Monday, October 16, 2017

The Power of Story

By Jebraun Clifford


I had the privilege of being the speaker at a holiday camp last weekend, though at first I admit I was a little terrified apprehensive at the prospect. While I regularly teach Sunday school, I have, on average, only fifteen kids in my class who I know and whose parents I know. The kids are used to me, and we always have a good time. Plus I keep my pockets stuffed with lollies to bribe them for good behaviour.

But how would a room full of fifty-five 8-12 year olds react to a stranger? That age group is notoriously challenging. Not to mention wriggly and easily distracted. Could I be engaging enough? Funny enough? And how on earth was I going to fit the whole gospel message (without being too preachy) in two half-hour evening sessions and one breakfast devotion?

It turned out better than I expected in that wonderfully chaotic way only God can orchestrate.


And it’s all because of the power of story.


Picking out a broad theme—God’s love for us—I found three parables in the gospels that detailed a different aspect of His love and what our response to it should be. One of the parables I chose was about the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the fold to look for the one lost sheep.

It’s no coincidence that when I arrived at camp Friday afternoon, there were three newborn baby lambs gamboling about. Or that one of the campers’ duties was to feed the lambs. Everyone got very attached to these adorable creatures and their habit of snuggling with whoever held them. If the lambs were lonely, they’d bleat pathetically until someone ran to their pen to pay attention to them, and we had more than one camper disappear during mealtimes to get some sneaky individual cuddle time.

When it came time to present the parable of the lost sheep, I asked them to imagine one of our beloved lambs was afraid and wandering alone somewhere in the dark, and everyone became immediately invested in the story. They all insisted they would brave the cold and the wet in order to rescue the missing lamb and promised they wouldn’t rest until the lamb was found. Nothing would stop them until the lamb was home safely.

When I explained that the love, tenderness, and protectiveness they felt towards the lamb was a smidgen of the thoughts God has towards them, you could see the realisation sink in.

One simple story, personalized and made very real, brought home an eternal truth to these kids in a way a boring (to them) sermon never could. All I did was follow my Saviour’s example.

Instead of laying out complex theological treatises, Jesus often told stories. He took powerful truths about the kingdom of heaven and cloaked them in the images of a treasure in a field, a mustard seed, and a net full of fish. He enthralled His audience with thrilling tales of wicked vinedressers, a foolish farmer, and an unjust judge. He populated His narratives with people we could each imagine ourselves as: a wayward son, an unforgiving servant, and a woman who lost a valuable coin.

These parables spoke volumes about God’s unfailing love. A love we get to tell others about.


And that’s what I love best about writing stories.


I get to weave my Christian worldview—that life is rich and amazing, that each one of us is deeply cherished, that we all are designed with unique gifts and talents for a good purpose, that we have a Creator who ardently pursues us and holds all things in the palm of His hand—into a fictional tale anyone might pick up to read.

It’s an opportunity we each have when we sit down to write a story.

Whether you pen fantasy, romance, mystery, or historical fiction, you get to hide your unique perspective of who God is and what His love means to you into your writing. Isn’t that exciting?

What powerful truths do you disguise as story?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week 

Monday 

Jebraun Clifford

Tuesday

Marion Ueckermann:  WASGIJ?

Wednesday 

Jenn Kelly

Thursday

Jayne E. Self

Friday Devotion

Leila Halawe: Green Pastures

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New Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Better Than a Crown, Book 3 in her Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in October 2017.

Carolyn Miller's regency romance set in England, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, Book 3 in her Regency Brides series, is an October 2017 release from Kregel.

Lucy Thompson's historical romance set in Australia, Waltzing Matilda, in The Captive Bride Collection: 9 Stories of Great Challenges Overcome Through Great Love, is an October 2017 release from Barbour.

Sandra Orchard's Amish mystery The Hound and The Fury, Book 17 in Amish Inn Mysteries, releases in October 2017 from Annie’s Attic.



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Upcoming Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Rooted in Love, Book 2 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series) releases independently in November 2017.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in USA, Vanishing Point: A Nikki Boyd Novel, will be a November 2017 release from Revell.


Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Amsterdam, Deadly Exchange, will be a January 2018 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the USA, Wishes on Wildflowers, Book 4 in her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, will release independently in January 2018.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the USA, Harvest of Love, Book 3 in her Garden Grown Romance series, will release independently in May 2018.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2017-2018 Book Releases page, 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Cloak of Mourning by Keona Tann

Grief is a strange companion the barbs of sadness pierce your heart at the strangest times. Everyday tasks can bring overwhelming sorrow.
It's like a cloak you sometimes forget it's around your shoulders but then, like a punch to the stomach, you'll realize it's still there, surrounding you.
At first you wear it heavy like a winter wool cloak but gradually over time it becomes a light silk cape.
Grief and healing is a process that we simply cannot rush! We need to allow it to take shape. Find someone who can help you through the process.
As I wallowed in my grief during my illness; loss of employment; and loss of loved ones I was led to Psalm 42:1-3,5 (NIV): “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God (stand before Him)? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”.

I realised that I was given a choice each day - I could celebrate the small victories or wallow in my grief! As I pondered that I decided to celebrate the beauty of the sunrise. I declared that God's mercy and grace is new each day, like each dawn (Zephaniah 3:5). So the suffocating heavy cloak of grief gradually changed into a light silk cape. I allowed Jesus to speak to my heart and He gradually replaced my mourning with peace and then eventually joy!

I pray that your cloak of mourning lightens as you press into God’s promises:
Lamentations 5:21 (NLT) “Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!”
Lord ignite in me a joy for you that burns bright and clear!

Psalms
30:11 (NLT) “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy”  
Lord remove my mourning from my mind and replace it with joyous thoughts of you!
Lord remove my mourning from my heart and fill it with Your joy!
Lord remove my mourning from my spirit and wash me afresh in Your never-ending joy!

“God’s peace is joy resting. His joy is peace dancing.” F.F. Bruce


Many blessings!

For most of my life I struggled with sickness. The 2 dominant afflictions were endometriosis (for 28 years) and adrenal fatigue (I was severely debilitated for 28 months and the recovery has been a journey of 11 months so far).
In September 2016 God declared healing over my life. This set me on a path of restoration and transformation.
My passion for writing was reignighted and I wrote the following mission statement:
I desire to impact the world through the words I share. I long to enrich, empower and encourage others whilst delivering my stories with empathy and understanding.
“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬
I've started a weekly blog which you can find at: https://keonajtann.wordpress.com/
I'm currently working on my testimony as well as my journey with endometriosis and adrenal fatigue. I hope that I'll launch my first book soon. Many blessings, Keona

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My other half

I have always thought of myself as the strong, independent type. I grew up as something of a “latchkey kid” in South Africa. For as long as I can remember I got myself to school every day. In the afternoons I came home to an empty house. You get used to your own company. After a while you even get to like it.

All that changed when I met my wife. I’ll never forget the day she walked into the gym where I worked. It was like one of those western movie scenes where some stranger walks into a saloon and the music stops. She certainly took my breath away.  The guys behind the counter immediately turned on the charm. My manager was a body builder with Mediterranean looks. I knew I didn't stand a chance against such competition. I shrugged and sighed to myself, carrying on with my work as if she wasn't there.

One day a few weeks later she came up to me and said she liked the music I used in my classes and asked if I could make her a tape. She handed me a blank cassette and quickly left. Inside was a small note with a message saying that she was crazy about me. Her name was Ronell. To me it was the most beautiful name I had ever heard.

Three years later we were married and starting a family in our new home in England. We argued in the first couple of years. Not a lot, but enough to make us both wonder if we had done the right thing. I could not help but think perhaps my independent upbringing was an issue. I loved being around Ronell, but I was also single-minded and stubborn. We agreed that we would both give it 100% and that we would build our lives on God’s solid foundation.

In 2015 we celebrated our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary. I realized that, during that time, I had changed. People often call their spouses their “other half” and it is true. After so many years you stop being an independent person. Your lives become intertwined to such an extent that you become more like a single unit. At least, that is how it felt to me. This was especially true after the kids flew the nest. I realized that every decision I made and every action I took was centred around Ronell.

I remember putting together a two-picture photo frame for our anniversary. The one on the left was from our wedding day. The one on the right was a photo we took on the ferry—our first trip without the kids. Ronell's wedding dress train seemed to flow into the second photo, forming a white path. She said that represented our future lives together. I told her I was looking forward to spending the next twenty-six years together. She said she was looking forward to falling in love with me all over again.

We never made the next anniversary.  The cancer that had been quietly spreading through Ronell's body attacked her quickly and without mercy, robbing her of her health, then her mobility, and finally her life. When she was taken to the hospital in Delft I gave notice at my job and on our house and moved in with her. They did what they could to make her comfortable but they made it clear there was no chance of a cure. She was given the use of a wheelchair and I took her for long walks around the hospital.

Ronell said she wanted to go back to England and we arranged to get her moved to the hospice near our home in Blackpool.

She passed away less than a week later. I was due to return to Holland the next day with a van to collect all our things from the house. Friends were helping out at the hospice and I gave them instruction for Ronell's day-to-day care. I would return five days later. That afternoon, as I held her hand, she took her last breath.

At that moment my world fell apart. All my strength and independence evaporated. I had imagined I would continue without her until we met again in Heaven. Now, suddenly, I felt utterly and completely lost. It was like being torn in half.

It has been almost a year since she passed away. I still feel lost but I am learning to cope. The waves of grief are further apart now but their ferocity has not subsided. Music tends to bring on the tears. Certain songs remind me of her. I have to be careful in public places where they play music.

Writing helps, which is why I bared my soul in this blog post. Thanks for listening. It is therapeutic, putting my thoughts down on paper.

This evening I returned to an empty house. I am, it seems, a “latchkey kid” once more. Curious how life can do a full circle like that.

I don't know why Ronell had to go home. I believe God had a good reason for taking her. One day I will know that reason. Until then, all I can do is pray and wait. I believe I will see her again, God willing.

It may be a cliché but I really am lost without her. She truly was my other half.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Spring Walk

by Ruth Ann Dell

Three days ago.

It's spring in South Africa. Damp earthy smells delight me as the rain soaks into the dry thirsty soil. Green grass shoots through the black remains of the winter's veldt fires. Trees are dressed in fresh green leaves and blossoms abound.

A short walk up the street takes me to trees adorned with exquisite blossoms next to last year's pods. Many pods are now scattered on the ground and have split open to reveal rows of spiky seeds nestling inside. I don't know the name of the trees, but my brother-in-law assures me they are itchy bean trees--he remembers his school-days and boyish pranks. He and his friends put the seeds down the backs of each others' shirts so that the hairs caused itching!



I take a pod home and use a black marker to draw little eyes, which transforms the seeds into tiny hedgehogs--lovely little characters for a child's picture book.


"Hedgehogs" Nestling in a Pod


And the empty pods can also be used to make delightful birds. African craftsmen use clay to fill the pods and fashion heads. They press legs and feet of wire into the clay, then paint the birds when the clay is dry to make birds like the magnificent African hoopoe.

Dry Pod
African Hoopoe

At the bottom of the street, silky oaks bear golden hairbrushes. I'm sure they brush the flowing green tresses of the weeping willows next to them as the wind blows the branches together.

Silky Oak and a Weeping Willow

Silky Oak Brush
What fun to use my imagination as I enjoy God's creation!

After note: Since my spring walk, I've flown to Ireland where the trees are sporting their autumn colors. Sadly widespread storms have lashed South Africa causing widespread damage and flooding. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Clearing the Decks! (I mean desk...)

Okay, I admit it, I'm not super great at organisation. I like to think I am, I do sticky notes really well, but sometimes my desk area gets a little scary. See evidence here:

It's not ideal, but sometimes life has a way of getting ahead of my good intentions, like in recent months, when I have had to polish my fifth book for a submission deadline, edit my sixth book for beta-readers, work on marketing for book 4, and prepare for the upcoming launch of my third book, with all the elements of marketing that involves. Oh, and prepare for several conferences. AND be mum to four and wife to one (😀) and all the other things life throws at me.

I get messy, and a bit disorganised, which tends to lead to stress. Trying to write or edit is a challenge when my notes are several stratum beneath the surface, and where I need them.

Clearing the decks/desk really helps me stay less stressed. Here's some things I've been learning to help in this department:

* Work ahead of schedule - procrastination only leads to pain. (It's a bit like that random sock that stays in the hall for days while people walk past it. Pick it up the first time and it won't bother you.) When you have a spare few hours (ha ha!), use them to get up to date with blog posts or those looming deadlines (you know, the ones that wake you up in the middle of the night as another thing 'to do' on that never-ending 'to-do' list). To quote a famous sportswear company: 'Just do it.'

* Sticky notes are my friend - yes, I have a lot, but having them in eye level helps me stay focused so I'm working to schedule and making sure I'm doing what needs to be done. And there's nothing like crossing another task off the list!

* Wall planners are cool - helpful for book deadlines but also for making off holidays, conferences, birthdays, etc. Again, one glance and I know where I'm at.

* Priority Placement - I keep the resources I use most on my desk, everything else lives (or is supposed to) in my not-so-little bookshelf of writing and Regency resources, or in the filing drawers assigned to each book.

* Clutter is the enemy - which is hard, as I have hoarding-type tendencies. Blank walls make me feel calmer, despite my love for inspirational grand English estate postcards. Sometimes I just have to put the loud music on and sort the treasure from the trash, then toss the latter into the circular file.

I'm still a work in progress (aren't we all?), but I'm finding these tools help me clear the decks, physical and mentally.

What works for you?

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher.A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novels include The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, and the upcoming release The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, published by Kregel, and available from Koorong, Amazon, Book Depository etc

Connect with her:  www.carolynmillerauthor.com    pinterest  facebook twitter


Monday, October 9, 2017

Introducing Pinterest

By Christine Dillon

Do you find social media overwhelming?


I have been a slow adopter of different forms of social media because I want to be sure that it both helps me and doesn’t take too much time.

In August, after much research and internal debate, I dipped my toe in the water with Pinterest. I wasn’t expecting myself to love it so quickly. Within a week I was a fan.

There are four main reasons why:

1. Filing cabinet ability 

For the last eighteen months I’ve been collecting the ‘best’ articles/videos I view online under such topics as ‘planning a novel’, ‘writing craft’, ‘setting up a website’ and ‘marketing’. My system was simple. I had an email in my draft folder with a subject line and I simply pasted the links underneath them.

On Pinterest, I can create a ‘board’ (like a folder), give it a title and then ‘pin’ the individual files and place them on the ‘board’. Most of the time it is a simple paste the web address and then choose the picture that comes up automatically (often the one accompanying the article). Now when people ask me a ‘craft’ or ‘marketing’ question, I can direct them to my Pinterest board which not only looks much more classy than my original email list but saves me loads of time and is more accessible to everyone, including myself.

Pinterest also suggests related pins from others boards that I can simply pin and drop on my board. Each one takes about 5 seconds.

2. Marketing

Pinterest is just one method of many. Each method is designed to be a spoke of a wheel that leads back to the centre - your website. Why is the website the centre? Because it is here that people can find lists of your books … your bio, … AND be challenged to join your subscriber list.

So I set up a few boards designed to lead to my website. This included:

  • Boards with ‘best of blogs’ from my website.
  • A board for each book I’ve written and including video links, book reviews, …
  • A ‘current giveaways/specials’ board which I keep up-to-date and take down giveaways the moment they’re finished
  • A general board with all my books/videos

I also have boards that cover the topics in my books. have several non-fiction books, including Getting Started with Bible Storytelling and Discipling Others. Those boards have a mixture of my posts/links and other recommended ones. Might also include what I consider are the best books on the topic.

3. Boards of things I enjoy

As an author, people like to find out things about you. That you like woodwork, gardens or stone bridges or sewing. It makes you seem human. As a Christian author, it is ESSENTIAL that we are not put up on a pedestal for many reasons but mainly because it is BAD for us.

4. Secret boards

You can put up boards that only you can see. This is really useful for books in progress. You can put up pictures of your characters or weapons or scenery from the books. Cover ideas or fonts. Have fun. Later, once the book is published or close to it, these boards might be fun to make public.

I joined Pinterest about five weeks ago, and about two hundred people visit something on my boards each day. 


Do they all go on to buy one of my books? Most unlikely. But remember this is one of many different ‘drive the traffic’ to my website methods I’m using. My broader strategies include reader magnet free book; targeted back matter in books leading to increasing mailing list; interviews on blogs and giveaways.

If you look at Storyteller Christine on Pinterest, you’ll see that I have a carefully chosen order in my boards. The Specials/Giveaways and Introducing Christine boards are first. Then the latest book I’m promoting … down towards the ‘filing cabinet’ boards related to writing and marketing.

If you like my boards, please feel free to use the ideas as a template for your Pinterest boards and give me some new ideas for mine in the comments below.

  • What purposes are you using it for?
  • What ideas do you have for boards?

Let me know in the comments!


About Christine Dillon

Based in southern Taiwan, Christine loves to tell Bible stories (to adults) as part of a church planting team. Traditionally published in non-fiction and is now working towards self-publishing in fiction, she keeps telling God she really doesn’t want to write.

In her spare time—now much reduced due to writing—she loves hiking, cycling, genealogy and of course, reading.

You can find Christine at her website, www.storytellerchristine.com, and on Facebook.


About Grace in Strange Disguise



Physiotherapist Esther Macdonald is living the Australian dream, and it doesn’t surprise her.

After all, her father has always said, “Follow Jesus and be blessed.” But at twenty-eight, her world shatters. Everyone assures her God will come through for her, but what happens when he doesn’t? Has she offended God? Is her faith too small? So many conflicting explanations.

Will finding the truth cost her the people closest to her heart?