Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

It seems like in our crazy, crazy world many of us are so busy we barely have time to breathe. We run ourselves or our kids from one activity to the next, our schedules so full we have to pencil in something as important as eating supper as a family. We begin to wonder how we can do it all.

It’s not only our bodies that are busy but also our minds. Our thoughts are filled with worries like health scares, family problems, financial insecurity, or that persistent political thorn in everyone’s side this election year.

Hurry and worry. They are a pair. We try so hard to make our lives perfect that we forget how to live for Christ. The anecdote is spelled out simply for us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

How simple is that? Yet how often do we remember it? I know I’m guilty for not following that verse nearly enough. If our minds and our bodies are constantly busy, how can we ever hear God speaking to us? His words get jumbled up with all the other crud stashed in my brain, things that I can’t fix, no matter how hard I try. Things I’m not even supposed to fix. Problems that God has promised He will handle. So why is it so hard to be still and turn it all over to God?

Because I am human and a sinner who needs forgiveness.

bethesda churchDear God, help me to be still so I can hear your voice and feel your loving presence. Help me to put all my baggage in your care, for you alone are our protector from evil. Let me be still and trust in you. Amen.

The Ride

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:10-12 NIV

As I read the above scripture, it reminded me of a big event that comes to the state of Iowa every year at the end of July. RAGBRAI will start this coming weekend and this year’s route takes bikers within three miles of our house. (For those of you who have never heard of it, RAGBRAI stands for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride across Iowa.)

This is the 44th year for the ride and what started out as a couple of hundred riders has now grown to approximately 10,000 bicyclists. These brave souls don their riding gear and pedal their way across our great state. This year the course is just over 400 miles with various overnight stops planned in small towns along the way. Fairgrounds, city parks, and private lawns are filled with brightly colored tents the riders bring along in support vehicles.

These riders always amaze me with their athleticism. In my wildest dreams, I can’t imagine riding a bike that far. I can only guess at the months and months of training they put into this ride, building up their endurance so they can complete the ride. They seem to be prepared for anything—breakdowns, injuries, and inclement weather. Anybody who has ever been to Iowa in July knows this can mean just about anything—scorching heat, 90% humidity (or so it seems), rain, hail, tornadoes, and flooding. That in a nutshell is weather in Iowa in the summer.

As I hear about these bikers preparing for their ride, I can’t help but compare their training to the life I should lead when living out my Christian faith. How often am I prepared for the storms that come my way? Do I work on my faith endurance like these RAGBRAI riders do physically?

Every day on the news we hear about more and more tragedies and horror in our world, and it doesn’t look to me like it’s going to change any time soon. But then I think—we’ve had a pretty easy ride—at least I have since the days when I was a kid. Life in general went along pretty smoothly, except for the usual bumps in the road. The state of the world didn’t really concern me a whole lot, even as I got older, because the trouble was all…over there. But now it’s hitting closer to home more and more often.

I’ve often wondered if God is giving us a wake-up call to change our ways and get us back on track. I know I’ve let the ways of the world influence my thinking way too often. Is God knocking us out of our comfort zones to move us into action? I think so.

racial harmonyHe wants us to come together and decide what’s really important in this life. Is it financial security and material possessions? Or is it showing love for our neighbors and our enemies?

If we could heal our divisions and come together as one, we can endure this storm together…and what a beautiful ride that would be.

If We’ve Ever Needed You …

With our nation’s heart still breaking over the events in Orlando this week, I am reminded that God is still in control, and that we still have hope in His amazing grace.

For me, music provides a great reminder that we need Him in our lives, through joy and through tragedy and through our everyday living. The song below is my prayer today …

“If We’ve Ever Needed You” by Casting Crowns

“Look, Ma! No Hands.”

A lot has happened in the last five years since the Inkspers began our blog, so it’s my turn to share what I’ve been up to. My husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary next month and we are now empty nesters since our kids went to college and moved out, leaving us forlorn and dejected. (Unless you count the addition of Hank, the four legged, furry goof who now calls our farm, and sunroom, home. This pooch made the transition a whole lot easier, and amusing to say the least, but he’s a whole different chapter, so I won’t go there today.)

McKenzie's Montana MysteryIn the writing world, I saw the release of my first 3 books in the Camp Club Girls series and the reprint of the first two in 3-in-1 volumes. Yippie doo dah!

In my personal life, I’ll have to admit I’ve gotten a little braver now that I’m–uh–more mature. Not only do I sit on the back of a Harley now without having to pry my fingers out of my husband’s belt loops when we get home, I have done even more brave and noble things lately. For starters, several years ago this scaredy pants girl who’s afraid of deep water, went snorkeling in the ocean and loved it, but only after freaking out while in initial panic mode. Once I relaxed and simply held onto the paddle board they give to wimps, my husband towed me around at his leisure while we swam with the fishes.

Then several weeks ago while on vacation in Costa Rica, my legs wobbled like a Weeble as I crept across the hanging bridges, swaying and bouncing high in the treetops of the rainforest. (For those of you who don’t remember Weebles, they’re round, funny looking little toy people that wobble but don’t fall down. Get it?) Okay, back to my story. I prayed the entire time on those hanging bridges that gusts of wind wouldn’t flip us over. I didn’t really want to hang there swinging by a thin, little wire like Indiana Jones, waiting to smack into a cliff. I never thought I’d feel such relief to walk that final bridge and reach the zip-lining tower. Knowing the only way down was to either go back across those dastardly bridges, or zip-line, I chose the latter. When the guide explained how this whole zip-lining thing worked, he focused on me and stressed, “Hang on. If you let go you will flip upside down.” Seriously? He thought I might let go. Wow, he must think I looked pretty courageous. I had planned to ride tandem, but after his vote of confidence, or maybe I was delirious, I opted to go it alone. When my turn came, he hooked me up and soon I was gliding through the treetops, whirring like a zipper. This was so much better than those shaky bridges. It fact, it was down right cool.

At one point the guide asked us if we wanted to fly like Superman. In this ride, you’re hooked up to a guide who controls braking while you sail through the air with your hands in front of you. Since I didn’t want to look like a weenie and let my husband outdo me, I agreed. So there I am all hooked up to the guide and he says, “Scoot farther to the edge.” I thought I was pretty much scooted as far as I could get without hanging my toes over, but I scooted anyway. Then while I’m gripping the line above me, he picks my legs up from behind and holds them on either side of him.Superman

Then he says, “Let go.”

Then I ask, “Let go?”

He says, “Yes, let go.”

“Now?”

“Yes, now, and stick your arms out like Superman.”

So, I let go and for one daring minute, I wasn’t a bird, I wasn’t a plane–I was Superman! I highly recommend this form of sheer lunacy for brave souls everywhere. Oh, and did I mention I’m afraid of heights?

Well, that about sums up the highlights of my last five years. Now I know you’re thinking, “My, she’s so brave!” (Oh, come on now. I know you’re thinking it. Admit it already.) Though I have achieved some brave and daring feats, I really don’t laugh in the face of danger. I’ll be honest here. I’m sort of adventure challenged, so if you ever find yourself clinging to a hanging bridge, I’m really not the woman to swoop in and rescue you. Because, you know, that would scare the jeebers out of me.

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Don’t forget to leave a comment ! Every time you leave a comment during the next two weeks, you’ll be entered in a drawing for an Inkspirational Messages mug and a surprise collection of books. The deadline to leave a comment is Friday, March 13.

The Helmet

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17.

With biking season in full swing, the most important article of clothing is my trusty helmet. I won’t ride without it. Yeah, my hair would be a royal mess if I didn’t wear it, but most importantly is the fact that I kind of like my head. The helmet gets rather hot in the summer, but I still want to have all the protection I can get.

Putting our faith in God reminds me of my biking helmet. Like the helmet protects my head, trusting in God protects my soul. He wraps His loving arms around His children, promising salvation to those who believe. I know that no matter what trials come my way He will shield me from harm and provide a way out. God is in control of my life. He’s my guardian and my savior, the One I turn to for protection. Only He knows what the future brings and if I trust in Him, my worries will fade.

Until the day we join Him in heaven, He promises to walk beside us—if we truly believe.

God is my shield, my protector, and redeemer. Nothing is better than the promise of spending eternity with Him—my helmet of strength.

The Hem of His Garment

Mark 5:25-34 (KJV)

25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,

26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,

27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.

28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.

29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?

32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.

33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.

34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

I’ve always loved this passage. So many things stand out to me.

1. The woman could have touched Him. His hand, His foot, His hair. But she only touched the border of his garment (Luke 8:44), in faith that it would be enough.

2. She knew she was healed immediately, felt it in her body before she confessed to Jesus that she was the toucher. Before he proclaimed her healed.

3. She had faith that if she could just touch his garment, she’d be healed.

4. She had follow through. She didn’t give up in the face of the crowd. Instead, she fought her way to Jesus and did what she came to do.

5. Her faith and follow through brought glorious results: she was healed.

6. With the press of the crowd, she probably wasn’t the only one who touched Him. But she was the only one who touched him with faith in His ability to heal her.

7. Jesus knew immediately what had happened. He didn’t feel a tug on his clothes. He felt virtue go out of Him, but He knew she hadn’t touched Him–she’d only touched His clothes.

Did I miss anything? Does anything else stand out to you about this passage? Why do you think Jesus told her she was healed, when they both already knew it?

Resurrection Day

Easter is filled with church, church, and more church at our house. In fact, my husband calls the day Resurrection Day and I like that better. I’ve tried to retrain myself to call it that, but old habits die hard.

Our Resurrection Day begins early since we have sunrise service at our church. It’s not quite sunrise, but service is usually at 7:00 am. Any other day, I would say seven stupid o’clock in the morning. But on Resurrection Day, I squelch my inner so not a morning person and just do it.

We live fifteen minutes from our church, so I don’t ride in with my husband. Since he’s the pastor, he leaves around 6:15 to get there before anyone else arrives. He’s a morning person and doesn’t bat an eye at the hour. I usually pin my hair up because it’s quicker than fixing it, but even with that shortcut, I have to get up at 5:30 to get there on time.

Sunrise Service on Resurrection Day, April 8, 2012If the weather is nice, we have our sunrise service outside. We set up folding chairs and watch God paint the sky in oranges, pinks, and yellows as the sun climbs higher in the sky. This picture and the one of the sky is from 2012, the last time we got to have service outside. My favorite and most memorable services were the outside ones. If it’s cold or rainy, we have service in the sanctuary by flickering candlelight.

The service consists of scripture from the original Resurrection Day and a devotion. This year, we have a ladies choir and we’re singing He Arose. Our pianist is bringing her keyboard in case we get to have services outside.

After the service, we gather in the fellowship hall and the men cook breakfast. We eat and visit – which we call fellowship. We are Baptist, so most of our gatherings turn into eatin’ meetin’s. Then we clean up and the people who live in town go home. The people who don’t, including us, stay at the church to talk and visit some more.

At 9:45, we have our regular devotion and then Sunday school class. Regular service is at 11:00. And we don’t skip it or shorten it because we got up early. After our regular service, we go home and crash. We doze off and on until 5:00 or so. Then we put ourselves back together, grab a cup of coffee and head back to church for our evening service.

Yep, our Easter/Resurrection Day consists of church, church, and more church. But I can’t think of a better way to celebrate – He Arose.

Matthew 28:1-9

1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Blessings Along the Journey

Roller Coaster-Dusso JanladdeMy writing journey has been a cross between screaming down a zip line, hanging on through the ups and downs of a roller coaster, and floating on a lazy river. There have been mountain top experiences followed by long walks through the desert. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. I’m thankful for every experience. One of the reasons is the people God has put in my path.

Friends – As Rose mentioned in her post yesterday, I too have connected with writers across the world. What an unexpected blessing! One of my critique partners is from Australia so we spend time learning about each other’s world through the writing process. I got to meet her briefly this September when the train she was taking cross country to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis made a short stop in St. Paul. Traveling with her was our 3rd partner, from Washington state. Such a blessing to gather together on the station platform.

Camping4 2013

Family – While my immediate family has always known I love to write, it was truly a blessing to experience their love and support when I began the journey to publication in earnest. My husband and kids have walked beside me every step, cheering along the way. My younger brother has also stepped into the world of fiction writing; it’s been a blast to share dreams, experiences and writing.

Critique Partners – Writers who are serious about their craft know, without a doubt, they can’t do it alone. What a blessing to gather with others in a place of safety, encouragement, honesty and love, whether in person or across the miles.

I don’t know where the saying comes from but I love it – God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. One of the ways He does that is through those He puts in our path. I’m thankful for each and every one of them.

Who has encouraged you on your journey?

(roller coaster photo by Dusso Janladde)

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We’re giving away a copy of Rose Ross Zediker’s current release, Wedding on the Rocks to one lucky winner. The contest runs until November 30th. All you need to do it leave a comment!

JENNIFER EDWARDS IS BACK HOME AGAIN…Wedding On the Rocks Cover 1

When she traded small-town life for the bright lights of Chicago, Jennifer Edwards yearned to discover a world beyond Faith, South Dakota. So when her father’s illness calls her home to run their cattle ranch, she tells herself it’s temporary. Then why is she even thinking about a future with archaeology professor Brett Lange-the boy she left behind-whose life’s work is digging up the past?

Twelve years ago, Brett had a crush on Jennifer the size of the T-rex that put his hometown on the map. Now she’s a citified magazine editor who prefers designer duds to dungarees. Except that’s not the real Jennifer. Brett needs to make her see how a little faith can go a long way in uniting two perfectly-in-sync hearts.

Failed Labors

Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)

PeachesI’ve never been much of a laborer or harvester. I grew up in suburbs of large cities – Chicago and Atlanta. When I was twelve, I moved back to the small town where my parents grew up. Where there are more cows than there are people. This was my first brush with gardens, crops, and farm animals. Though the peacefulness of small town life and wide open spaces grew on me, farming did not.

In the labor department, I’ve caught chickens. In the harvest department, I’ve picked strawberries, okra, and peaches and dug potatoes. Ugghhh to all of it, especially the chickens. Okra and peaches itch the harvester to high heaven. And none of the harvesting is easy on the knees or back even during the teen years.

Since my grandfather had a peach orchard, before the harvest, I used to take a paring knife and walk through the orchard—picking, peeling, and eating peaches—with juice running down my elbows until I couldn’t eat another bite. The orchard is long gone, but I’ve still never tasted a peach that good. Not even fresh from an orchard.

As an adult, my laboring and harvesting ended. I’ve never even planted a garden. Since several of my family members have gardens, they keep me in fresh veggies. And trust me, those things you buy in grocery stores are nothing like the fresh, homegrown variety.

I know, Jesus wasn’t talking about vegetables or fruit. He was talking about souls. But laboring and harvesting veggies is a lot like laboring and harvesting souls. It’s not fun. Or easy. It’s hard to witness to someone you know couldn’t care less. It’s hard when you’ve done it before and they’ve shut you down. It’s hard to witness to strangers. It can prickle your nerves like a fuzzy peach or okra. Prayer can be hard on the knees. It’s not necessarily hard on the back, but it can hurt your heart. The burden of not witnessing—when you know you should—can be hard on the heart. Trust me. I know.

It’s been at least three years ago. I was in Walmart in Little Rock in the makeup aisle. There was another woman there—probably in her late twenties or early thirties. We scanned the makeup, acknowledged each other with kind smiles, and tried not to get in each others way.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walk by. A few seconds later, he came down the aisle and struck up a conversation with the woman. They were around the same age. She knew him, but I don’t think they were in a relationship. Yet, the talk soon turned casually raunchy about plans for the weekend including a party, drinking, and worse. It made me mad that they thought nothing of talking nasty with me right there listening. I left and went several aisles away so I couldn’t tell what they were saying.

After what seemed like eons of me stewing, the talking stopped and I saw the man pass the aisle I was in. Finally, safe to go back and get my makeup. On the way, I realized this girl needed help. My anger toward her disintegrated as the Holy Spirit convicted me, she needed to know there’s more to life than parties, drinking, and worse. And I needed to tell her. I hurried back to the aisle. She was gone. I searched several aisles and women oriented departments. But I never saw her again. My heart still hurts from that burden.           

I’ve thought about her often since then and wondered if she’s still on that self-destructive path. I’ve prayed she ran into a better laborer than me. And that maybe she’s been harvested by now. I’ve even prayed for the man. I also determined that I would never let another opportunity like that pass. And I haven’t.

Music to Soothe the Savage Beast

Just hearing the words “writer’s block” is enough to strike fear into a writer’s heart. It’s a big, ugly, dirty, hairy beast that thrusts itself into our lives and takes up residence in our computer. The brute steals into our mind, numbs our fingers, and fills our heart with dread. We KNOW, at that moment, we’ll never write another decent word in our life.

Cue the music. Any music. Whatever music calms your spirit and speaks to your heart. Then sit back and let it wash over you, soak into you, speak to you.

I’ve been wrestling for months with the beast of writer’s block. You’d think, being unemployed, I’d be writing my brains out. Instead, my brain has turned to mush, my fingers wobble over the keyboard in search of words. The beast has had me by the throat.

So I’ve called out to…Josh Groban. Seriously. One of my stories is about an up-and-coming singer and the now-spotlight-phobic model he falls for. Listening to the powerful music of Josh Groban helps me visualize what life might be like for a struggling performer. It loosens the beast’s grasp on my throat.

In another story, an ex-con builds a ministry for kids on the street. Listening to contemporary Christian music from Sanctus Real, the Robbie Seay Band, and Big Daddy Weave drowns out the beast’s whispers that have kept me paralyzed. It allows me to enter my story world and be the characters.

I love to sing. I’m not good at it. People will move away if I sing too loudly in church (just kidding). But I still love to sing. Sometimes I go far from my computer (where the beast lies in wait) to play worship music and just sing. It reminds me to take the focus off of me and put it where it belongs – on the One who called me to write in the first place.

And when the beast finally slinks away (I know he doesn’t go far, but at least he goes), I play music to thank God for bringing me through.

Do you have any particular music that soothes your beast?