Friday, December 29, 2017

For He Himself is our peace

[Christ Our Peace] For He Himself is our peace - Ephesians 2:14a

I was so excited. I’d booked a post-Christmas/pre-New Year trip to Paris for a few days with my sister on a travel site. As of the time of writing this, our trip is scheduled for the 27th of December. About a week after making the payment I realised that my first name was missing from the booking so I checked on the British Airways website and learnt that only the travel agency could request my name change. So I contacted them on the 11th of December, and was told that it take 7 days to action my request. I called again on the 18th when I hadn’t heard back from the travel site, and was told by the travel agency that it’s actually 7 business days as the BA Trade Support office do not work on weekends, and that they were working on it. (Not true, by the way). Then I was told to wait another 2 days, which I did and surprise, surprise they didn’t contact me.

Then it was, “someone will call you in 4 hours”, then in “2 days” and then in “2 hours.” This went on, up until Friday, the 22nd. Meanwhile, BA told me that the only request they’d ever received from the travel agency came in on the 22nd. I’m sure you can imagine the level of my frustration. The final straw occurred that Friday, when someone at the travel agency came back to me saying that BA asked them to make the request again on Monday (Christmas day) as their systems were down! But I knew the BA Trade Support office would be closed on both Christmas and Boxing Days and my trip was the day after!

To some of you reading this, it does seem trivial. And in the grand scheme of things, it is. But in the moment I was really stressed about it as I would not be able to travel if my ticket and passport names don’t match. Anyway, in the early hours of Saturday (23rd), in those first few moments of lucidity, just as the realisation that this was the last day that this issue could be resolved I heard in my spirit the words from 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The words “…but with the temptation will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it” jumped out at me. And I felt a peace and assurance that everything would be fine. Regardless. And it all is. Sometimes we go through things that are beyond our control. Some big, some small. Some life changing, some not. There may be times when it seems like so many things are coming at you at once and you feel like life is dragging you around. Just as many families are revelling in festivities during this Christmas/New Year, there are many people facing many challenges. Jesus did say that in this life we would face trials, but that we should be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. Despite what we face, as believers in Christ we are assured that He will never leave us and that He would strengthen us and give us the grace we need to face life. He is our peace.

Ufuoma Daniella Ojo is a Software Training Manager and a Personal Performance Life Coach.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Research: Evoking Pain or Passion?

By Morgan Tarpley Smith


Research – it’s a loaded word that brings to mind different things for different writers. Does it evoke a pain or passion for you? Both perhaps?

You are not alone.

For some, research is taking the plunge to sort through a ceiling-high stack of books or spending hours on the Internet scrolling endless web pages – or it could be getting some dirt under your nails and traveling to the destination.

Read more at the following link:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ From Candlelit Cellar to Cosy Writers’ Studio


By Marion Ueckermann

Hopefully you’ve been following my blogs on the Jonker wine estate, Weltevrede, meaning ‘well satisfied’. 

If you haven’t read them yet, go to:

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/2013/04/like-sweet-wine.html

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-century-old-estate.html

The first intriguing thing my husband, son and I did on this hundred year old wine estate was wine-tasting by candlelight in an underground cellar. This was a first for me. Steyn Fullard, Marketing Manager of Weltevrede, was our host on this unusual experience.

Steyn led us to what looked like a warehouse where large wooden doors led us inside to the cement cisterns beneath the earth. It was dark, damp, and musty. And it was quiet. Candles lit our way as we walked through low-roofed, cemented corridors, moving from one cistern to the next. It felt like we were inside catacombs, as if we had stepped back in time.

Read more at the following link:

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/from-candlelit-cellar-to-cosy-writers.html

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Hidden Treasure Revisited: Part 1


By Ruth Ann Dell

Last year I wrote a post describing how my character, Abigail, came into being (read it here). Abigail and I share a fascinating hobby—geocaching.

If you're not sure what geocaching is, here's an excerpt from the post mentioned above which describes our hobby:

Geocaching is "a quest to hide and seek treasure outdoors in weatherproof containers called geocaches. The geographical co-ordinates of the geocaches are posted on www.geocaching.com and treasure seekers download them onto a GPS (global positioning system) device to find the treasure. However the co-ordinates do not always lead to the exact spot, so once you are in the area you have to search and find the geocache. Often it is camouflaged to blend with the environment eg a nut on a pole may actually be a little magnetic container. Another friend circled the area of a geocache for quite a while before she found it—it was fashioned to look like doggie poop! The owner of a geocache will often include a clue on the website to help seekers find the container.

Read more at the following link:

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/hidden-treasure-revisited-part-1.html

Monday, December 25, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Devotion: An Unusual Christmas Message


By Shirley Corder

Live in harmony and peace. And may the God of love and peace be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11 TLB

The children in my Sunday School had rehearsed their parts in the Christmas production for months. All went well, until the grand finale. Mary and Joseph came on stage with Baby Jesus. Angels followed, then the shepherds. Next came the wise men. The cutest came last.

A murmur of delight greeted the twelve two- and three-year-old cherubs who walked on-stage holding hands and dressed in long white robes and silver halos. They obediently formed a semi-circle in front of the Baby Jesus then sat down cross-legged . . . with one exception.

Read more at the following link:

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/devotion-unusual-christmas-message-by.html

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Season of Miracles

By Keona Tann


For as long as I can remember Christmas holds a great excitement for me. There is something special that happens the moment I see the first signs of Christmas. A great joy and hope springs in my heart.

The joy and hope of Christmas dates back to the very first one, a great joy to the world was born, for the Savior was born. Earth received its long-awaited king in the form of a tiny babe born in a manger. All of heaven and nature joined in singing Jesus’ glorious praises, for the great hope for mankind was born that very night!




Mary, a virgin, conceived a child through the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus who is Immanuel = ‘God is with us.’ Matthew 1:23

The first Christmas also birthed a new season, a season of miracles. Jesus’ life on earth revealed miracle after miracle. Jesus boldly declared: “For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.” (John 6:38 New Living Translation). He invested his life into others by teaching them how they could walk in relationship with God and complete His work on earth.

Christmas is an opportunity to reflect upon the great Christmas miracle - Jesus’ birth. It’s an opportunity to choose worship over chaos; peace over turmoil; joy over despair; and forgiveness over hurt. We can allow the ‘silly season’ to consume us or we can celebrate the fact that it is a season of miracles.

I was reminded of the Prayer of Saint Francis and as I reflected upon that prayer I felt a great desire to make that prayer my focus for Christmas and the coming year. This is my version of that prayer:
Lord may I walk in and exude Your peace
Where there is darkness, let me shine Your light
Where hatred reigns, let me sow Your extravagant love
Where hurt runs deep, let me sow Your miracle healing
Where grief is overwhelming, let me sow Your great comfort 
Where doubts surround hearts, let me sow Your faithfulness 
Where despair rules, let me sow Your unending hope
Where there is dryness, let me sow Your bubbling joy
O my glorious Lord may I be empowered to comfort others
May I receive divine revelation so that I have great understanding in each and every situation I face
Because You love me so much I can love others
Because You bless me abundantly I can always bless others!
Because You have forgiven me I can forgive others
Because You laid down Your life for me I can live eternally with You
Because of the great work You’re doing in my life I can impact the world around me!
Lord enable me to do Your work, I ask that my words, actions and deeds would draw people to You Lord
Lord help me to live a life of honour
Jesus may I become more like You
Abba Father may I truly grasp hold of my identity
Holy Spirit fill me to overflow
In Jesus’ name, Amen

I am so grateful for all that God has done, is doing and will do in my life.

I hope and pray that Christmas for you will be a season of miracles, that the longings of your heart will be fulfilled.


Many blessings, Keona
Keona

For most of my life I struggled with sickness. The 2 dominant afflictions were endometriosis (for 28 years) and adrenal fatigue (I was severely debilitated for 28 months and the recovery has been a journey of 11 months so far).
In September 2016 God declared healing over my life. This set me on a path of restoration and transformation.
My passion for writing was reignighted and I wrote the following mission statement:
I desire to impact the world through the words I share. I long to enrich, empower and encourage others whilst delivering my stories with empathy and understanding.
“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬
I've started a weekly blog which you can find at: https://keonajtann.wordpress.com/
I'm currently working on my testimony as well as my journey with endometriosis and adrenal fatigue. I hope that I'll launch my first book soon. Many blessings, Keona

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Maundy Thursday in a Monastery

  

By Donna Fletcher Crow

Maundy Thursday is the day Christ celebrated The Last Supper with his disciples and thereby instituted the Eucharist for his followers through the ages to come.

In A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, the second of my Monastery Murders, my heroine Felicity, who enjoys liturgical worship to the fullest, is ready to immerse herself in the full Holy Week experience at the Community of the Transfiguration where she studies in the theological college run by the monks.

Although Felicity’s focus on the worship is distracted her confused feelings for Father Antony and the mysterious behavior of their Russian Orthodox visitors she strives to keep the holiness of the day. After all, this was the beginning of the Triduum— the Great Three Days of Holy Week— the high point of the Christian year where the liturgy would reenact as closely as possible the way Christians had been celebrating Easter since the first century.

Read more at the following link:

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/maundy-thursday-in-monastery.html

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Bare Friendship


By Lucy Thompson

Bare friendship

What does it look like for ourselves? For our characters? How do we become a friend who will stand the test of time?

Below are some of the facets of a what a solid friendship, a bare friendship, looks like:

Honesty


This is the friend will tell me that a certain item of clothing *cough* makes me look fat is unflattering. 

They will point out sin in our lives and gently guide us into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Will say the hard truths even when we might not want to hear them.

~In a story, how could this be played out with a secondary character (the ultra extroverted friend who is honest to a fault, or perhaps a quiet older friend who says something at a low point of a main character's journey to pick them up), or how could the main character develop this trait and show it to someone else?~

Read more at the following link:

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/bare-friendship.html

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Sally Wright on Writing International Backgrounds

By Donna Fletcher Crow



My guest today is Sally Wright, author of the superb Ben Reese Mysteries. Sally has just brought out Breeding Ground, the first book in her all-new Jo Grant series which I'll be posting about later, but first I've asked Sally to share with our international audience some of her experiences developing the international backgrounds in the Ben Reese series.

Sally, we share a love for Scotland, which features in several of your Ben Reese novels. Where did your fascination for that wild, beautiful land start?

Sally: I've always gravitated to books about England and Scotland, which may be related to my mother's father being an Elliott, born in Jedburgh in The Borders in 1880, who came to America when he was eight. He didn't sound Scottish, or talk much about Scotland, but knowing him probably made me pay more attention when I read about Britain.

Read more at the following link.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Be a Barnabus

By Ian Acheson


Photo courtesy of
“chrisroll”/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I woke one particular morning last week thoroughly discouraged. I was struggling to understand how Angelguard was ever going to sell many copies when it appeared to only be carried by three retailers, all online ones.

I was excited having been advised ten days or so ago that stock had finally landed in the US after a month’s delay due to a bungle at the printers. This had been the second delay as the original launch date was November last year. However, my UK publisher were planning a big splash for the launch of their new fiction imprint, Lion Fiction, in March this year and decided to include Angelguard as part of the celebrations.

So to find out that none of the physical retails stores in the US were currently stocking it was disheartening.

Out of the Blue

I popped over to a blog I regularly visit and happened to notice a reply to a comment I had written a few days earlier.

BAM 

I almost fell off my chair. This virtual friend shared some encouragement that blew my mind. Her words were confirmation of something I had pondered over for a while, but had never shared it with anyone else.

Read more at the following link.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Seal Out of Water - Friday Devotion


A seal on land is a clumsy thing, right? Everything about them is designed to work in water. On land they tend to shuffle about awkwardly. Just look at this poor fellow...

That is you and me on this earth. We are spiritual beings who happen to live in earth-suits. When we don’t know this, we go about thinking that the earth-suit is as good as it gets. We are like seals, shuffling about – super-vulnerable should some igloo-dweller decide he’d like to have seal meat for supper.

But when you put a seal in the right environment – in the water, he becomes the most graceful, quick moving creature because everything about him is designed to thrive in water.

When we get around God, He makes our spirits come alive and when we live according to that life, we are like seals in water.

If you take something that is meant to live in water and put it on dry land for a while, a few significant things happen:

1.  It becomes vulnerable. A seal on land is way easier to bop on the head than in water.
2.   It loses its color. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought home a rock or a shell from the beach, only to be disappointed when the colder fades.
3.    It becomes a dried out, crusty version of what it is meant to be.


   It’s the same with us. We are first and foremost creatures of Spirit. We were designed for His presence. If we live thinking the physical is all there is, we are vulnerable, colorless, dried out versions of our true selves. But when we live according to the Spirit, we get to do life with the One who knows us best and loves us completely. Life becomes an adventure in full color. 

If you find yourself struggling today, maybe it's time to dive back into the environment He created you for - His presence!

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. 
John 4:24


Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is writing a three book YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Harbourlight. Affinity (book 1), releases on the 8th of June 2018.

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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

It's All About the Journey

I love to watch Hallmark movies at Christmastime, and they are numerous. I’ve noticed that many of them have a similar theme: single parent with cute young child returns to his/her hometown and meets a man/woman they used to know. Love grows, obstacles pile up, love overcomes.
The details differ, but the themes are similar. So why do I keep watching? I know the setup, I know the outcome.
For me, it’s the journey. Who are these people and what makes me care about them? What problems come into their lives? How do they overcome them? What tools do they use to do so? What are their values? What finally brings them together?
These are the same questions that apply to the books we read, and we usually invest more time reading (unless you read a lot faster than I do) than watching. Whether we are readers or writers, finding a connection between the main character at the very outset it enormously important, or I don’t care to read / watch. The more I care, the more I’m invested in the story.
Pixabay.com
One more thing: I also notice that the real meaning of Christmas—the birth of our Savior—is completely missing from many, if not most, of the stories. I wish that your journey to the manger this season doesn’t stop there. The reason for the season is Jesus, and his journey goes on to the cross. That’s our reason for joy and celebration.
Blessings to you on your particular path this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Resolution 2018: Resolve Nothing. By Patricia Beal.

Because why bother?

Let me tell you about 2017. It was completely bonkers. All my plans fell apart and all the gains came out of nowhere—God's perfect gifts.



I planned a smooth debut launch. Instead, on the night before my first novel came out, we had a family situation so intense and scary that the novel was the last thing in my mind.

I had hotel reservations and booked flights to attend two writers conferences and one readers retreat in 2017. I had to cancel everything to be with family. That was the right and the wise thing to do.

The plan was to stay in El Paso now that my husband is retired. But the old North Carolina house didn't sell, so we moved into it. Yep. Back to where it all started. Fort Bragg.


The plan was to transition the kids from their Texas public school to a Christian academy in North Carolina. Within a month it was clear that they couldn't accommodate my son's unique needs, and in late September I got a license to homeschool. 

The plan was for my daughter to stay at the academy, but she now wants to come home too. So my home school is about to double in size. After the Christmas break, she will begin receiving her education at home too. 

I expected Les Stobbe to continue being my agent. Instead, he decided to retire from agenting and sold his agency to The Steve Laube Agency, so I'm with them now.



I didn't plan to have an audiobook. But looks like one will happen soon. 

A Season to Dance is now available in Portuguese (an old dream, since I have a lot of Brazilian followers and since my family is there and no one speaks English). But the paperback travels from here, and it takes time. The book is expensive too. Brazilians are not into e-readers, so the ebook is not much of a solution. The result? We're not selling as well as we had hoped. Can we sell? Yes. But it will take a big effort. It will be time consuming. Right now I can't do all I would like to do. I'm editing a manuscript that has to be finished by January 3.



Bonkers. Just bonkers.

Am I hopeful? Absolutely. A lot of these unexpected changes seemed scary at first, but have become a blessing. 

The problem? I'm exhausted. I can't keep this up.

So I hereby resolve to resolve nothing. If I don't have resolutions and let God drive in peace, maybe I can be less tired, and I can enjoy the journey more. I want to take this trip one stop at a time. Now it's manuscript work. Later it will be...

Wait. Nope. That's planning.

I don't know what the next stop is. I'm at the manuscript-work stop. When God shows me the next stop, I will take that in and go from there. 



How about that? Can you live that way? Do you do that already? What are your end-of-year rituals and/or evaluation processes?

Love,
Patricia

Patricia Beal writes contemporary fiction and is represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency.

Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, came out in May (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas 2017).


She’s a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1998 with a B.A. in English Literature and then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their two children.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

That Guilty Feeling

Maybe readers everywhere belong to this not-so-exclusive club.

I just returned from ministry overseas and with all that I need... should....must do, I have succumbed to that siren call of "You need a break. Settle down awhile and pick up that book you've been wanting to read."

It doesn't take much for me to give in and shirk the work. But then that mean old niggling starts.

"Soiled clothing (see how big that pile is?) needs washing! Floors. Ugh! Need to go food shopping, cereal alone, just doesn't cut it . Windows? Forget it! Letters to answer, not forgetting Christmas cards to send." On and on it goes almost shaming me to get to work. Yes, almost is the operative word.

If you're an avid reader, you'll understand. Or perhaps you have iron resolve like some upright leading characters you read about. Really? Yet every so often you find yourself tempted beyond your control. And you slip a little. You pick up that novel you've been dying to get at. And you settle down, despite telling yourself, "Just a few minutes....." Hah! Too late!

And that strange mix of "Can't wait to get to the end and find out what happens," with this, "Hope this doesn't end too soon. It's so good."

Escapism? Is that what it's all about? Or could it be something else drawing us into another world of characters who face the same battles we face? Is it the longing in most of us yearning for wrongs to be made right? To see perseverance and prayers and hope rewarded by our loving God who knows us inside out?

These are some of the reasons I enjoy well-crafted inspirational novels so much. Yes, I also read many other secular novels and appreciate their honesty as to how the authors see their world. But I love the truth that comes to my heart and soul from reading a story in the light of a Christian World View. That point of view gives hope to us and often opens our eyes in recognizing our own imperfect selves. It reveals how giving up is not an option. And how trusting God is not a weakness of character, but more of a trusting, child-like faith in a God who cares for His children.

Why did Jesus tell so many stories? He compared the natural everyday life with its complexities to the spiritual world. In this way He never placed burdens on His followers, instead, He promised His strength to cope with our life, no matter what difficulties we face.

So, taking time out to read helps our souls to grow. It helps us to see that others have overcome those seemingly insurmountable problems.  So let's not feel too guilty about our time out for reading, huh?


Rita Galieh, has written a trilogy of historical novels, Indie published, and also contributed to several US anthologies. She is now completing a third historical romance series. A member of ICFW, ACFW, and several Australian blogs, she is on Facebook and www.ritastellapress.com  


Rita studied art at the Sydney National Art School then joined the family ceramics studio. After their marriage, she and her husband attended Emmaus Bible College, and were also involved with Christian Television on Sydney’s Channel Nine. 

Currently she co-presents Vantage Point, an Australia-wide Christian FM radio program. She enjoys giving her fun-filled presentations of ‘Etiquette of the Victorian Era’ in costume.