Thursday, September 29, 2016

Scars



Lately I’ve been thinking about scars.

How come our all-knowing God didn’t have the foresight to incorporate more elasticity into my skin? Knowing all the stuff I’d go through, how come He didn’t make it so I’d heal mark-free? I mean, it’s not like I’d ever forget having a baby, or that too much sun causes skin cancer.

Or would I?

When I read my Bible I see God is big on remembering. The Old & New Testaments are chucked full of memorials. There are stone piles, wells, rituals, festivals, ceremonies, sacraments—all designed and instigated by God to help us remember.



I think that’s what scars are about.


When I see the mark on my forehead I’m reminded to put on my sunscreen. The dent on my hand reinforces the importance of training a dog properly, and conversely, the consequences of slacking off. My caesarian scar…having kids has changed me forever.

Not all scars are external.

Careless words wound. Forgiveness withheld cripples. Hope denied destroys.




God, through His love, can and does heal our wounds so they’re no longer gaping, festering sores. 

But like physical scars, internal scars are a constant reminder for us to

Speak in love
Forgive as we’ve been forgiven
Encourage dreams



I’m thankful for my scars.

Each day they remind me that God is in the business of healing wounds

His hand is on me. 
His love is with me.
He is faithful.

He is worthy of my trust and my worship.








Jayne E. Self lives in Canada, writes mysteries, and loves taking photos. (That's Jayne with her dog, Beckett.) You can reach her at jayneself.com or Facebook

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Power of Story

     
 I was reminded of the power of story this summer when I attended a family reunion -- one of the big ones with dozens of cousins.  My grandparents are our common ancestor, they are long gone as is my parent's generation.  The playmates I knew as kids chasing through the hay fields are all grown up.  Some are grandparents themselves.  The old farmhouse has been renovated with a modern kitchen and new wiring, the barns expanded and modernized.  Tractors and harvesters have taken the place of draft horses and hired men. 
 

      What remains is the land and our story.

     The fields, cleared by my grandfather yield corn and grain and hay, just as before.  Cattle and babies live off its bounty.  The valley traps the heat, the hills on either side offer a cool respite.  I sit under a tent on Sunday morning and listen to a preacher talk about God and gardening while my eyes rest on the old homestead.  It’s a wonderful moment of connection.  I feel the pioneers smiling.

     
But it’s more than the place that draws us together, it is the stories.  Cousins I hadn’t seen for decades gathered on the verandah and we talked about playing hide and seek in the big house.  (It’s the only house I’ve ever known with both a front staircase and a back staircase, plus a couple of interconnecting rooms. Perfect for restless children!)  Members of the succeeding generations added their stories, weaving their memories into the fabric of the family.  I mentioned the phrase, "put your face in the water," and a dozen voices answered "and blow bubbles."  It's one of the enduring stories of the family.
       My grandmother, that pioneer lady, with her eyes and heart set firmly on family, faith and farm, lives on in all of us.  We  each add another chapter, or maybe only a paragraph, but together we build the story of who we are, where we came from and what we stand for.

    
  I’m sometimes annoyed at businesses or sports organizations that run advertisements that tell a story to align themselves with the nation or with a particular value.  I keep thinking, “it’s only a game,” or “it’s only fast-food” but those ads remind us all of the power of story.
      Some people dismiss fiction as fluff, preferring documentaries or hard news.  Yet, story is who we are.  It roots us in place and time, it encompasses us as a family or a nation or a faith.  A genealogy chart may show our blood lines, but it’s story that makes us human.
       Lisa Cron in her "Wired for Story" explains that the latest advances in neuroscience prove that "story, as it turns out, has a much deeper and more meaningful purpose than simply to entertain and delight.
       Story is how we make sense of the world."

       Like much of modern science, these findings confirm what the Bible already tells us.  When Jesus wanted to teach a lesson, he told a story (parable).  These stories were so powerful that two thousand years later, in a mostly secular world, we have "Good Samaritan Laws," and the word "Prodigal" shows up in titles from religious tomes, to popular music to romance.

     So, here’s to my pioneer ancestors, here’s to family, and here’s to the storytellers among us, may your work "make sense" of our world, and may your stories teach great and eternal truths.


Alice Valdal lives in British Columbia Canada.  One of her most treasured possessions is a family history book -- done on xerox! 
  Visit her at www.alice valdal.com or                                       at facebook.com/#!/alice.valdal.5 


Published Books.











Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I'm Developing a Phobia


If you are one of the three people not watching the debate and its endless analysis on every news channel, hello from sunny(ish) Holland.

I wanted to write something related to the presidential race, but I'm getting close to saturation point. A quick check of the newspaper headlines this morning told me nothing of any use. The liberal Guardian declared Clinton the winner, while the conservative Fox News has Trump ahead. Sadly, the only dedicated news channel we get over here is CNN, and they lean so far left they are in danger of tipping upside down. I'm taking a break till the dust settles.

Instead I thought we could have a light-hearted chat about language. There's plenty of it flying around at the moment--especially the "phobic" kind. I always thought a phobia was an irrational fear of something. These days it is used as an accusation of bigotry. "You're so (add random word here)phobic" seems to be a common retort whenever a contrary opinion is expressed.

Pondering the implications of this, I have come to the terrible realization that I am "sweetcornophobic" because I cannot stand the taste of sweet corn. It occurred to me that, were I to express this opinion in a public forum (such as a college, for example), I might offend the sensibilities of those who love sweet corn. "How dare you say sweet corn is bad," they would say. "I love sweet corn. Many people love sweet corn. Now get out of my safe space you sweetcornophobic!"

I wouldn't mind if it made sense, but it can get quite bizarre sometimes. For example, I recently saw a group of people holding signs denouncing various "phobias", presumably wanting to create a "safe space" for its victims. Two of the signs struck me as odd companions. These were "Islamophobia" and "homophobia". Considering what Sharia law has to say about homosexuality and the prescribed punishment thereof, isn't that a bit like clutching a fox and a chicken to your chest to protect their right to be what they are? I can tell you now that if you put a fox and a chicken into a safe space together, one of them is not going to be safe for long.

To be honest, I'm getting a bit fed up with the whole "phobia" malarkey. Does that mean I'm developing phobiaphobia? What about people who love using the word "phobia"? Will I be ostracised from their safe space? What if I disagree with the whole concept of a safe space (especially in colleges and universities where the rigorous exchange of opposing ideas should be promoted, not suppressed)? Will I be accused of safespaceophobia?

Thing is, I'm not scared of sweet corn, and I am happy for people around me who like sweet corn to enjoy eating it. They can sit next to me if they like (although at that proximity the smell might make me ill). I just don't like it. It's not an irrational fear. I just don't agree with it. I think we should use a different word which expresses this healthy difference of opinion.  How about "disinclined" or "averse"? I am not sweetcornophobic but sweetcornaverse. Eat as much as you like, just don't expect me to agree with you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to ponder my phobias (sorry, aversions) in peace. I would go to my safe space, only it's a bit small and I suffer from claustraversion.

Monday, September 26, 2016

My Top 3 Writing Apps

Can you imagine being a writer in the days of quills and ink? You spend the day sweating over a piece of work, only to make a typo in the last line which means starting all over again. It must have been soul-destroying. The invention of the typewriter helped somewhat, but those typo's still meant redoing entire pages. Trust me, I took touch-typing as a school subject on a non-electric typewriter. I know, right?

And yet I can picture some of those quillers adamantly clutching their feathers to their chests, vowing never to let their fingertips go anywhere near the cold hard keys of a typewriter. Even today we writers can either reject new technology, or let it help us. 

Signing a 3-book contract with deadlines is a teensy bit terrifying. Okay, let me be honest. It is a whole lot terrifying. I need help. Google and my smartphone became my BFF's as I hunted for something that would help me increase my output consistently.   

I found 3 apps that work for me.

1. Writeometer
This little app is simple, yet genius. You create projects, enter your deadlines and it will work out how many words you need to write per day to finish on time. 

It also tracks how long it will take to finish at your current pace. 

It has an option to write to a 25 minute timer and at the end it awards you virtual guava's, which you accumulate and spend on virtual treats. Who doesn't love a virtual guava?

There are all sorts of writing stats and graphs to track your writing streaks, progress and speed. I love being able to see my progress visually. You can work on multiple projects at the same time.

The nifty toolbox features a dictionary, thesaurus and word salad. 

One of my favourite things is the featured writing quote on the home page that changes regularly. 

Simply, nifty, and working for me!


2. Character Story Planner
The title of this one is pretty self-explanatory. 

This app enables you to carry your character planning with you throughout your day. (If you are like me and take your phone everywhere, of course.)

Each character is assigned multiple tabs that you can fill in with as much, or as little detail as you want to. 

So the next time you're sitting in a boring meeting and get struck with awesome insight into your current people, capture it right there. It also allows you to run multiple projects at the same time and list your characters per book.


3. Vocabulary Builder
This is my latest addition. I installed it last night in a weak moment of giving in to procrastination. Basically, Vocabulary Builder is a word quiz that teaches you new words. You have the option of practicing words without a time limit. Once you finish a round of words, it unlocks the next set.

You also get to test your word-knowledge against other random people from across the globe in quizzes . 

So this app is what I call 'productive procrastination'. You get to have a break from your WIP but still hone your skills at the same time. 

These three apps work beautifully for me. I'd love to know if you have other things that you use to help you with your writing.

 Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She has just signed a three book contract for a YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.


Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

Monday

Dianne Wilson

Tuesday

PA Baines

Wednesday

Alice Valdal: The Power of Story

Thursday

Jayne E. Self: Scars

Friday Devotion

Daniella Ojo

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Contest News

Congratulations to Iola Goulton for winning the ACFW Genesis Contest in the novella category. 

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New Releases

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in England, A Hero for Heather, Book 3 in the Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters, releases independently in September 2016 in the Falling for You box set. 

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in England, A Husband for Holly, Book 4 in the Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters releases independently in September 2016 in the Candy Cane Kisses box set.

Marion Ueckermann and Narelle Atkins will have contemporary romance novellas releasing in An Aussie Summer Christmas box set on September 27. The six stories in the box set collection are set in Australia.


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Upcoming Releases

Book 2 in Sandra Orchard’s Serena Jones Mysteries series set in St. Louis, USA, Another Day, Another Dali, will be an October 2016 release from Revell Publishing.

Kara Isaac's contemporary romantic comedy set in England, Can't Help Falling, will be an October 2016 release from Howard Books.

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance novella set in Australia, Seaside Christmas, book 3.5 in the Sydney Sweethearts series, will release independently in October 2016.

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in Ireland, Ginger & Brad's House, will release in October 2016 in the Frosting and Flurries box set.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, More Than a Tiara, Book 1 in the Christmas in Montana Romance series, will release independently in October 2016. More Than a Tiara was formerly part of Snowflake Tiara.

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance novella set in Australia, Melbourne Memories, will release independently in November 2016.

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in England, A Romance for Rose, Book 2 in the Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters Series, releases independently in November 2016.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Other Than a Halo, Book 2 in the Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in November 2016.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Desert Secrets, will be a February 2017 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Pursued, will be an April 2017 release from Revell.

Patricia Beal's debut contemporary women’s fiction set in Germany and in the United States, A Season to Dance, will be a May 2017 release from Bling! Romance / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What's on Heaven's Bookshelf?


Where does God keep His books? No, I’m not being facetious, for it is a fact that the Almighty has books in heaven. Who looks after them is not mentioned, or where they are stored, but they are there. I believe God was the original author and we have the privilege of following His lead. Maybe the reason for our overstocked bookcases can be attributed the sharing in this interest of God too.

How the psalmist knew of this he doesn’t say. This is what he records: ‘Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.’ Psalm 139:16.

I wonder what God wrote beside each day the psalmist lived? Do I wonder what He writes in the columns of my days? Sometimes!

Books are mentioned a few times in Revelation. The one in chapter 5 caused John to weep loudly and feel deeply for it appeared no one could open it. That was until the Lamb stepped forward. It opened up issues people have been discussing ever since. Does that book relate to the book sealed in Daniel 12? In that chapter God made what was written an intriguing mystery. The account doesn’t say how Daniel felt but as he had been privileged with other future events I think he would have shed a tear or two also.

In Revelation 20 there are two, maybe three books highlighted. They are judicial books which will strike fear into those called before the throne. The book of life mentioned in both Testaments, (Exodus32:32-33.Psalm 69:28) a record of personal works seeking salvation through them. How sad will the verdict be as by such works no one can reach the standard required without Jesus as Lord and Saviour! Only by faith in Him can a person be recorded in another book titled ‘The Lambs book of Life.’ (Revelation 13:8). A person’s name though foreknown comes alight when that individual calls out to Jesus the crucified and risen Lord.

I have to admit I’m intrigued by a small scroll in Revelation 10:8-10. John had to take it and eat it. Was this a special and one off, limited edition? Sweet to the mouth, bitter to the stomach it had to be ‘regurgitated’ by John through his pen. None of us should have an idea that our writings are divinely inspired, but there is a principle shown here. What is it? What we receive from the Lord is pleasing to our taste. However when we share it with others they reject it. The result, we feel a sense of the bitterness of the moment, for the person and their loss which is ultimately sourness to their soul.

The final book I find on Heaven’s bookshelf is mentioned in Malachi 3:16. It is called ‘a book of remembrance.’ The name of those inscribed was because the revered the Lord and encouraged one another. They did this in troublesome times and the Lord was so pleased He underwrote their names with ‘They shall be mine. My special possession.’ Is this a one off book? Could it also be applied to Hebrews 10:23-25? There we read of a Church facing persecution. How did they rise about the pain, shame and loss? They held fast their faith. They believed in the faithfulness of the One who promised. They provoked each other to love [each other and their persecutors] and good deeds. They met together for mutual encouragement and may I add, to remember the Lord in teaching and communion.

That’s a book I’d like my name to be etched in. It is, however, Heaven’s book of those in hostile places who stand true to Christ and each other. Should you or I be facing such situations may, by God’s grace we stand true.

©Ray Hawkins September 2016.


The Warrior Lord's Sword is my latest 31 day Devotional. Scripture has a lot to say about itself. This centres around Hebrews 4:12.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An Expectant Heart

Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Late last year a pastor spoke a word over me about the Lord wanting to give me a new book, a new optimism and referenced Habakkuk 2:2-3 which talks of waiting on a new vision. I stored it away and got on with life.

Over the last couple of years I’ve felt an increasing urge to start writing non-fiction material in addition to my fiction. A dear friend who has read some of the material encouraged me to give it serious consideration.

In May I determined I would head to Nashville in late August to attend this year’s ACFW Conference. I’d been to one in 2012 and have longed to return. Soon a bunch of things fell into place: Ted Dekker (an author hero of mine) was announced as keynote, my Angelguard publisher (Lion Fiction) would be present, an editor friend who I’ve never met was attending, and other friends from the US (some fellow ICFW members) and from down under were going. In addition, I submitted the manuscript to the sequel to Angelguard, Wrestling with Shadows (WWS), to Lion in early July.

There was a lot to be excited about. I left Sydney with an expectant heart. But with no expectations. I sensed the Lord would reveal something, what, I didn’t know and was excited to find out.

“There is an ocean of difference between expectations and expectancy.”1

Meeting old and new friends

My wife and I arrived a few days before the conference. We’d both wanted to visit Nashville. One of favourite TV shows in recent times is “Nashville” and so having the conference in the same city was a great reason to pay a visit. Fiona had to head off to Baltimore for work while I was conferencing so we got to be tourists for a few days before she had to fly out. It certainly is a fun place especially if you like country music.

As I waved Fiona goodbye at 4.30am (yes, she had a very early flight) my sense of expectancy grew. It was still 2 days before the conference started and I had set up a few meetings with various people. I had lunch with our very own David Rawlings (we’d never met before) and breakfast with friends Rel Mollet, Dotti Adamek and Ronie Kendig. It was a special treat to finally meet Rel after being buddies for a number of years.

Dotti Adamek and I getting ready
for Allen Arnold's workshop

Surprise, surprise

One of the wonderful aspects of conferences is running into people who’ve connected with virtually but have never met. I continued to have some delightful catchups.

The Lord kept on surprising me. I unexpectedly got to spend ninety minutes over coffee with Ted Dekker and his business partner. Talk about wow! Then another author hero of mine had a cancellation and we shared dinner together. My heart was buzzing and the conference hadn’t even started.

I set up a meeting with my publisher on the morning the conference started. I hoped he’d give me an update on WWS but hadn’t anything new to share as it was still doing the rounds within the publisher. Then he asked me whether I had any interest in writing non-fiction? You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I lifted my jaw off the table and realised I had an opportunity to give him a pitch. I wasn’t prepared (hey, it’s a fiction conference) and it showed. Tony was kind enough to chat over possibilities and we agreed I’d prepare a proposal and get it to him as soon as possible.

Heart overflowing

And then the conference began. Wow, so many great things happened. Not just for me but others. New friends (you know who you are) got asked to submit manuscripts, Iola and Jebraun won their Genesis Awards and golly gosh it was so good being present when their names were read out. I felt like a proud dad or older brother. And let’s not forget David Rawlings was a Genesis finalist. So great the Beyond the Borders clan is making inroads. Sharing breakfast with the BtB clan was fun. Two tables this year. There was only one when I attended in 2012.
David & Jebraun a few moments
before the Gala Event


The workshops, don’t get me started as I could write another entire post on those, the special worship time, witnessing God’s power and peace in the prayer room, new friends, and on it goes.

“Staying expectant is the opposite [of expectation]. It reflects anticipation for what’s to come. It is being open to what does happen regardless of what you think should happen. Life is not meant to be something we control but something we experience.”2

A few weeks have passed and as I was thinking about what to write for this post I read Allen Arnold’s words quoted above and the Lord reminded me of the word I received late last year.

Will I become a non-fiction author? Maybe. Maybe not. But I sure want to savour the experience writing with the Lord as we discover whether I will be or not. And that’s more than enough for me.

When have you approached a situation expectant and been surprised by the Lord’s goodness? I’d love for us all to be encouraged by each other’s experiences.

Notes: 1 and 2. Allen Arnold, “The Story of With” p103. Self-published.



Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter