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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A New Year is Almost Here



What are your plans and goals for 2010? Let me know in "comments," and I will add your name to the drawing coming up next week to celebrate my new release.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Greatest Message

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\ / TODAY'S VERSE from HEARTLIGHT -- http://www.heartlight.org/
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December 28, 2009


VERSE:
No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
-- John 1:18



THOUGHT:
Jesus is God's greatest message. He not only proclaims and declares God's love, mercy, and grace; he has made it known. Only Jesus can display God to us fully, for he is one with the Father.

Yet when we "see" Jesus ministering in the Gospels, we see God. If we want to know how God feels about us, all we have to do is look at how Jesus ministers to others. If we want to know what God would do for us, we can notice what Jesus does to bless others. Jesus is our window to the Father's heart. So as this year winds down, and as you stand in the afterglow of Christmas, why not make a commitment to get to know Jesus better in this coming year by spending more time with him in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)? If you do, you will better know God!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Keep These Things


Keep These Things




The gifts were many, each a treasure
Some of wealth, more of the heart.

The greetings robust, yet hushed
And filled with awe.

The star shimmered still, even
As morning neared.

Her body drained, Mary sighed, breathing in scents
Of pungent hay, and sheep, and donkey.
Her pulse quickened again at the wonder—
Her new son, her Jesus, who would be Lord.

She knew the Scriptures and held them dear.

Her stomach clenched, overwhelmed at being chosen.
Her, a common girl, not worthy, not ready.

The baby fussed, and Mary hugged Him to her chest. A breeze
Tickled the hairs on her arm, and she smiled.
She thought of the Angel’s words, the shepherd’s words.
The voices lifted in praise.

Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
She held them dear.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve



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\ / TODAY'S VERSE from HEARTLIGHT -- http://www.heartlight.org/
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December 24, 2009


VERSE:
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good
news of great joy that will be for all the people."
-- Luke 2:10



THOUGHT:
Don't be afraid! What can cast away all fear in the presence of
God's glorious messengers? The joy of knowing that God has come to
earth to bring an end to sin and Satan's curse and to bring
salvation to all people! Fear must not master our hearts when we
know that God has broken through every barrier to reach us with his
overwhelming grace.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Along the Journey


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\ / TODAY'S VERSE from HEARTLIGHT -- http://www.heartlight.org/
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December 23, 2009


VERSE:
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
-- Luke 2:6-7


THOUGHT:
Jesus entered our world in the most normal of ways for a child:
the time came, his mother gave birth, he was wrapped in soft cloth, and he was placed in a crib. Only this was the Son of God who was born. His crib was a corncrib where animals ate, not a baby’s crib.
His room was a stable because there was no room for him. It wasn’t just normal; it was common, even below average conditions for his birth. Can you imagine? The Holy God who created everything enters our world as a baby to share our way of life as one of us. Why? He loves us and wants us to come home to him. Incredible! Incredible story. Incredible love. Incredible God!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Journey


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\ / TODAY'S VERSE from HEARTLIGHT -- http://www.heartlight.org/
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December 22, 2009


VERSE:
So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house
and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was
pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
-- Luke 2:4-5


THOUGHT:
For the next few days, let's journey with Joseph and Mary as
they experience the incredible grace of God. These verses give us
the basics: they took a trip south from their home town, they went
to Bethlehem which was King David's city, they were "betrothed" or
pledged in marriage but not yet fully married, Mary was pregnant,
and they were going there to register with the Roman government.
Intrigue and scandal ripple between the lines of this
straightforward account. Promise and fulfillment are strongly
suggested with the connection. Faithfulness through the midst of
storm is demonstrated. A real historical context for everyday
people is made with the presence of a Roman census. Scandal,
promise, faithfulness, and history collide. Jesus enters our world
very much in a place where we find ourselves -- a place of hope and
dreams marred by scandal, disappointment, travel, and bureaucracy.
He will be a people's Messiah. We know it even before the story of
his birth is told. It makes us love him and appreciate him more.
God has chosen to enter our world as one of us, not as some
pristine and untouched alien from beyond. This is a Messiah we can
reach and follow. This Jesus is one of us.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas with Virginia Smith


The Book of Your Heart
By Virginia Smith

Putting up the Christmas tree at my house is a very special event. I relish the ritual of hanging the ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Each one holds a memory. The shiny silver bell engraved with our wedding date. The brightly painted teddy bear with the year of my daughter’s birth painted on his hat. The skiing Santa I bought on our first ski trip. As I lift each treasure carefully out of the box where it has lain hidden from view all year, a precious memory emerges from deep within my heart and finds a place on my tree.

I imagine stories are like those ornaments, each one a treasure nestled within the heart of a writer, waiting to be brought out and displayed. Perhaps that’s how we first recognize that we are writers: fictitious people walk and talk and breathe within us, and we burn with the desire to show them to others. A story unfolds with startling clarity in our minds, and we know—just know—that we won’t have a moment’s peace until we’ve set it down on paper and shared it.

That burning desire is exactly what enables us to tell a story that stirs the imaginations of others. It is our passion for the story and the characters that causes us to spend hours striving for the precise word or the perfect phrase to relay the vivid images in our heads. For some, the stories conceived in our hearts burst from us full-grown; others hold a story inside, nurturing it in the deep places until it ripens into the thing of beauty we’ve envisioned.

Many years ago, a story bloomed in my heart. It was full of adventure and love, and infused with hope—truly, a thing of beauty. I wrote the first draft feverishly, the words pouring onto the page as the plot unfolded in my mind. The characters were so real, their struggles painful and vivid. I studied the craft, intent on telling my tale with artistry. With each new skill I learned, I revised and polished until the story sparkled. If ever a story was born from the heart, it was that one.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an editor who shared my passion. Whether due to my lack of skill or the uncertainties of the market for that genre, the story of my heart was rejected over and over. I mourned. I raged. I cried out to God, “Why did You give me this story if You don’t intend me to tell it?” After my rage died, I revised and polished the manuscript again. Finally, when there was not a single word that hadn’t been scrubbed until it shone, I gave up. After all, if there was no place for the story of my heart in the publishing world, maybe there was no place for me there either.

That’s when I heard God’s whisper: Do you think I have only one story to give?

A few days later, a character waltzed into my mind and began telling me about her life. She became real to me, as real as the characters in my first story. I discovered that there was room in my heart for her, too. In fact, this new tale took on a glimmer and shine all its own. I employed the skills I’d honed on my first, and eventually, God placed a published book in my hands.

And then He said: I have more stories to give you.

Can you imagine anything sadder than a Christmas tree with only a single ornament? Or a life with only a single precious memory? Or a heart with only a single story?

I am convinced that good stories are born in the heart of God, a heart immense and overflowing with creativity. He carefully selects an author for each one and bestows a precious gift – straight from His heart to ours. We write it and polish it and, when the story has become as beautiful as we can make it, we must hang it on the tree and reach into the box for another treasure.


AUTHOR BIO:
Virginia Smith is the author of a dozen Christian novels including Stuck in the Middle, a finalist for the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year award, and A Taste of Murder, a finalist for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Her newest, Third Time’s a Charm, the third and final book in her Sister-to-Sister Series, will hit bookstore shelves in January. Learn more about Ginny and her books at www.VirginiaSmith.org.


Check Out Ginny's Big Prize Bonanza Giveaway, Going On Now!

http://www.virginiasmith.org/readerfun.html

Saturday, December 12, 2009

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\ / TODAY'S VERSE from HEARTLIGHT -- http://www.heartlight.org/
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December 12, 2009


VERSE:
... but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
-- John 4:14


THOUGHT:
Water! That precious gift for the tired and thirsty. Water! That essential refreshment we all need. Jesus, however, offers water we don't have to carry or purify. No, this is water that wells up within us. This is the water that the Holy Spirit brings us. This is the water that gives us eternal life that starts now and lasts forever!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Writers And Worry

Great article today by James Scott Bell on the "Kill Zone" blog.

An excerpt--


I thought I'd reflect a little on worry. Writers, after all, really have no cause to worry about anything, right?


I mean, putting aside anxiety over whether they'll ever get an agent, get published, sell enough to stay published, or if they do get published will they get stink bomb reviews; or wondering if they are real writers or only massive frauds, or if they are doing too little self-promotion, or too much; concerns over whether they're putting undue strain on their marriages or other close relationships; and getting migraines wondering what the future of publishing will look like – discounting all that, writers really have no reason to worry at all.

First, drugs. Luckily for writers, pharmaceutical companies have been on the job to develop several treatments for all manner of writerly concerns. Among the most popular are:


Damitol - relieves symptoms associated with wanting to chuck the whole writing thing. Side effects may include cursing, smashing things and inordinate sobbing. Should not be taken by nursing mothers and church deacons.


Agenex - Controls blood pressure when you have to fire your agent. Side effects may include obsession with the number 15.


Bombasic - makes you think you're charming when drunk (Hemingway reportedly was in a research group for this drug). Side effects may include social opprobrium, intense morning headaches and regret.


Pop over to The Kill Zone to read the rest of this hilarious prescription!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Writers and Aging


I Remember When. . . . . .

Aging and the Writer’s Mind

"Old men retain their mental facilities, provided their interest and application continue." ---Cicero, Roman statesman and orator, about 100 BC.

One of the best things about a writing career is that you don’t have to give it up as you get older. In fact, barring memory or vision loss, many of us become much better with age. We will have a lifetime of experiences to draw on, and with any luck the time to get it onto paper.

A lot of the material on the ‘net refers to “anti-aging,” which I find a bit strange. After all, we are all aging, the alternative is death, so why not just “improve aging?” I’m “middle-aged,” in that I expect to live to 90, so I found this topic particularly interesting. How can we improve our chances of aging gracefully and maintaining our mental health? We all know proper diet and moderate exercise are key aspects of health, but what else should we do to keep our minds fresh? And do our habits really shape our older selves?

Dr. Judy Salerno, deputy director of NIH's National Institute on Aging (NIA), says, "When I entered the aging field many years ago, we didn't talk about disease prevention. We simply characterized normal aging. Now we are seeing that people can age successfully in good health well into old age. Disease and disability are not inevitable consequences of aging. . . . Our basic message to older people is that it's never too late," How your grandmother aged is not necessarily how you will age. Genes are not necessarily your destiny. Genes are only part of the story."

Dr. Salerno says perceptions about old age have undergone an almost total change in the last decade or so. What's more, she said, insights on getting older are no longer useful only for people of a certain age. "Habits that are established young in life may help determine how healthy you will be in old age," she says.

"Maintaining good habits and positive attitudes is what we should all be aiming for.
Once a couch potato does not mean always a couch potato. It's never too late to establish good habits, but it's never too early either."
Sheila Wilkinson of ehow.com has a list of steps to take for graceful aging, including the need to keep interacting with others, keep moving, eat well and get enough antioxidants, take time to be thankful and to volunteer to help others. Also on the list were reading, keeping a hobby and getting a pet. Her suggestions are good for body and brain.
http://www.ehow.com/how_2037296_keep-mind-young.html



Can what we eat keep your brains young?

The Real Age people believe so, and recommend the following 6 foods for maintaining brain power:

1) Nuts
2) Fish
3) Soybeans
4) Tomato juice/spaghetti sauce
5) Olive oil, fish oils, avocados and flax
6) Real chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

Good News for Writers!

Jennifer Warner of Web Md, reports that learning a second language keeps us young—and I believe the same principles apply for writers. (If you can write in a second language, even better!)

“Two languages may be better than one when it comes to keeping the mind young. A new study shows that being fluent in two languages may help prevent some of the effects of aging on brain function.
Researchers found that people who were bilingual most of their lives were better able to stay focused on a task amidst a rapidly changing environment compared with people who only spoke one language.

The ability to keep one's attention on a task is known as fluid intelligence, and it is one of the first aspects of brain function to deteriorate as people get older.
Researchers suggest that that the ability to stay focused and to manage attention while ignoring irrelevant information may involve some of the same brain processes involved in using two languages. This means bilingualism may offer a wide range of benefits for keeping the mind sharp and fighting the effects of aging.”

So as we age, the exercise we do mentally is as important as the physical, and it’s never too late to develop healthier habits. Keep writing and read every day—the Bible makes great brain work. Be aware of the symptoms of memory problems and disease onset such as Alzheimer’s, and seek treatment as soon as possible.