Rick Renner is a favorite author and teacher of mine. But his wife, Denise, shares some wonderful things, too. This meme she posted on Facebook blended beautifully with my subject matter for this post. Waiting on God is almost always accomplished step by step by faith. If we are patient to take the steps in His order and His timing, we will experience the best Heaven has to offer.
On this journey of beginning a new life and ministry of "re-firement," Dennis and I have learned we must wait on God. Looking back, we see God's hand leading and guiding every step. But sometimes, even though we have come so far, the fulfillment of our vision still seems a long way off. It's been amazing to be on our property and taking steps toward building next spring. But it would be easy to become discouraged if I dwell on living my second winter in a 26-ft camper! I just have to remind myself, on a daily basis, that waiting on God's best plan for us means just that. But waiting patiently. That doesn't mean not doing anything. It means taking the steps we can. The steps He shows us. And taking them with joy, excited for the end result -- no matter how long it takes.
This year I have been studying the book of James. It talks a lot about the patient farmer and how he waits for the harvest. But while he waits, he does what he knows to do. He waters the seeds, pull up the weeds, keeps out the enemies that would tear it up and devour it. And he does it over and over again, every day if necessary. Until the harvest is ready. Then he goes out and brings it in.
Do you have a harvest, a life goal, a vision, that you've been waiting for? Planning for? Something you've dreamed about for a long time? Have you done that last thing God told you to do? Keep doing what you know to do. Take each step God shows you, quickly. If you know it's God, no hesitation! Until He reveals the next step, remember that if you go too quickly, if you rely on your own resources to accomplish things faster, if you skip steps He has planned for you to take, you will miss His best for you, and you may find yourself face down in the dirt. Instead, I encourage you to patiently open your heart to what Heaven has in store. Wait for it. It will surely come.
Happy Thanksgiving. Be BLESSED.
Second Saturday Scrapbook: Sunday
I opted to wait until Sunday to do my regular Second Saturday Scrapbook post, because yesterday I did something for the first time that needed to be included in my scrapbook! One of my assignments from the Rubart Writing Academy that I attended in April was to get myself and my books "out there" in the public. I have now checked that first time effort off my list.
Thanks to my dear friend and fellow writer, Georgia Wilson, Saturday, Oct. 12, I shared her booth at the Mountain Glory Festival in Marion, NC. A first for me, but Georgia is an old pro at these street festivals and she showed me the ropes. She writes fiction and short stories, many about local history. Find out more about her books at georgiaruthwrites.us.
I took along some special friends of mine, my doll Winny, and her dog, Ginny, two of the main characters in my Tresia series. I could have sold both of them many times over! But they did bring many people by the booth wondering about them. It was mid-afternoon before I made any sales. One was to a grandfather looking for books for his twelve-year-old granddaughter that "would steer today's young people in the right direction." He asked many questions about the books and I shared with him how the stories had spiritual truths underneath the plot, such as the Armor of God in the form of a hat, an umbrella, and a cane. I told him I was inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia, and though he had not heard of Narnia, he did know C.S Lewis, the author. He bought the trilogy. I was thrilled.
Next was a sweet young girl of eleven who wandered over to our booth when she spied "Winny and Ginny" perched on the end of my table. When she found out that they were characters in my books, she told me how she loved to read! She wanted to know how much they were and when I told her, her face fell. "I'm on a budget today and I don't have that much money left" she told me. I said I would sell her Book I for what her budget allowed. Her dad joined us and she told him that she wanted the first book and that she had enough money to buy it. He asked questions about the books and I told them both to read the back cover copy for more information. The daughter read for a few seconds and hugged the book to herself and declared, "I can tell from the first few sentences that I will love this book!" I almost cried. Her dad took a card, so they could order the other two books online. I hope they do. "You made my day, honey," I told her as they left. And she did.
Another special thing about the day was the family in the booth next to ours. They sold paintings and things made from re-purposed items. I bought Dennis a painting on an old LP album of a musical staff. It will be perfect in his recording studio. The mom told me that as she painted it, they had talked about a buyer who had a music room, but were happy to learn it would hang in Macs Music Recording Studio. She took one of my business cards and said she would be homeschooling their daughter in a couple years and would need books for her. At a nudge from the Holy Spirit, I gave her a copy of our daughter's story and family testimony, "I Will Not Fear: A Chosen Life." The couple serenaded us throughout the day with banjo, guitar, and some good 'ol bluegrass singing. Their music business is called "Chirp! On the Mountain." I love that. The art website is: NITSA-ART.CO
When the day was over and Dennis and I were on our way home, I was tired, but grateful for the two people who bought my books and to Georgia for sharing her space with me. Now that I have that festival under my belt, I'm going to watch for local festivals where I can do this again. It always helps to have friends show how things are done the first time around!
This morning in church, our pastor shared something he saw this week: "The devil tries to keep you worrying about what happens next, so you won't take time to enjoy the blessings you have right now." I was guilty. I had worried and stewed about the preparation needed for this weekend, the early morning set-up time and almost 3-hour trip, what if nobody talked to me or bought any books, etc. The only thing I was sure of was that I would greatly enjoy spending the day with Georgia. But God, in His infinite mercy, took my worries and turned them into a day of amazing fellowship with my friend, strength and energy to get through the long hours, confidence in (and even having fun!) talking to strangers about my books, two encouraging sales to a grandpa who was concerned for today's children, who invested in my books believing they may fill a need, and one wonderful little girl who made my day when she hugged my book! All-in-all, a most scrapbook-worthy day!
I encourage you, as this verse always does me, to "be strong and courageous" like Joshua. Get out there and share your talents and expertise with the world. The Lord has given each of us a special assignment to accomplish what He has equipped us to do. The best part of His individual Plan for each of his kids, is to give us something to do for Him that we enjoy doing. I have enjoyed most of my jobs, but as I was reminded this weekend, being an author is my calling for this season. I am excited, grateful, and ever so humbled today, to embrace and pursue that calling. I pray that you will pursue your calling and experience your own scrapbook-worthy days! Be BLESSED
As I was praying about what to feature today, a ministry newsletter popped into my inbox. I knew it was a nudge from God to share a very special ministry with you because it is one that is dear to my heart, and more importantly, to the heart of God.
Sar Shalom Israel was established to "Love God's People in God's Land." I hope you will take time to go to www.sarshalomisrael.org to read about what they do on their twice a year humanitarian trips to Israel and how you can be a part. What I like most about what this ministry does in the Holy Land is that it is a personal and hands-on ministry that works with other ministries and organizations that are already established in Israel. It's not just a tour company. It's about serving people of all ages who live and work in Israel from Holocaust survivors, to hospitals, farms, and service organizations. Sar Shalom Israel meets needs as it shares Messiah Jesus, Yeshua, with the precious people of this land.
This ministry was founded by a dear friend of mine, Dr. Barri Cae Seif. The story of how Barri and I met on a winter night in an East coast airport waiting to board a plane to Kansas City, is told in my testimony book, "I Will Not Fear: A Chosen Life." That was almost 20 years ago! We both see our friendship as a Divine Connection and we have kept in touch though we've only seen one another a few times during those years. Barri was married for the first time at the tender age of 62, and I wish I could have been there. Her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Seif, is also a wonderful Jewish believer, and now they travel and speak together. Another Divine Connection! (If you live in the San Antonio area, they will be there next week!
Barri has written two books about the Names of God. The second, "The Name Hashem" is where I found the name for the Holy Spirit character in my Tresia series. Gahlay Rahzeen, Hebrew for "Revealer of Mysteries" was one of the Names in Barri's book. In my books, I added a sparkly blue light whenever He connected to one of the other characters, whether in their Kingdom Corner, or whatever realm they found themselves in! He became one of my favorite characters and I admit, I imagine the blue light surrounding me when we meet every day in my own Kingdom Corner. He always reveals mysteries to me from the Word of God. (To show you how He orchestrates things, the prayer at the end of my devotion today by Andrew Murray was, "Lord, every time I become quiet before you, I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal more of Your mystery to me." I love when He does that.) Barri Cae also helped me with other Hebrew names and words, as many are included in my books, and she contributed an editorial review for the front of Book II.
Barrie has supported me in my writing, and in my music over the years. I appreciate her encouragement and prayers more than I can say. It is my honor to support Barri, her books and speaking, and especially her work with Sar Shalom Israel. If you would like to travel to Israel, or support what they do, check out the website above and see how you can be a part of her upcoming trips to God's Land. You may find a Divine Connection. Be BLESSED.
Psalm 122:6-7 Tree of Life Version (TLV)
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem--
May those who love you be at peace!
May there be shalom within your walls--
quietness within your palaces."
Fourth Friday Fun: We're HOME!
On August 15, 2019, Dennis and I moved to Macs MountainView, our four acres in the beautiful Cowee Valley of Franklin, NC. We are so happy Phase I is complete, and we are home! This move has been seven years in the searching, planning, and getting here. God has done amazing things to bring us to this place and we are so grateful for His many BLESSINGS.
We now look forward to beginning Phase II of our building plan, but we are going to enjoy being at this stage while we continue to develop the vision God has given us. Dennis still doesn't have a music studio, and I have to write from my kitchen table in the camper, (or in my soon to be erected screen house!) but we are both beginning to get back to our assignments from the Lord, writing and sharing books and songs. Until we both have our special place to work, we will do what we can while we enjoy our gorgeous mountain view. Gotta tell ya, it's been FUN!
Hope you make some fun of your own today. We'd love to hear about it. Be BLESSED.
It’s probably one of the first things you learned as a child. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Or in today’s language, treat others the way you want to be treated. Either way, these words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule, still apply today. In whatever we are called to do.
As a writer and author, one way I can apply this verse to my life is to support other authors and their calling to write. I’ve had the honor of meeting and getting to know some amazing authors over the last few months. I happily ordered their books and have read most of the ones you see in the photo. I enjoyed every one of them and would recommend them to you. The one I haven’t read was one of those "God things" that made me smile. When I opened one of these new books to read, I saw a familiar name on the very first review at the front. I discovered that my new author friend knew a former student of mine from the only year I taught music at a Christian school in my hometown of Topeka! She is now an author of speculative fiction like me! She has a great voice, too! I hope to see her again one of these days at a writer's conference. You may call that a small world. I call it Divine Connections.
When a book and/or author really touches my heart, that book goes on my "Favorites Shelf" for the purpose of re-reading, (and lending to friends.) A number of my favorite books have been read up to a dozen times over my lifetime. Another thing you can do for an author, is to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Especially if you liked the book and it made your favorites shelf.
I apologize if this sounds like I’m just trying to get you buy or review my books. That would be great, but this post contains a deeper truth that hit home to me lately, and I felt led to share. No matter what you do for a living or as a hobby, on a day to day basis, the Golden Rule applies to you and applying it can change your entire outlook.
*Are you a teacher who could use some help or encouragement? Give the same to another teacher.
*Work in an office, overwhelmed with your tasks? Take a minute to help a co-worker with one of theirs.
*Retired and feeling like you aren’t accomplishing anything important like you used to on the job? Get out there and volunteer or seek the Lord for a new “re-fire-ment” assignment.
*Overworked mom? Make a play date with another mom and her kids and share ideas.
*Busy professional? Take a colleague to lunch and brainstorm.
*Need a friend or special prayer? Pray for your friends.
*Are you a “Creative?” Attend a concert, art show, poetry reading, dance recital.
*Facebook or other social media user? ‘Nuff said.
This concept is the same "reap what you sow" idea from another teaching of Jesus. Seedtime and harvest. Do for someone else what you want to happen for you.
Give the Golden Rule some thought today. It might give you a whole new perspective on tomorrow.
Second Saturday Scrapbook
A few years back, Dennis was asked to return to our Alma Mater, the school where he taught vocal music for 22 years. It was tradition while he was there, for the alumni to attend the annual Christmas concert and come up on stage for the last number, Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. His students always enjoyed this, and it was especially sweet that year to return to our home town and school and direct the concert choir and alumni in this tradition.
This week, I was reading one of Rick Renner's "Sparkling Gems." In it, he said that one of the best translations of the Holy Spirit as our "Comforter" was "Coach." This spoke to me especially with being part of the coaching world most of my adult life. He pointed out that in the same way Jesus was the disciple's Coach, so the Holy Spirit was given to be our Coach. He teaches us everything we need to know if we will listen to Him and cooperate with what He was sent to do in our lives. He will coach us, just like Jesus coached His disciples.
Isn't it amazing that God provided a partner, a coach, who resides inside of us. He not only knows all the answers we need, He will give us a winning game plan, strengthen, and encourage us to keep on until we win the victory. Rick points out that a coach teaches, advises, corrects, instructs, trains, tutors guides, directs, and prepares you for your assignments. He will patiently show you what you did wrong so you can do it right the next time. A coach isn't there to do it for you, he's there to coach you so you can hit the ball, make the basket or goal, sing the note, so you can perform as you should. He'll also listen.
Take advantage of the Coach inside you today. Let Him help you do amazing things that will be worthy of going into your scrapbook of life. Be Blessed.
Have you ever read a book or seen a movie that you connected with in a profound way? Did it give you a new perspective or change your direction in life? Did it touch a deep place in your soul that lingered long after the end of the story?
I've read several such books in my lifetime. As a child, it was the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis that I connected with, and I would say, planted the seed of a writer inside my heart. I was fascinated by that other world the author created.
Three years ago, I attended a workshop at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference in Asheville, NC. It was all about marketing and branding for writers. I needed that information, but I was impressed by the presenter, James L. Rubart. I found out that he was also an author and it wasn't long before I ordered his book, Rooms. The next year, I returned to the conference, attended another of his workshops, and scheduled a 15 minute one-on-one appointment with Jim. Reading Rooms had touched my soul and confirmed to me that I wanted to write books that did the same for others. Jim helped me that day with many things concerning the "business of writing," but spent extra time to help me figure out my "brand." I had recently released the first book in my Tresia series, and he encouraged me to keep writing and make it my brand. I was happy about that because it was the story I had wanted to write, even though I dabbled in historical fiction and memoir first.
A few months later, I signed up for his newsletter and found out that Jim and his son, Taylor, were starting the Rubart Writing Academy. It was held in the Pacific Northwest where they lived. I knew going cross-country was more than I could do, so I was thrilled to learn that they were working on an online version. I signed up to receive the announcement as soon as it was ready to go. But before that happened, I learned that they were having the first Academy on my side of the country, and it was to be held in Blairsville, GA, only a little over an hour away. I had no excuse. I prayed and discussed with Dennis and we both knew the Holy Spirit was leading me to attend.
It was a fantastic and BLESSED four days. I am now a graduate of the sixth Rubart Writing Academy, along with all these amazing new writer friends from all over the country (and some pretty close!) So many Divine Connections were made, which was one of my reasons for wanting to go. But the best thing I learned was the direction that I am supposed to take my writing. I have been on sabbatical since the third Tresia book came out in November of 2018, and because of Den's retirement and getting settled in our new home (campground!) in Franklin, NC. But after RWA, I am so ready to begin the next project. One of the things I learned about myself is that I need to find my own space to write. I've always had that---my writing nook that became my Kingdom Corner. But we've been living in our camper since last July and space and time are limited!, I may need to find a coffee shop or a quiet corner in the library until I can establish a new Kingdom Corner when we build. And I will. Because I am called to write. I love sharing stories of adventure and mystery, and especially when the Holy Spirit helps me thread in the Gospel.
Thank you to Jim and Taylor Rubart for a wonderful experience at the Academy, and special thanks to all the God-loving women who spoke into my life while I was there. We had a funny name for our group because Taylor had never been to the South before, but as I pray for all of us, I call our group, "Warriors Writing." That name comes from the Well Spring series that Jim wrote. The group in the books were called "Warriors Riding," and that series is my favorite so far of all Jim's books. However, he has a new one coming out this month. Pages of Her Life may go to the top of my list. We shall see. I will let you know.
If you are called to do something, and we all are, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, and take every opportunity you can to make connections and receive direction on your God-given assignment. Allow others to share their knowledge and speak wisdom into your life. Love and support those with the same calling. We need each other.
I'd love to hear from you about connections and direction you've received lately...or that you would like to receive. I'm always available to pray. That's what else Kingdom Corners are for.
Remember. God has a plan and assignment just for you. Don't doubt it. Embrace who He made you to be.
Be Blessed! JA
Do you sometimes feel like you are living in a combat zone? Are enemies of this life attacking you from every direction at the same time? One thing happens and before that is fixed or taken care of, something else slams you over the head?
I admit that some days feel that way. Living in an RV could get me down quick if I let it, waiting for God's timing for the next step of our new "re-firement" assignment. Even writing this monthly blog is not the easiest thing to do. When I had a house, I would enter my quiet writing nook (after Dennis left for school…) where I was surrounded by all my favorite books and "library and bookish" things. I could sit down in my comfy office chair before my nice big PC monitor, have my "Kingdom Corner" time, and then the writing would flow. I now have to retrieve my laptop from behind the wooden box that contains all the necessary things that used to be in and on my desk in the dining room, set up the laptop, mouse and mouse pad, plug it all in, and try to fit myself behind the one corner of our small kitchen table that is free of other stuff, and beside the "desk box" on the other end of the bench seat! I've learned to be very creative as far as space is concerned. The process can feel like a battle when I know a blog or piece of writing is due. But because I love to write, share with you what the Lord has put on my heart, and I know that writing is my calling at this season in my life, I will fight to make it happen…sooner or later anyway.
I record the titles of the books I am reading in the "Reading Nook" section of my website. (Click on the picture of the little girl sitting in the big Tresia-colors chair at the bottom of my homepage.) I try to read a variety of books. Last year I read 47. I list my favorites on this page. I just finished reading a book by Rick Renner, titled "Life in the Combat Zone." In writing the "Trinity Tales of Tresia" series, I used another of his books, "Dressed to Kill," and this was a great follow-up to that one, both on the Armor of God. If you want an in-depth study on the weapons of spiritual warfare that are ours, I highly recommend both these books. Rick also gave me a boost as a writer who has dealt with rejection from publishers and even tougher, readers. These two paragraphs from "Combat Zone" give hope to anyone who has experienced rejection and doubt about what God has called and anointed them to do:
"When rejection has hit you over the over on many different occasions, the temptation for you might be to withdraw. But this is Satan's strategy to keep you out of the field! He wants to keep you and the anointing of God on your life away from the saints.
There is nothing more powerful than the anointing being passed to others through our lives. Regardless of the spiritual climate or the difficulty of the hour, we must be directly, personally involved when it comes to planting the Gospel seed into the hearts of men."
The scripture about the Armor of God is found in Ephesians 6: 11-18. I've heard those verses since I was a kid in Sunday School. I memorized that passage early, but I wish I had realized as a child, how important they are. It is my desire and prayer that the children (and parents, grandparents, and other adults,) who read these books will have a better understanding of how a "most remarkable hat," a "quite extraordinary umbrella," and a "perfectly magnificent cane," are transformed through story into God's Helmet of Salvation, Shield of Faith, and Sword of the Spirit. And how even a child has been given the authority to use this armor as they grow up in the Combat Zone of life.
We moved many boxes of books from that KS storage unit to our first home in NC. It was like Christmas to finally unpack and shelve my books! Since Dennis retired from teaching last July, and we have moved to our temporary "camper home," so my books are once again boxed, stacked, and stored. Along with my books are my collection of statues of people and animals reading books. I miss them, too. Now I collect photos and memes of books and all things literary, store them on in my "phone scrapbook," and share those with you.
I took quite of few of my books to our church and started a library, so I can borrow my own books from there. I satisfy my "librarian" side by sharing them with others, which I love to do. Books are meant to be shared.
Since my last Tresia book came out in November, I have taken a break from writing, (though I'm brainstorming and making notes on my next project.) The fact that my current writing desk is one quarter of our camper kitchen table also has something to do with that choice. But in lieu of reading and writing my books, there are always the public library and my favorite used book store to frequent. I admit that I have already added another box of newly acquired and already read books to our storage unit. I've even read a couple books on my iPad, though that is from desperation.
There is one good thing about my lack of books on hand at this time. For the past nine years I have prayed about and then chosen a "Word of the Year." This year's word is PRACTICE. I write my goals with my yearly word in mind so one of my goals this year is to practice studying my Bible, the one Book I always have with me. Instead of a read-through program or random reading, the Lord led me to choose three books to study this year. I need practice on how to dig out the hidden treasures and mysteries He has in those precious pages and then applying them to my life. I take it slow, digest, and meditate on each verse. I've found that studying is much different than just reading the Word. I look forward this year to receiving more insight, instruction, and developing an even greater love for the Word and spending time in God's presence.
After we moved to NC, I wrote an article in our local newspaper about the boxes and boxes of books that our movers had to load and unload. They had quite a few comments about it. I wanted to include a photo of that article here, but my article scrapbook is also in storage. So, I will do my best to find other sources for my literary endeavors while I wait to unpack my books and such. My cabin and Christmas are coming.
First Friday Feature: Legacies
Some of our dear friends from KS, Dave and Kathy Barkes, who also have a daughter in Heaven, honored her memory by helping her friends establish a foundation. You can read Jamie Barkes Pursley's story, order her book, and find out about the wonderful things her Jamie's Wish Foundation has done at www.jamieswish.org. Jamie and our Stacie were six months apart in age, and I talk a little about Jamie in the book I wrote about Stacie, "I Will Not Fear: A Chosen Life."
I recently visited the newly expanded library at New Dimensions Charter School in Morganton, NC, where Stacie was the Exceptional Children's Coordinator for many years. Because of her love for her students, and due to her love of books, gained from growing up at Silver Lake Library where I was the director for over a decade, when Stacie followed Jamie to Heaven, we designated her memorial to the school library. At that time it was housed in half a classroom with mostly donated books. Thanks to those who gave to the memorial, the matching grant from Modern Woodman, and the support of the school since then, the library has grown into a spacious area full of books and all things media. The new librarian this year is Stacie's former "right-hand woman" and dear friend, and also one of our "adopted" daughters, Jennifier Auton. (She and her daughter, Jenna, were the inspiration for two characters in Book II of my Tresia series, which is available for check out in the NDS library!)
Jenn gave me a tour of the new library and the school. I was amazed at how they have grown over the past six years, and was brought to tears when I stepped outside the library door. In the hall by the library entrance hangs a large photo of Stacie wearing the same favorite hat she wore in her last school staff photo. Beside it is a plaque that reads, "Library Dedicated to Stacie McPhail." Thank you, NDS and Jenn, for honoring in such a beautiful way, Stacie's love for her "kids," her school, and a library full of books.
J.A. McPhail is the author of five books, has been married to Dennis since 1974, enjoys living in the North Carolina mountains. and is an avid collector of books and book related stuff.