Monday, December 24, 2012

Our Gifts To Each Other This Year
God's Gift To Everyone For All Time

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Christmas Bell

Christ’s Bell

I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I am united with the Lord (I Cor. 6:17)
 I am bought with a price (I Cor. 6:19-20)
I  am  a  saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)
  I  am  a   personal  witness of Christ.   (Acts 1:8)
    I  am  a  member of  the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27)
     I am  free  forever from condemnation of  sin (Rom 8:1-2)
            I   am   a   citizen  of  Heaven. I  am  significant.(Phil. 3: 20) 
           I  am  free  from  any  charge  against   me. (Rom. 8: 31 - 34)
           I  am  a   minister  of  reconciliation  for  God  (II  Cor. 5:17 - 21)
           I  have  access  to  God  through the Holy Spirit (II  Cor. 1:21– 22)
          I  am   seated   with   Christ   in    the   heavenly  realms   Eph. 2: 6)
             I  cannot   be    separated   from   the   love   of    God .   (Rom. 8:35-39)
           I  am  established,   anointed,   and   sealed     by   God.  (II Cor. 1: 21-22)
             I  am   assured    that   all   things   work    together   for   good   (Rom. 8:28)
            I   have    been     chosen    and    appointed     to       bear    fruit. (John 15: 16)
           I   can     approach      God      with      confidence    and      freedom. (Eph. 3:12)         
    I can   do    all    things    through     Christ     who     strengthens    me.  (Phil. 4:13)
      I  am   a   branch   of     the    true    vine.   A    channel   of    His     life.  (John 15:1-5)
       I am   God’s     temple   (I Cor. 3: 16). I    am    complete   in   Christ.   (Colossians 2: 10)
      I  am   hidden    with   Christ    in    God  (Col. 3:3). I   have   been    justified  (Romans 5: 1)
     I  am  God’s co-worker (I Cor. 3:9;  II Cor. 6:1)  I  am   God’s   workmanship  (Ephesians 2:10)
       I am  confident  that   the good  works  that  God  has  begun in  me  will   be  perfected. (Phil. 1:5)
     I have been redeemed and forgiven (Colossians f1:14) I have been adopted as God’s child. (Eph. 1:5)
I belong to God
Do you know
Who you are?


Monday, December 17, 2012

Leaving a Legacy
Uncle Darrell

My uncle died shortly after Thanksgiving. He was a Vietnam vet, and had a very nice military funeral.
military honors
Darrell became a Christian within the last ten years or so, and it changed his life. He married a lady who was also a devoted Christ follower, and became active his church, impacting many people in the community. At the funeral, people shared how he had touched their lives in many ways.

His greatest desire was that his family and friends would see how his faith in Christ had changed his life and that He would do so for them if they would invite Him into their lives. He left a lasting legacy. I can only hope to do the same.

How will people remember you?








Monday, December 3, 2012

The Story of The Teacup

I went to a High Tea one afternoon at Community Chapel in Mauldin, SC. It was fun to meet new people and sing praise songs while enjoying a variety of teas. There were scones, sandwiches, fruit, and other treats as well. The best part, though, wa s the testimony of one of the ladies there.

She’s undergoing treatment for cancer and talked about her spiritual life during this time. She shared a story by Georgy that lifts her spirits and sustains her.

The Teacup

A couple went to England for their anniversary. They liked antiques and pottery, especially teacups. One day, in a beautiful shop, they spotted an exceptional cup and asked to see it. ”We’ve never seen a cup quite so beautiful.” As the lady handed it to them, the teacup shocked them by speaking and telling this story…

I have not always been a teacup.  Once I was just a lump of red clay. My master rolled, pounded and patted me over and over. I yelled, “Don’t do that. I don’t like it! Let me alone.”

But he only smiled and gently said, “Not yet.”

Then WHAM! He placed me on a spinning wheel and spun me round and round. “Stop it! I’m getting so dizzy! I’m going to be sick,” I screamed.

But the master only nodded and said quietly, “Not yet.”

He spun, poked, prodded, and bent me out of shape, then put me in the oven! I’d never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. “Help! Get me out of here!”

I could see him through the opening and could read his lips as he shook his head, “Not yet.”

When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully put me on the shelf. I began to cool. Oh it felt so good! This is much better, I thought. Then he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. “Oh, please stop!” I gagged.

My master only shook his head and said, “Not yet!”

Suddenly he put me into a much hotter oven where I knew I would suffocate. I begged, pleaded, and cried, convinced that I would never make it. I was ready to give up when the door opened. He took me out and placed me on the shelf. I cooled, wondering, “What’s next?”

An hour later, my master gave me a mirror. “Look at yourself.”

“That’s not me” I said. “It’s beautiful..,I’m beautiful.”

Quietly he spoke, “I know it hurt to be rolled, and pounded and patted, but if left alone, you would have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I know it was painful in the oven, but without the heat, you would have cracked. I know the paint fumes were awful, but without paint, there would be no color in your life. Without that second firing, you would not have the strength to survive. Now you are a finished product. Now you are just what I had in mind.”

God knows what He’s doing. He is the Potter and we are His clay. He will mold us and make us, exposing us to just enough of the right pressures that we might become a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

So when life seems hard, and you feel pounded and pushed almost beyond endurance; when your world seems to be spinning out of control; when you’re in a fiery furnace of trials and life stinks, try this…Brew your favorite tea in your prettiest teacup. Sit down, and remember this story and have a little talk with the Potter. (Isaiah 64:8)

What are you facing that seems overwhelming? A load that's too heavy to carry? God is there in the midst of it. As hard as it is to do, we can trust Him to know what He's doing, even if we can't see it in the process.




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Get Moving!

The cold weather had arrived early. It was only October and we’d already had our first frost. I wore three layers, but still shivered as I sat at my desk. It was approaching noon, so I got up to fix lunch. I transferred the first load of laundry from the washer to the dryer and started the second load. As I did, I realized  I wasn’t cold anymore. Maybe because I’d been moving. 
“See any parallel here Ellen?” God asked. I smiled, recognizing how it mirrored my spiritual life, and doing what God had told me to. He’d told me to sit down and write. Write a devotion, work on my nonfiction work, or at least work on some writing exercises.  I’d been procrastinating by doing anything but that. I’d wash the dishes, vacuum the house, play a computer game. You get the idea. I’d done the same thing when it came to spending time with God in prayer or reading His Word. I’d suddenly have other things I suddenly “had to do.”

I’d fallen into Satan’s trap of distraction. Satan’s tricky that way. We tend to fall for Satan’s deception because he’s so crafty. None of the things I did was sinful, or bad in itself, but it was a waste of time and kept me from doing what God wanted.

We often do things that fill our time and they’re good, productive things. It makes us feel good about having accomplished them. But we need to focus on what God wants us to do. Each day we need to ask Him to help us hear His voice and to follow through with doing as He leads. When we do, we’re more productive and we feel better for not having wasted our time. More importantly, we’re obedient to God’s direction. All because we got moving.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

I’d gone to the reading of The Same Life Over at Centre Stage Greenville, SC. The actors read the lines, with one person describing each scene change so the audience could picture it in their minds. Because  there was no scenery on stage, I could visualize how it looked and enjoy the scenes and acts I imagined them.

Centre Stage has stadium seating and the stairs are steep. Since I sat one row from the back, I waited for most people to go ahead of me before stepping into the aisle.

Holding onto the handrail, I carefully stepped down the first stair. I did same with the second but my foot slipped. The next thing I knew I was tumbling into people ahead of me. “Aaaah” I cried. When I landed at the bottom, my first words were “Did I hurt anybody?”

“No, everyone’s ok. Are you ok?”
“No, I hurt.”
“Can you move your ankle?” someone asked. I nodded, and I did so, despite the pain.  

I looked around to see that five or six people had stayed with me to see whether I would be ok. I started to get up, but couldn’t yet.

“Stay there. There’s no hurry. Wait till you’re ready.”
“We’ll drive you home,” one man said.
“No, I’m ok” I answered.
“Are you sure?” he asked, unconvinced.
“Yeah, I think so”, I said, hesitatingly. About ten minutes later I got up and realized how dizzy I was. And weak.

“I think we should drive you home,” he said again, recognizing that I wasn’t truly ok.

“Yes, I think so” I said, realizing I was in no shape to drive.  

 After walking through the lobby at a snail’s pace, I walked out with them to their car. Hugh drove my car and Kathy took me in hers as I told her where to go.

They lived in the opposite direction, but volunteered to take me anyway and I was so glad. God used them to meet my need, even though I didn’t like needing anyone. It gave them the opportunity to bless me and taught me that sometimes we need to trust others to help us out.

Thank you, Hugh and Kathy, for driving me home that night. You’re a real blessing.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Life Lessons from a Dog in a Kayak
Sometimes God uses a dog to teach us basic life lessons.

We went kayaking last weekend at Table Rock and took our dog, Tommy. We’d been many times, but this was new for Tommy.  We got to the lake and Tommy splashed in the water along the shore, getting used to the water.  He smiled as he splashed, having a wonderful time. 
 We each got in a kayak and Tommy rode with Dad, sitting behind him. They paddled along enjoying the cool weather, the sky decorated with billowy clouds overhead. Lush green trees lined the shore.

Tommy decided he was bored so he got up to walk away. SPLASH!  He sank, having no idea what had happened. 

When he resurfaced, he panicked, until he figured out how to dog paddle.  He hurried over to Mom’s kayak and she held him next to the boat so he would calm down, realizing he was safe.
When Mom couldn’t pull him into her kayak, he paddled to Dad, who’d moved alongside.  Dad scooped him into his arms and put him safely in his kayak.

How often do we relax and decide to venture out a bit to try something new?  And end up in over our heads, not knowing how to get back? It can be scary.

When we turn back to our Father, desperate for help, He rescues us and scoops us into His arms to safety, glad we’re with Him again. And we can relax.  If we stay near Him, we can know He’ll keep us safe because he loves us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Power Outage

Sometimes God just makes me laugh.
I went to a Bible study this week where we’re going through a book called Abide in Christ, by Andrew Murray and Bo Stevens. First they define what it means to abide, and then go into how to do that in our relationship with God. One of the first steps is to spend time with Him. Only then can we grow closer to Him and learn to be more like Him.
Confession time: I hadn’t done most of the study last week, I’d only glanced over a few pages. I can easily put off reading the Bible and do other things to fill my time. But last night as I drove home, I realized that I often watch TV or play computer games when there’s nothing I have to do. And spending that time talking to Him would be a better use of that time. I decided to do just that.
When I got home, the first thing I noticed was that the porch light was off. I know I turned it on when I left, didn’t I? I asked myself. I went inside and saw the light switch turned to the “on”position. Nothing worked. We’d lost power.
So now I couldn’t watch TV or get on my computer (since it’s a desktop). But I could use my flashlight to read and study the Bible. I spent the time reading the Bible and meditating on what God was telling me. Spending that time with Him was what I needed to do, and need to do each day.
God definitely has a sense of humor. And His ways are not my ways.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

God: The Author Of Us All

Writers have a unique way of communicating.

I started attending a couple writers’ groups about two years ago. I figured I’d get to meet other writers and learn what they were writing, and hopefully get some feedback to help me improve. I had no idea I’d have to learn a new language!

Things like POV, WIP, and voice were just some of the terms among them. You mean voice doesn’t mean how loud I speak, or the pitch of my voice? And pitch is something else altogether?

WIP, I learned, means work-in-progress and refers to whatever an author is currently writing.  I think it also applies to all of us as we go about our lives.

As writers, we develop our WIPs, edit, tweak the storyline, and rewrite severak more times until we (and the editors) are satisfied. We develop our characters more fully, and fill in the details until the whole picture becomes clear and communicates what we want to tell our readers. God does the same with us as He writes the story of our lives.

God develops and transforms us to be more of what He has in mind as our story unfolds. He writes suspense. But with God, His characters (that’s you and me) are the ones who wonder what the next scene will be.  As do those who watch His story unfold in our lives. He’s written many stories over the millennia with plots that have many twists and turns, leaving us wondering what will happen next.

Only God knows what will happen in the future. I’m glad that’s the case. It piques my interest, even though I sometimes wish I knew some of the details ahead of time. But the Author knows how much His characters should know and reveals the details as He sees fit. He’s never written the same story twice.
If only I could do the same .

Thursday, August 9, 2012

When Faith and Life Collide

Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.

This is a promise many of us have heard.  We want to believe it’s true, so how do we handle it when our circumstances seem to prove otherwise? Is this evidence that the Bible isn’t true? I contend that’s not the case.  Perhaps we’ve overlooked a piece of the puzzle. Maybe there’s something we haven’t considered.

Nowhere does it tell us how God plans to do to prosper us, or what that looks like. Nor does it tell us when.  It does say He’ll give us hope for the future.   That’s where faith comes in. Faith that God will fulfill his promise to us. And perseverance until we see how God works it through.

When it comes to many things in my life, I recognize that it takes time to see the fruit(s) of my labor. Building up a retirement account, deepening relationships with friends and family, or growing a garden, doesn't happen overnight.  It takes time, perseverance and commitment on my part to see it through to the end. 

So, why do we expect God to answer our prayers right away?  Because He can?  Fair enough, but what if He takes His time so that we grow in the process?  That’s been a tough lesson for me to learn, and I find I have to re-learn it many times over.  But God has proven that He’s faithful and has my best interest in mind, even when I can’t see it. 

How about you? What have you seen God do in times of hardship that you could only recognize after time had passed? How do you handle it in the meantime?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grabbing Hold of What's in Front of Us.

It's the first thing I see every morning. It demands my attention and care and I'm happy to give it. I know that it'll flourish if I do. But it'll droop, and eventually die, if I neglect it.

I have a very needy plant on my front porch. It's a very thirsty little fella so I need to water it daily. I love the way it looks, so I take care to give it what it needs to grow to thrive.

 million bells

Because it's always there, it'd be easy to take its beauty for granted. The same is true of God and the gifts He gives us. 

"If you ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life."--Frank Lloyd Wright.

Like the million bells above, God is always there, and is easy to take Him for granted.  But, like the plant above, our relationship with Him needs our attention. It has to be nourished if it is to grow and thrive. I struggle to prioritize spending time with Him. But I know it makes a difference.

How about you? What do you have difficulty putting at the top of your priority list? Don't forget to join the conversation.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Assumptions matter—a lot!

We make assumptions every day without even realizing it.
A couple weeks ago I was exhausted. I’d had a bout of insomnia the night before, so I was operating on three hours of sleep. After I got home from church, I lay in bed and immediately fell asleep. The clouds hung low, darkening the sky and it was forecast to rain.  
When I awoke, it was dark outside and the clock registered 4:00. “Gosh it’s early” I said to myself. But I was wide awake, refreshed from having slept so well that night.
I got up and went about my day. Had breakfast and puttered around the house. I checked my e-mail, wrote a few letters, and read a bit. The longer I was up, the darker it became. “We’re in for quite a storm” I said.
I caught a glimpse of the lower right hand corner of the computer screen. “6:47p.m. 6/24/2012”. That’s not right. I wonder how that got off by 12 hours  I thought.
No matter though. I changed the p.m. to a.m. and moved the date forward. I watched a few programs I’d taped earlier that week. Then I began to get tired and hungry. I had a snack but didn’t want to take a nap too early in the day. So I pushed through.
It wasn’t until about 12:30 that the proverbial light went on. I had switched to live TV and saw a late night comedy show. “Oh my gosh. I’m tired because it’s 12:30 a.m.”, I said.  Everything else began to fit into place and I just laughed. I was hungry because I’d had a bowl of cereal for dinner, not breakfast. And the storm had nothing to do with the darkness. It was the middle of the night! No wonder I was tired.
I ate a bigger meal, then went to bed.  
I slept until 10:00a.m. the next day. My body dragged as I tried to re-orient myself to reality. It was as if I’d traveled across several time zones and suffered from jet lag. It was a few days before I adjusted.
Later, I realized there was a lesson in this. Our assumptions matter. Because I’d believed it was early morning instead of afternoon, everything I did from eating breakfast instead of dinner, to resetting clocks on the computers was off base. Logical based on what I thought, but since my assumptions were off, my choices made no sense. And the results were nothing like what they would have otherwise been.
It made me pause. How often do we make inaccurate assumptions? About ourselves, other people, or motivations, perhaps. It makes a difference.

Have you ever made an inaccurate assumption that led you to the wrong conclusion, or had an unexpected outcome? Perhaps not as extreme as I did, but the results were still unexpected? Don’t forget to join the conversation.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Our Need for Other People

If the only tool in your belt is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Abraham Maslow

I heard this quote referred to the other day and I realized it reflects how we go about most things in our lives. Not only do we tend to see difficult situations through our own set of lenses, we react to them with what we know, and only what we know.

While this seems obvious, its implications may not.  Not every problem is the same.  And each may require different methods to solve, or at least manage it. That’s why we need other people’s perspectives.  Others also have strengths and abilities we lack. I Corinthians 12:18-20 tells us this as it talks about the church having many parts in order to make it whole so it can function as it should.  If they work together.

I like to see myself as independent. But having moved into my new place less than a month ago, I find that others' ideas and perspectives are invaluable, especially since organization isn't one of my strong suits. And receiving their help and ideas also blesses them. So perhaps interdependent would be a better word.

How 'bout you? How do you see this reflected in your life? Don't forget to join the conversation.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Starting over

Everything’s new.  Well, maybe not new, but different.  I’ve just moved and I’ve gone from having one bedroom in a house to a two  bedroom townhouse.  My own kitchen, my own living room, and two bathrooms to fill. 
It’s a great change but any change has its challenges.  The first, and most frequent one at this point, is the problem of finding everything.  It’s like the game children play “hide, find the _____________. You fill in the blank.  Whatever you choose, you’re probably right. 
In the past, that would’ve upset me—A LOT. I would’ve been miserable these last few weeks, and the next several I imagine.  But I’ve realized it’s not that important.  If I have to spend extra time looking for a notebook that’s been in the same place for years, or a list I made just an hour ago, that’s ok. Even funny when I really think about it. 
Same circumstances produce very different responses.  It all depends on how I look at it. Makes me think what else this applies to in my life.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Upcoming Writers Conference in Greenville

The Writer's Plot Writing Conference
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Furman University
3300 Poinsett Hwy
Greenville, SC 29613

Keynote Speaker:  Harold Underdown
Early Bird Special Price:  $80 until June 16th ($100 regular price afterwards)
Manuscript Critique:  $45 (first 10 pages)
Special Critique with Harold Underdown for rejected manuscript consultation:  $45 (first 10 pages)
Deadline for submission:  June 16th

Register online:
10% discount for TWP members for all prices

Presenters include:

Harold Underdown
– consulting editor, former vice president & editorial director at ipicturebooks, former editorial director at Charlesbridge, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books

Edie Melson
– social media marketing expert, author of best-selling ebook, Social Media Marketing for Writers and a devotional, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle

Vonda Skelton – author of Seeing Through the Lies (for women), three Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries (for children), and numerous magazine articles for adults

Patricia Thomas
– author of 7 picture books, including “Stand Back,” said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” as well as numerous magazine articles and short stories

Pam Zollman – award-winning author of 40 children’s books, hundreds of short stories and articles (for adults and children), and former editor at Highlights Magazine.

Alan Gratz – award-winning author of six children’s and YA books, short stories, magazine articles, plays, and several episodes of A&E’s City Confidential

Jessica Alexander
– Associate Editor for Peachtree Publishing

Katya Jensen
—Editorial and Subrights Coordinator for Peachtree Publishing

Diana Flegal– Literary agent with Hartline Literary Agency 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Making the Bible Personal

A friend of mine gave me a  copy of a page in the December 2000 issue of Decision Magazine. In it, the author examines Psalm 23 one concept at a time and suggests what each means for us today.

Psalm 23 For Me

The Lord is my Shepherd.
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness.
For His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil.
For You are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou anointest my head with oil.
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and  mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
Loving Care
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Eternal Home.

I've read Psalm 23 many times, but not until I read this breakdown of the concepts did it mean so much.

When I look at each of these,  I realize just how much God gives us, and wants for us.  For me, guidance is one of the key needs in my life, especially since so much changes in today's world. 

How 'bout you?  Have you ever considered how much Psalm 23 tells us about God and His provisions for us? What strikes you as most significant? 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Letter from God

My Princess
Triumph Through Trials

I see you when you are in the garden of grief, My princess. I hear your cry for help in the dark hours of the night.  I Myself cried out in the garden the night I was betrayed.  In My suffering I asked My Father for another way a less painful way.  Yet I trusted His will and purpose for My life and knew the ultimate victory was at the cross.  Just as olives must be crushed to make oil, I poured out My life as a love offering for you. 

Don't ever doubt that I am with you and that I long to take you to a place of comfort, peace, and victory.  Even when you cannot see Me from where you are, I am working on your behalf.  Give to Me the crushing weight of your circumstances, and come to Me in prayer.  When it is time to leave the garden, I will walk with you across the valley and straight to the cross where your trials will be transformed into triumph.
                             Author Unknown

"For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything."  James 1: 3-4

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Importance of Relationship

Building relationships in Athens
Missionaries to refugees in Greece are staying at our home this week.  Tonight they told a group of people about their ministry and one key thing that stood out to  me was the reason Christianity attracts the Muslims they work with.  They live out what they say.

As they build relationships with the refugees at Helping Hands, the people begin to ask questions about why the missionaries believe in Christ.  They're taught the facts about Christ coming to earth, his crucifixion, and resurrection from the dead.  But the key reason people make a decision to follow Christ is they see that the missionaries' lives reflect what they believe and teach, unlike many of the religious leaders they've heard in the past.

When Ilir said this, it made me think.  How do I come across to others?  Do they see someone whose life reflects that of Christ?  I hope so, but I need to keep this in mind as I relate to everyone whose path I cross.  

What about you?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Want a Do Over

I Want A Do-Over

When I was in elementary school, one of the popular toys for kids was Etch-a-Sketch, a gray screen you could draw pictures on by turning the knobs on the bottom.  If you liked

the picture, you showed it to all your friends.  If not, you shook it, the screen went blank, and you could start over.  We made endless pictures, using our imaginations, and turning the ideas into pieces of “art.” Then we’d start over with a blank screen to create our next masterpiece.

God does that with us too.  He starts with a blank slate, decides what he wants to make of our lives, and begins creating His work.

.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.

God doesn’t make mistakes, but He knows when we do. He points it out to us, and gives us another chance to start over, wiping the slate clean.  And we get as many “do-overs” as we need because He loves us.  I’m sure glad He loves me and gives me so many chances when I blow it.

Can anyone else relate?