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October 16, 2014

IMG_2913On a bike ride to the park the other day, I passed a girl with a dog. The dog sat on the grass (on a leash) waiting patiently while the girl texted on her cell phone. I rode past them both at least four or five times around the park circle before she finally put the phone away and took the dog on his long awaited walk.

I couldn’t help wonder what the dog thought while she distractedly ignored him.

At Bible study lunch this week I sat near two widows. Both lost their husbands a year ago. One was 85 and had expected the time was near. The other looked to be about my age, and I’m fairly certain did not expect her life to take such a turn.

I couldn’t help but wonder how they coped. And I realized that there is a lot more going on in the world than I normally see from my limited view.

It can be so easy to get caught up in our own thinking, our own problems–they can seem so overwhelming sometimes. But then we talk to a friend or new acquaintance, even a passing stranger at a store, and we hear tales that make our problems pale in significance.

That doesn’t mean we don’t face trials or struggles. We do. But I think our perspective changes the more we interact with the people around us. The more we listen to them instead of just thinking about what we plan to say next. When we begin to care about their needs above our own. When we pray for the hurting and suffering of those around us and rejoice with those who are happy just because they are happy whether it directly affects us or not.

Sometimes I think rejoicing can be harder than sympathizing because of those little nudges of jealousy we feel when someone succeeds where we do not. Like the dog at the side of the road just waiting to be noticed, we want someone to pay attention to us. We want to be heard and we want empathy for what we feel. That’s not wrong.

But sometimes, like that dog, it’s our turn to wait patiently while our friend talks to another. Maybe the person on the other end of that text message was in deep need and the dog’s “best friend” was trying to help them. Only that girl knows why she ignored her dog in that moment.

And only God knows what is going on in the hearts of the people around us. The more people I talk to, the more pain and suffering I see. The more lack of hope. We need hope.

And sometimes hope comes down to a matter of perspective. We might never know what another has suffered or what trial or trauma they are facing right now. We only know what they tell us.

We do know our own pain and joy. But we must watch how carefully we focus on only ourselves or our text messages and ignore the poor dog.

From either perspective, we can reach beyond ourselves to care for others. We may not walk a mile in their shoes or on their leash, but we can surely walk beside them.


by jill at 8:56 pm in

If you could write your own prescription

October 10, 2014

what would you write?

I’m not talking about drugs here. What if we could write our own prescription for happiness? What would yours look like?

Mine would include the following (not in any particular order):

1. Prayer – it’s like breathing to me. If I could change it just a bit, I would love to sit at Jesus’ feet and physically hear him speak (like Mary did). Ohhh….can you imagine? And get answers to my questions right away.

2. Laughter – don’t you wish you could bottle it? I have this vision in my mind of my family around a dinner table where laughter runs freely. LOVE moments like that!

3. Music – where I could hear a new song from a new artist every day and fall in love with it.

4. Family – just being together!–and where moments take me by surprise and dreams for each person I love come true.

5. Restoration – in any form – from relationships to house projects. LOVE seeing things made new!

6. Treats – as in favorite foods and beverages – without calories or guilt! (Where chocolate is in the four basic food groups.)

7. Friends – ahh…the spice of life! Where everyone has at least one good friend. And I’m grateful for each one God gives to me.

8. Bike rides with God – or walks – like Adam and Eve had in the Garden before sin.

9. An end to all suffering – and evil and pain and everything bad in the world.

10. Rest – where we can just be and not always have to do.

11. A belated addition – Tiger! Animals! What was I thinking? Snuggling all kinds of animals. (Even when they are chewing the computer cord.)

12. Nature – one of my favorite places to be – minus bugs.

Of course, this prescription is kind of a wish list, and I don’t have the power to make any of these ten things come true. But some of them are possible in less adventurous doses. I can pray more and laugh more and sing more and walk with God any time I want to because He promised to always be there for me. (Hebrews 13:5) The rest? Those are things mostly beyond my control. But I can pursue friendships, love family, seek restoration, enjoy the treats in moderation, and pray for the hurting. Resting in the hope of what’s to come – when true happiness reigns.

How about you? What is your prescription for happiness here on earth?


by jill at 9:05 pm in

Left Behind

October 7, 2014

Over the weekend the “Left Behind” movie opened in theaters across the country, sparking a discussion among some author friends about the theology of the Rapture. Since the movie is based on Scripture and though it is more an end-times thriller than biblical fiction, I thought I would share my views of the Rapture here.

I have believed in a pre-tribulation Rapture since childhood. (That is the belief that Christians will escape the wrath of God before He unleashes His fury against evil in the world.) My dad longed to live to see the Rapture. He didn’t. But he did graduate to heaven and gets to see Jesus every day now. So I’m sure in hindsight, he isn’t sorry he missed what he thought he wanted.

I’ve studied Revelation – read it many times. Read different points of view on the teaching of the Rapture, whether it happens before, during, after or not at all in relation to what the Bible calls the tribulation. But even after all of the study I’ve done, I don’t come close to being a scholar on the subject. About the only biblical area where I might hang my hat on “expertise” is King David’s life or maybe other characters in the Bible whose stories I’ve studied and written.

But even then, I am certain that one day when I meet these people and spend eternity getting to know them, they’re going to tell me that I got it wrong.

And that’s the trouble with so many things in Scripture. Many things, those in that “gray” area, are open to interpretation and debate. The truth is, even commentaries that I reference in my research don’t agree on every point. That is especially true of end times theology.

The way I see it, it doesn’t matter to me whether someone believes in the Rapture or not, whether they are pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, perterist, or something else. The theology that matters most to me is truth. Do we, do I, walk in truth?

And how can we know what is true? A pressing question Pilate asked Jesus before he allowed him to be crucified.

And in all of my searching of Scripture, in all of my life experiences, in my questions and doubts, I find that truth is bound up in faith. Faith that says I believe God loves me. I believe what He says about sin and death and life and heaven and hell and my need of a Savior. I believe because of grace and that faith gives me hope for the future – whether I am raptured as my dad and I both hoped to be or whether I face eternity through the passage of death – someday I will leave this life, one way or the other. Like my dad, I am ready to meet Jesus and I don’t think I will care once I meet Him how I got there.

I do think there is a misconception among some Christians – and I was one of them – regarding the teaching of the Rapture of the Church. When I was young, I thought of it as an escape. Kind of a “get out of persecution card” because I feared persecution. (I daresay we might all agree on that one.) But the Bible tells us that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (Not my favorite verse.) The Rapture wasn’t a made-up teaching to escape that. I believe there is room for the teaching, while at the same time living above the fear. Light in a dark world, if you will.

The Rapture, as shown in the “Left Behind” movie isn’t about persecution nearly as much as it is about the coming wrath of God on the evil in the world. (The movie doesn’t show all that, but the books do.)

And to be clear, we need to realize that there is a distinct difference between persecution and wrath. Persecution separates/isolates us from man. Wrath against sin and evil separates us from God.

The only reason I don’t fear wrath is because of Jesus. And I shouldn’t fear persecution if I take to heart what King David once said, “Whom then shall I fear? What can man do to me?” Jesus took it a step further when He said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The movie was good, especially at opening the door to conversations about these things. Whether there is a Rapture or not, Jesus is coming again. I still hold out hope that I might live to “meet the Lord in the air” at the Rapture (a word not found in the Bible but a concept that is).

But I also think when it comes to these teachings that are not distinctly clear, when interpretations could differ, where they do not affect our faith in what Jesus came here to do, then it helps to remember than none of us understands God perfectly nor can we interpret His Word without some degree of error.

But we can study, and we can seek Him. And He will be found by us if we seek Him with all of our hearts.


by jill at 9:11 pm in ,

October 2014 Christian Fiction Releases

October 6, 2014

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Amish Romance:

An Amish Second Christmas by Kathleen Fuller, Tricia Goyer, Ruth Reid and Beth Wiseman — “When Christmas Comes Again” by Beth Wiseman: Katherine Zook and her four children are facing their first Christmas without a loved one, and the future seems dim. But when a mysterious Englisch man begins to show up in the most unlikely of places, Katherine can’t help but be suspicious . . . and a bit curious. “Her Christmas Pen Pal” by Ruth Reid: When Joy Stolzfus’s boyfriend tells her he wants to court other women, she’s shocked. She pours her heart out in a letter, but it mistakenly reaches Noah Esh. The two begin writing letters back and forth, but a misunderstanding threatens to topple the relationship they’re building. “A Gift for Anne Marie” by Kathleen Fuller: Anne Marie Smucker’s life is pretty perfect. Until she discovers her widowed mother is getting married and they’re all moving. On top of that, Anne Marie’s relationship with her friend Nathaniel has changed, and she’s more confused than ever about her feelings for him. “The Christmas Aprons” by Tricia Goyer: Esther Glick bakes a Christmas pie for a fundraiser, and she soon finds herself sitting across from bachelor Ammon Schwartz. Esther receives many orders for pies, but when she breaks her wrist, she discovers what community-and love-are all about. (Amish Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Contemporary Romance:

At Bluebonnet Lake: A Novel (Texas Crossroads) by Amanda Cabot — Marketing maven Kate Sherwood’s world is fast-paced, challenging, and always changing. The last thing she wants to do is slow down to a crawl at Rainbow’s End, a dilapidated resort in the Texas Hill Country. But she cannot deny her ailing grandmother’s request to visit the place where she and her deceased husband spent one glorious week (albeit fifty years ago). There Kate meets Greg Vange, the resort’s handyman. But there’s more to Greg than meets the eye–billions more, in fact, as he recently sold his successful software company and is at the resort in search of what’s next for his life. Kate isn’t looking for romance, but she can’t deny the sparks of attraction that fly every time she and Greg are together. She even starts to see potential in the rundown resort. Could there be a future there? Or will Kate’s long-sought promotion take her back to the big city? (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker Publishing Group])

Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey — After Taryn McKenna’s high school sweetheart, Justin Callahan, abandons her to join the army, Taryn vows to never love again. And she decides to keep a closely guarded secret from him-forever. Focused on being completely independent, Taryn pours herself into teaching high school in Hollings, North Carolina and helping her spunky Grandma Jemma. But when Jemma’s health takes a turn for the worse, and Justin reappears, Taryn’s emotions get more tangled than a knotted piece of thread. A hand-stitched Irish chain quilt holds the message of healing Taryn needs. But will she realize the depth of God’s unconditional love for her? (Contemporary Romance from Abingdon Press)

His Small-Town Family by Lorraine Beatty — Nicki Latimer never expected to be back in her tiny Mississippi hometown-much less running a store with a baby on her hip. But when her father falls ill, Nicki will do anything to save the family business…even put her dreams on hold. And she’s found just the person to help her. Ethan Stone is strong and reliable, but also haunted by his past as a war photographer. He’s convinced he could never be the man Nicki thinks he is. But with Ethan by her side, Nicki’s dreams of love and family are closer than she thinks. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

A Holiday Proposal by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Holly Miller is steering clear of mistletoe. Just out of nursing school, Holly can’t risk any distractions. She knows a slip-up could cost a life. Like the mistake she made years ago that still plagues her conscience. When she runs into old high school friend Matthew Cook, she hesitates to let romance into her life. Even if the handsome baker is as delectable as his fabulous pastries. She didn’t notice him back in high school, but things have sure changed. Now that Matthew has Holly’s attention, maybe the holiday season is the perfect time for him to show her that she deserves to have it all-work, family, friends and a love that lasts a lifetime. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Forever Christmas by Robert Tate Miller — Up-and-coming literary agent Andrew Farmer is constantly on the road, wooing prospective clients and making a name for himself. Would he and his wife Beth have spent their last moments together arguing had they known that just before midnight on Christmas Eve, Beth would be hit by a taxi that would ultimately take her life? Andrew would do anything to go back and change that night. Then he meets Lionel, a straight-talking angel in disguise, who grants Andrew the gift of the last three days of Beth’s life to relive, but there’s a hitch: her fate cannot be changed. Only one gift will save her life, and Andrew has seventy-two hours to figure out what that gift is or he’ll lose Beth forever. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])


Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay — Restaurant owner Elizabeth has lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down. When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvy celebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she’s losing her dream. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy. As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her? (General/Contemporary from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Historical Romance:

Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin — A shy spinster, Violet Madison secretly delivers food to the poor at Christmas and earns the title The Yuletide Angel. When bachelor Hugh Barnes discovers the truth, he vows to protect her. Neither realizes someone else waits in the shadows, threatening to ruin Violet’s generosity and her reputation. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

The Farmer’s Daughter Romance Collection by Mary Davis, Kelly Eileen Hake, Tracie Peterson, Jill Stengl and Susan May Warren– Meet daughters of prairie farms from Montana south to Kansas who find love in the midst of turbulent life changes. Marty’s nieces are kidnapped. Rosalind’s town is overrun by a railroad company. Amy’s jealousy comes between her and her twin. Beulah’s answer is needed to a marriage proposal. Lilly’s choice puts her at odd with her neighbors. Into each of their lives rides a man who may only make their situations worse. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Dreaming on Daisies (Love Blossoms in Oregon Series) by Miralee Ferrell — When her father’s debts, brought on by heavy drinking, threaten Leah Carlson’s family ranch, she fights to save it. When handsome banker Steven Harding must decline her loan request, he determines to do what he can to help. Just as he arrives to serve as a much-needed ranch hand, Leah’s family secrets—and the pain of her past-come to a head. They could destroy everything she’s fought for. And they could keep her from ever opening her heart again. (Historical Romance from David C. Cook)

Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman and Sarah Sundin– A grandmother advises three siblings as they search for love and deeper faith during World War II. White Christmas by Cara C. Putman. A candy maker and a puzzle manufacturer have one thing in common: love is the last thing they’re looking for and the very thing they need. I’ll Be Home For Christmas by Sarah Sundin. A fighter pilot running on empty, a lonely widow, and a little girl searching for what she’s lost-will an unusual Christmas gift fill their hearts again? Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Tricia Goyer. As Christmas nears, a combat nurse offers care and cheer to injured soldiers on the front line, but when her patients and the Dutch villagers discover it’s her birthday they work together to give her a great gift-a reason to believe in love again. (Historical Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])

Suitor by Design (The Dressmaker’s Daughters) by Christine Johnson– Minnie Fox’s goal is to find a beau who can help support her ailing father and his struggling dress shop. As a working man, her friend Peter Simmons simply doesn’t fit the bill. Instead, Minnie’s got eyes for Peter’s childhood pal-a wealthy Chicagoan. So why can’t she stop thinking about Peter? Peter wishes Minnie would see him as more than a friend. As a hardworking mechanic, Peter knows he’ll never be able to dazzle Minnie with fancy suits and expensive cars. But maybe he can prove to her that what’s in a man’s heart is worth more than what’s in his wallet. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Watercolor Dreams by Sherry Kyle– It’s 1910 and Anna Lewis wants to become a premier watercolor artist of the lush beaches of Carmel, California. When a man strides down the beach and stops to face the ocean, Anna sketches him into her painting. Was it a mistake? Anna thinks so when he approaches and tells her he doesn’t have spare change to purchase her work. Spare change indeed! She’d better keep her day job as nursemaid to two rambunctious boys. The minute Charles Jordan walks away, he regrets criticizing the woman’s painting but as he told the artist, he’s just been jilted at the altar. His former bride-to-be is in love with his cousin. Will a secret from his past prevent Charles from ever loving again? And will Anna have the hope she needs when tragedy strikes and she must rely on the one man who crushed her spirit? (Historical Romance from HopeSprings Books)

The Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky– Debutante Katherine Ramsey’s family estate, Highland Hall, has been passed to older male cousin Sir William Ramsey. Her only means of securing her future is to make a strong debut in the London social season and find a proper husband. When a shocking family scandal sidelines Katherine, forcing her out of the social spotlight, she keeps a low profile, volunteering with the poor in London’s East End. Here, a friendship with medical student Jonathan Foster deepens and her faith in God grows. But when Katherine is courted anew by a man of wealth and position, dreams of luxury surface again. She must decide whom she can trust and love-and if she will choose a life serving others over one where she is served. (Historical Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])

Romantic Suspense:

Holiday Defenders by Jodie Bailey, Debby Giusti and Susan Sleeman– Christmas Rescue by Debby Giusti: On the run from a killer, Elizabeth Tate must accept U.S. Army captain Nick Fontaine’s protection for the sake of her young niece and nephew. Now her life is in the hands of the very man who broke her heart years ago. Special Ops Christmas by Susan Sleeman: Researcher Claire Reed’s top secret project is stolen, putting her at risk of being kidnapped to unlock it. Her undercover bodyguard-her former love, Green Beret Travis Chapman-is on his most dangerous mission yet. Homefront Holiday Hero by Jodie Bailey: When someone tries to kill the daughter of a military official, U.S. Army major Tyler Rainey must keep Kelly Walters from harm…while guarding his own heart against very unexpected feelings. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Lawman Returns (Wrangler’s Corner) by Lynette Eason — Deputy Clay Starke has come home to Wrangler’s Corner for one reason only: to solve his brother’s murder. Denied official resources, Clay is forced to rely on his wits-and on the assistance of beautiful social worker Sabrina Mayfield. But Sabrina’s helping him draws her into danger. Now both Clay and Sabrina have targets on their backs, and Clay is at risk of losing not only his heart, but also his life. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Deceived by Irene Hannon — When Kate Marshall spots a child on an escalator in the mall, she is convinced it is the son she thought was killed in a boating accident. With police skeptical of her story, she turns to private investigator Connor Sullivan. The former Secret Service agent is dubious, but agrees to investigate. He discovers that the incident may have been no accident at all. But if Claire’s son is alive, someone is intent on keeping him hidden-and may be willing to go to lethal lengths to protect a sinister secret. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker Publishing Group])

Speculative Fiction:

Thunder: A Novel (Stone Braide Chronicles) by Bonnie S. Calhoun — In post-apocalyptic America, Selah Chavez is crouched in long grass on a shore littered with the rusted metal remnants of a once-great city. It is the day before her eighteenth Born Remembrance, and she is hunting Landers, mysterious people from a land across the big water who survive the delirium-inducing passage in small boats that occasionally crash against the shoreline. Landers bring a good price from the Company and are especially prized if they keep the markings they arrive with. Everything falls to pieces when the Lander Selah catches is stolen by her brothers–and Selah wakes up the next morning to find the Lander’s distinctive mark has suddenly appeared on her own flesh. Once the hunter, Selah is now one of the hunted, and she knows only one person who can help her–Bohdi Locke, the Lander her brothers hope to sell. (Speculative Fiction from Revell [Baker Publishing Group])

A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes — How would you live if you knew the day you’d die? Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out. (Speculative Fiction from Enclave Publishing)

by jill at 9:15 pm in

It started with a teapot

September 30, 2014

I should know better. Really, I should. But when I make iced tea, I brew it by boiling water in a teapot on the stove, then I pour the boiling water into a glass 2 quart container with an awesome peach green tea bag. (From Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf) The trouble is…when I pour the water into the jar, I use it all up. And I don’t refill it until I need it again. Why bother? If I need to heat water, I’ll fill the thing.

I probably shouldn’t leave it on a burner empty. That’s what got me in trouble last night. I left the empty pot on the back burner while I turned the FRONT burner on to steam some veggies.

IMG_2849 That is, I thought I had turned on the front burner. Turns out, I turned the wrong knob. This can be easy to do on this stove, and I tend to double check because it’s just new enough (read that as I haven’t had the stove for 20 years) for me to mix up front and back. Maybe it’s the ceramic top. A gas stove would show you right off which burner was lit, right?

Well, I walked away and waited for the veggies to cook. I heard the usual start-up noises when a burner is getting hot, but then I started to hear some strange cracking sounds. Distractions aside, I jumped up to check and noticed all these spots on the teapot that hadn’t been there before – like grease spatter. Then I  remembered the last time I’d used the thing and realized that instead of the veggies, I had been cooking the teapot. The empty teapot.


Fortunately, there was no fire, no damage to the stove, and no burn smell. The tea pot, however, (besides the grease-like spatter) had some of its ceramic bottom cracked and burned away. (Probably that cracking sound I heard.) At first I thought I could save it…

Then today, as I cleaned up the kitchen, I moved the pot and discovered that the little itty-bitty pieces of ceramic had shed onto the counter, and in my haste to wipe them up, a finger got in the way.

Ceramic splinters don’t come out so easily. And they hurt like the dickens as my mother-in-law used to say. Short-lived hurt, but you know it when that sliver finally pops free!

So that teapot is now in the trash, and I won’t be making iced tea again until I can replace it. I kind of liked that teapot–the colors matched my kitchen. But Tiger hated the train whistle sound. So maybe next time we will get one that whistles a kitty-favored tune and warns me when it’s empty too!


by jill at 2:12 pm in