Monthly Archives: October 2016

Prayer Request for Jeffery Woodke

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26 ESV.

jeffery-woodkeLast week, I shared a post on Facebook about Jeffery Woodke, a missionary in Niger, West Africa, being kidnapped by a terrorist group. Click on the picture which will link you to the full story from The Christian Post.

Jeffery Woodke and other missionaries, live Luke 14:26. They have put Jesus before everything, even their families. They love Jesus more than anything. I’ve traveled to Niger four time and have not met Jeffery Woodke, but I hope and pray that someday, I will be able to meet him and give him a hug, and thank him for all that he has done to spread the gospel in Niger.

Please pray for Jeffrey Woodke’s safe return and for God to protect him. Pray that during his time of captivity, God will give him the courage to be a bold witness and bring many to Christ.

Last year, I read, The Insanity of God by Nik Ripkin and Gregg Lewis which helped me understand that God can, and does, use events like Jeffery Woodke’s kidnapping to grow His kingdom. Let us never forget,  “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us form the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV.

Please lift up prayers for Jeffery Woodke, his family, and for those who love him. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV.

I’ve stopped watching news programs because of the political rants, but my search for an update on  Jeffery Woodke’s kidnapping doesn’t appear to be on any news network. CNN last updated their story six days ago. It’s up to us to help spread the word that prayer is needed. Please consider sharing the article from The Chrisitan Post on Facebook.

#prayforJeffwoodke

The Promise that Comes with the Command

By Liz Johnson

“Now be sure to put Vaseline on that every day and cover it with a Band-Aid.”

I stared at the nurse like she was a little bit ridiculous. After all, the spot she was referring to was in the middle of my back. I couldn’t see it with two mirrors and selfie-stick, let alone manage keep it moisturized and covered by myself.

But the mole had had to be removed, and the resulting spot—what I dubbed “the mole hole”—had to be cared for. I did the best I could. A single woman, living alone, I employed the help of friends to apply bandages and generally suffered through the irritating itching as it healed. After all, the problematic mole, which my dermatologist deemed “troubling,” was gone. All was well.

Until I received a call from the dermatologist’s office a week later. “The pathology results from your mole are in,” said the nurse.

“Great.” I assumed the best. After all, it was just a little mole. No big deal.

“It’s not benign.”

I heard only ringing in my ears for a moment. Not benign? Benign meant harmless, right? So this was not harmless? My brain was working at the speed of sloth as I tried to sort her words into something I could understand.

And then she said what she should have started with. “But it’s not malignant either.”

“Huh?” I wasn’t feeling particularly sharp as she explained that my mole fell into a shady gray area between everything-is-great and this-could-be-trouble. The problematic cells were right along the base of the mole. If they hadn’t removed all of the problem, it would grow back, much nastier than before.

“We need you to come back in in three months,” she said.

Three months? Seriously? I had to wait three whole months to see if those little cells were still multiplying in my back? I nearly asked if they could just remove a crater from my back and be done with it. But there was nothing to be done but wait.

It’s incredible the stories that a mind can conjure as it waits for the truth. This is true in relationships—when we don’t hear from a friend, our minds fill in all the worst reasons. It’s true in families—when the person who said they’d call after their road trip doesn’t, our minds picture terrible car accidents.

I tend to be a fairly imaginative person. It’s a hazard of being a novelist, I suppose. So I immediately pictured the very worst. Facing the big C while living 2000 miles away from my family and those I love most.

friends_walkingFear settled in, heavy and oppressive. And I knew I couldn’t spend three months picturing the worst. On a walk with my best friend, I shared my fears, and she reminded me that the Bible is filled with reminders not to be afraid. She was right—per usual.

So I got home and opened my Bible. And I discovered something pretty incredible.

You see, I’d known about the many commands in scripture. “Do not be afraid.” “Fear not.” “Do not worry about tomorrow.” These are important. And they’re commands. They’re not suggestions.

But it’s one thing to know them and another entirely to do them. But as I was reading some of these key verses—the ones on postcards and wall art—something hit me. Like in Joshua 1:9, which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I thought that was where the verse ended. It’s not. The whole verse reads “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Did you catch that? “For the LORD your God will be with you.”

Joshua 1:9 isn’t just a command. It’s a promise. God is with us.

And the more verses I found, the more promises came with them.

Isaiah 43:1 – “But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’”

Psalm 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Isaiah 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

We don’t have to be unafraid in our own strength. God tells us how to conquer fear. With Him. Remembering that He is always with us.

The command is not to fear. The promise is that we have a God who cares about the things that scare us, and He’ll walk through them with us.

I clung to that promise for three months. (Still do, for that matter.) And you know what? God was with me. He was by my side every step of the way through my mole scare. Which turned out to be nothing to worry about.

_____________________________________________

where-two-hearts-meet-cover-finalIf you love romantic novels placed in beautiful surrounding, you won’t want to miss Liz’s new book,  Where Two Hearts Meet. It is the second book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series and released last week.

Caden is a talented chef employed at the beautiful Red Door Inn. When Adam, a journalist shows up looking for a story, there’s a misunderstanding.

I hope you’ll treat yourself to an afternoon get-away to the beautiful setting of Prince Edward Island to see what happens “when two hearts meet.” Click on the book cover for a direct link to Amazon. I’ll draw a name from my subscribers on Sunday, October 30th and give away a free copy. To subscribe, scroll to the top of the page and add your email address in the “subscribe” box.

Liz Johnson fell in love with Prince Edward Island the first time she set foot on it. When she’s not plotting her next trip to the island, she is the director of marketing for a Christian radio network. She is the author of several novels including Red Door Inn cover - FINALThe Red Door Inn and Where Two Hearts Meet, a New York Times bestselling novella, and a handful of short stories. She makes her home in Tucson, Arizona.

 

My Story of Friendship & Hope by Connilyn Cossette

I grew up in Spokane, Washington but my husband and I moved away when we had been married just one year, in 1998. I always tease him that he has a bit of gypsy blood in him, he used to get restless after a couple of years in one place, so we spent the next few years moving around, a lot. We went from Spokane to Utah, from Utah to Seattle, from Seattle to Idaho, from Idaho back to Utah and then from Utah to Texas! Phew! Makes me tired just remembering all the packing and unpacking that went on in those wandering years!

Throughout those many moves I made a few friends in those different places, some friendships that have remained precious throughout the years and some that faded into memory after time, distance, and seasons of life eroded those ties.

When I first moved to Texas I was completely disoriented. It was a strange place and a drastically different culture (they say things like “we’re fixin’ to go” and call shopping carts buggies, people!). To top it off, my husband is a truck driver and at that time was traveling for weeks at a time, leaving me and my one-year-old son alone. I felt like I’d been dropped off in the middle of ocean without a lifejacket.

There were many months I prayed, Lord, please just bring me someone who wants to really know me, someone that cares enough to see that I am lonely and hurting and scared to put my heart on the line.

Although it took some time for me to let down my guard which, as a highly introverted person, tends to be pretty high gradually, through church relationships and gracious neighbors, I slowly began to gather a few trusted people around me. And as my children got older and we became involved in homeschool co-op, that circle grew wider and deeper and richer with friendships. And once I began writing, the Lord gifted me with new connections with other creatives that truly understand my heart and passion.

There are times, however, I have worried that my tendency to hold my innermost thoughts close to my chest and to literally hide in my closet (which is where I write) might damage some of those ties, especially over the last couple of years when I have been learning to balance writing, homeschooling, sleep and you know, life.

But in the past six months I have experienced such an outpouring of love and support from the people around me that I am left with an overflowing cup that just keeps on spilling over.

When my first book Counted with the Stars released I decided that since it was my debut novel and since it happened to be near my 40th birthday, I would throw a big party to celebrate. For weeks,  one of my BFF’s and I planned and plotted (and spent way more money that was budgeted) to launch CWTS in the world.CountedWiththeStars_mck.indd

I’ll be honest friends, I wasn’t sure anyone would come, other than the local friends that were on the launch team and maybe a few people from church. But I figured, hey, a debut is a once in a lifetime, I’ll have fun even if only a few people show.

Wow. Was I wrong.

By the time the night was halfway over it was standing room only in the banquet room I’d rented. And the majority of those people were my friends, from various circles of my life. I had to work very hard that night to control the tears that kept welling up when I considered how many people cared for me, supported me, and were willing to give up their Saturday night to celebrate a story about my imaginary friends.

And then, last Saturday night, the same thing happened with my second launch for Shadow of the Storm!shadow_of_the_storm

I marveled at the selflessness and support of those friends who spent the entire day helping me set up our crazy decorations, cutting strips of paper for the kid’s crafts, dressing in costumes, frosting cupcakes, and then serving all the guests who arrived later. I marveled at the many people who showed up to celebrate Shadow of the Storm with me and those who joined me in my first Facebook Live broadcast to attend the party virtually (even though the sound quality was a mess). I marveled at the gifts of friendship that the Lord has bestowed on this wallflower over the years.

Eleven years ago I did not even want to move to Texas, I was terrified of the snakes, the heat, and the loneliness. But I have seen the Lord answer those desperate prayers for just one or two friends to care about me many, many times over.

Maybe you are in that time of loneliness, a time when you feel no one around you cares, or that you are invisible or forgotten, or maybe you have been wounded from lost or damaged friendships. But may I remind you that God adores you? He hears you, even in those empty desert times. He made you and knows your deepest hurts. Perhaps like me, stepping out and be vulnerable and sharing your heart authentically is a struggle, but it is so worth the effort. Pray for courage! Pray for friends!

Perhaps you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and have no problem making new friends and are confused by people like me who pull into our shells in social situations. Can I encourage you to keep trying? We introverts need you to draw us out, to call us and invite us to coffee—because most likely we won’t call you, even if we want to. It may take a little more effort, but the opportunities for a deep and loyal friendship are high with us introverts. Pray that the Lord would open your eyes to a lonely soul!

We need fellowship. We need other women to speak into our lives. From the beginning God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” and that means women as well. It is His desire that we connect with others, reach out, and allow ourselves to be known.  Friendship is at the heart of the gospel, for who is a better friend than Jesus who laid down his life for us?

So I challenge you, whether extrovert or introvert or somewhere in between, reach out and take a step towards relationship this week. Whether that’s calling someone who needs encouragement, approaching a stranger, or renewing a friendship that withered away over time. Pray that the Lord will show you who needs you to take that first step. And, like me, I have little doubt that in time your friendship cup will overflow as well.

Recipe for “Manna Cakes”

The Bible describes the heavenly food, manna, which in Hebrew is loosely translated “what is it?” as “white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31) So, for the release party last week my awesome friends helped me make these “Manna Cakes” which I concocted by altering a cake mix. They are super easy and quite yummy with honey buttercream frosting!

Cupcakes
1 Box White or Cake Mix
1 TBSP Apple Pie Spice
¾ cup honey
½ cup oil
3 eggs
½ cup water
Mix together and follow Directions on the back of the box for cooking times. Frost with Honey Buttercream and top with white non-pareils  (tiny white ones, so it looks like manna!)

Honey Buttercream Frosting
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
Add milk, as needed, for thinning

Variation:
Use applesauce in place of the oil to give the cupcakes a yummy, fruity flavor.

shadow_of_the_stormThank you Sheila, for once again having me on your blog to share my story of hope and friendship. One lucky commenter will be receiving a copy of Shadow of the Storm, so tell us how you’ve been blessed by a friend lately or how God has been faithful to supply a friend in times of loneliness.

About Connilyn Cossette
When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure out-of-print history books. There is not much she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible, uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus and weaving them into fiction. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

My Prayer For All Political Candidates

I’m currently reading Jen Wilkin’s Bible study, 1 Peter: A Living Hope in Christ.  Last week’s lessons focused on the scriptures 1 Peter 2:13-25. I’ve included a few verses for you.

(13) Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, (14) or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. (15)For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (16) Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (17) Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 13-17 ESV.

When I read verse 17, I stopped and pondered the current political situation. Have I honored our current elected officials? Sadly, I have not.  I believe all Christians in America will benefit by reviewing this passage.

I’m also reading The Forgotten Way by Ted Dekker with Bill Vanderbush, and these scriptures were studied yesterday.

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son. John 5:22 ESV

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:17-18

I underlined these sentences on page 27 of The Forgotten Way by Ted Dekker with Bill Vanderbush.

We live under the weight of our own condemnation, and in condemning one another we condemn ourselves. But neither the Father nor the Son condemn you, for you are in Christ and He is in you.

I’m thankful for both Bible studies which helped me realize my sinful behavior. Who am I to judge anyone?

In the future, and especially as we approach the election, I’m going to do my best to control my tongue and turn to prayer. Perhaps my behavior will encourage others to pray for all the candidates and elected officials.

Please join me in praying for the upcoming election and continue to pray for whoever is elected. Pray that our leaders will govern in a manner that aligns with God’s laws. I’m going to trust in the prayer that never fails. “Father, May Thy will be done.”

 

Unexpected Blessings on the Road to Publication

Next week, I’ll be attending a writer’s conference in Monterey, California. The road to publication is difficult, but for me, it’s also filled with wonder and blessings.  I don’t think I’ll ever believe that I’m a good writer. Even after three years of blogging, I have to summon my courage to tell people I write stories.  Worthy Publishing http://worthypublishing.com/  purchased ten of my devotions to be included in a book that will release later this year, and I’ve signed a contract to write an additional ten devotions for another book to be released next spring. I’ll finally be a published author. I hadn’t planned to write devotions, but it’s been an unexpected path on the writing  journey.

photo-3It’s exciting to sign a contract, but the best gift on this odyssey is the friendships I’ve developed with others who share the same passion. I’m looking forward to being able to take a whale watch tour next week with a new friend, and I anticipate meeting other conference attendees and teachers. photo Two years ago, at a conference, I sat next to one of my favorite authors, Lauraine Snelling. She is so generous and encouraging. I hope we can reconnect next week.  At that same workshop, God arranged a divine appointment for me with a former Kenyan missionary just when I was planning to lead a team to Kenya. We were in St. Louis and I discovered she lived about twenty miles from my home in Kentucky.

Another blessing on the writing journey is that as a Christian writer, writing means spending time delving His word. I have a difficult time concentrating when reading the Bible a chapter at a time, but when I’m crafting stories,  I’m sent to study the scriptures.  Perhaps God’s intent is to change me more than those who might read my stories. Writers are encouraged to write what they know, and I certainly know about sin.  Thank goodness, I also know about Jesus’s love and forgiveness.

dollarphotoclub_51694407Whatever your hobby or passion, I pray it gives you as much joy as writing does for me. God gives each of us special talents. I pray you too will discover the unexpected blessings when you use your skills to the best of your abilities. I’m trying to focus on enjoying every minute of the journey and to stop worrying about signing a contract. God will decide who needs to read my stories and he’ll take care of the details of getting those words to the person He wants to read them.   I’ll never be good enough to deserve the Master’s praise, but I when I reach heaven and approach the His throne, I hope to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  May He say the same of you.

Up Against Giants by Lori Stanley Roeleveld

roeleveld-headshot-2015-002In my forties, I studied karate. I was new at it, but I’m competitive. I entered my first tournament as a lowly orange belt. I won first place in two divisions: kata (a series of choreographed moves) and weapons. With only the sparring division left, I felt confident. Sparring occurs when two opponents don protective gear and score points by throwing kicks and punches at each other, making contact without intent to injure. It was in that division I encountered a giant.

I entered the ring for my bout and turned to talk with other students as I waited for my opponent. When the warning bell rang and I whirled to face her, I was looking square into her belly button. I stood opposite an unnaturally tall, refrigerator-shaped, twenty-five-year-old farmwoman, looking as if she’d trained by hauling small tractors at the county fair. At that precise moment, I lost the bout. I don’t recall much about the actual match except I never moved. I could hear my karate teacher shout, “Do something! Anything! Aw!” It was over with breathtaking speed. Technically my opponent won, but really, I defeated myself the second I contemplated her navel.

Flash forward two years. I faced another giant in a similar karate tournament. I had two more years of training, but I was still outmatched. Again, I opposed a woman who was more skilled, younger, and in better shape. She exuded confidence. But one weapon I’d learned to engage was my mind.

It was clear this girl believed I was no match for her. I might not have been if she’d been  prepared for me to come at her like a middle-aged female spinoff of Jackie Chan. I caught her completely off guard by displaying no fear and blitzing her the moment the bell rang. Without hesitation I attacked. I scored two points, and she was so rattled, I managed to sneak in a third to win the match within seconds. There I stood, still the lesser fighter, but now the victor. What changed between my first match and my second is this time I had refused to defeat myself. I might be out-skilled. I might fight out of my league. I might still go down, but I will no longer do the work for my opponents.

We Christians do that though, don’t we? In a land of giants, too often we spend so much time contemplating our opponents and weighing the odds, we defeat ourselves. Let me save you some time. The odds are always in favor of the giant—always—but odds don’t win battles. Ask David.

God’s Word says there are giant forces of evil at work in this age. In Matthew 13, Jesus gave us the parable of the sower and told us the evil one will carry off some of the seed planted in peoples’ hearts. In the following parable, he describes an enemy who plants weeds among the good seed in a farmer’s field under cover of dark. These stories speak to a relentless, invasive enemy at work in our midst. Battling such pervasive evil will require diligent persistence on our part. There’s nothing easy involved in what we’re about these days. We face aggressive, abominable giants. We will surely be defeated if we do their work for them!

jesus-and-the-beanstalkExcerpted with permission from Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life by Lori Stanley Roeleveld (Abingdon Press). http://www.abingdonpress.com/product/9781501820045#.V63dCctOnqA

Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She authors an unsettling blog and has written two unconventional non-fiction books and one perturbing novella. Her latest book, Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) just released from Abingdon Press. Look her up at www.loriroeleveld.com. Part-time giant-slayer. Not available for children’s parties.