, the real truth is these books and authors became bestsellers because of good old fashioned word of mouth. That’s how you sell books! Social media is an extension, not the foundation. So, instead of spending countless hours worrying about building your platform, why not write a story that grabs a reader and doesn’t let go?

Storytelling must always be the priority. If we write stories that resonate with people, then the word of mouth will spread. And you don’t have to build your platform on every single social media outlet. Pick one or two and make it fun instead of stressful. Recently, I listened to a podcast with John Grisham and Harlan Coben (70 million books in print) as they discussed the publishing world. Harlan flat out said that social media doesn’t sell books. I’m inclined to believe him, well, because he’s a bestselling author!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

To find out more about D.J. and his powerful novels, go to https://djwilliamsbooks.com. And click here to check out his Writers Circle where he provides lots of helpful info and writing challenges.