Facebook pre

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Reason For Crazy Times? – by Elaine Stock

Our guest blogger today is Elaine Stock. She's sharing an important reminder of God's mysterious ways. Sometimes we have to walk through trying times, but God is always there ... and we are better for those times ... even if we can't figure out how ;o). Trust Him, and you will always make it through.

The Reason For Crazy Times? by Elaine Stock

We’ve all had them. Some days are full of people and situations that make you ponder why you ever took that job or said certain words that were twisted by others and aimed back at you, as if you were the center dot on a target. Or why you just stood on that one line in the store when that customer ahead of you acted up and spewed an assortment of less than stellar adjectives from his mouth. I was having one of those days at work not too long ago. The long drive home didn’t help to relieve any stress. But God has this fascinating time-theme going: He always puts things before you for a reason. So, I took it as no coincidence that day when I stumbled across a scripture passage quoted in a friend’s blog:

As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Is it just me or does it seem to anyone else that God might have placed you next to people that if you had a choice you definitely would have opted to remain miles . . . countries . . .or even centuries apart from?

Back in elementary school my 2nd grade teacher assigned me to sit next to Stewart. No one else wanted to sit next to him because Stewart ate flies. Really. He would swat the poor insect that was simply enjoying buzzing around being an annoying pest, then Stewart would wrap the fly in a piece of tissue, roll it into a ball, and yes—hold your stomachs—would proceed to swallow the fly-wrapped burial cloth. Okay, Mrs. Lansing—was it really necessary for me to sit next to little Stewart? Or, was God showing me an early life lesson that many “different” people exist in the world and for a myriad of reasons do disturbing things without a rhyme or reason? And, that I could go on with my life, perhaps even flourishing?

Then there was James in high school who had a penchant for calling me dog-face and tried his best to get his cronies to go along with him. James’ friends caved at first but than quit while James continued on in his mission work to give me a complex. Not one to retaliate or linger indefinitely in hurt, I begged my parents to take me to a dermatologist who helped clear my adolescent acne. I also got my hair styled in a way that nicely framed my face. James made me wonder about God’s purpose then. To strive to improve my circumstances or was it to trust Him when it comes to those who—for whatever reason—seek to spring havoc in my life? Interesting because the meaning of dogface is: a soldier, an infantryman. Was it that God didn’t necessarily want me to be insulted as much as He wanted James to experience that, instead of receiving flack back from me, he received peace, the proverbial other cheek to slap?

What about my co-worker from many years ago, Margaret, who had decided that no matter what I did, my endeavors were wrong and I was truly the worst person ever put on the face of the world? She gave new meaning to the words ridicule, belittling, and negativity. At first I was hurt by her words, as well as amazed, because others had praised my job performance. But I looked around, and inward, and found ways to try harder to improve. Know what? I did. I called upon God and with His grace I excelled in my work. I still don’t understand why, or if, He necessarily wants me to experience mean, spiteful people and trying times, but in seeking Him out, and asking for His help and for His mercy on the Margarets I’ve met through the years, I keep learning that I can improve myself and that He, like a father disciplining his children, will take care of those Margarets.

I’ve experienced a lot of iron sharpening. Since tools become dull without use, I imagine there will be more sharpening ahead to come. I don’t know why it has to come in stressful, awkward, or less-than-desirable situations or associations, but I’m trusting He has His reasons.

Have you had your iron sharpened lately?

Born and raised in Brooklyn, and then enjoying the more rural areas of upstate New York, Elaine Stock considers herself blessed to catch glimpses of all walks of life.
What she never expected was that a college major in psychology and sociology would walk her through the see-saw industries of food service and the weight-loss business; co-ownership with her husband in piano restoration; and ten years in community leadership, which includes her local Zoning Board of Appeals. She and her husband make their home in the 1860s Rutland Railroad depot they restored. All great fodder for creating fiction.
Cutting her writing teeth as a former member of Romance Writers of America, Elaine presented workshops, attended several conferences, and placed in a few writing contests. She has studied the craft of contemporary and literary fiction with Michael Neff, editor at the New School of New York. Now a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she dedicates her writing to God, writing stories of how God’s love shines even in the darkest of families. The July 2010 issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine featured her short story IN HIS OWN TIME. 2011 brought two major blessings: placing as a semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest and starting a blog, Everyone’s Story (http://elainestock.blogspot.com). She is represented by Reclaim Management. Find her also on at www.twitter.com/ElaineStock

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Hello loyal followers. Just wanted to share some news. I was tagged for a Liebster Blog Award last week. I want to thank my good friend and fellow blogger, Carrie Pagels, for awarding this to me. See her blog at Overcoming Through Time

The Liebster award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers in order to give opportunity for the readers to find new and wonderful sites.

The rules are as follows:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.
2. Give the Liebster Blog Award to five bloggers and let them know in a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. Have blogging fun!

Now I get to share the love. The following are my wonderful critique partners who have spent hours and hours of time polishing my manuscript and making me a better writer. They deserve lots of thanks for the time and love they put into helping me on a regular basis.

Lori Cecil

Gail Pallotta

June Foster

Vanessa Riley

Mildred Colvin

Spread the Word.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Will You Be Part of God's Rumor Mill?

                When I first saw the title of the book, Rumors of God by Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson, I thought it would be about God’s work in the world around us. Stories of miracles in our daily lives. But that’s not this book at all. It’s about rumors of GodGod’s wonders as spread by His people. That’s you and me folks. Kind of how the Body of Christ works. And good rumors to listen to.
                So how are these rumors spread? According to Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson, it’s not through what we say, but what we do. Acting on the faith we so fervently talk about. This book is about coming to life and displaying your faith to the world.
Rumors of God challenges us to be radical in acting as Christ would act. That doesn’t just mean follow all the right rules and restrain from all the right sins. But to also reach out to what the apostle Paul would call the weaker members of the Body, whether due to poverty or spiritual depravity, and showing them the agape love that Christ showed us. There are many wonderful real-life examples of people doing just that in this book. Inspiring!
                This is not a new message. I have read a number of books with one similar. However, it is still an important message and is underutilized still. So what should the reader do to extract it from underutilization and get the most from this book? One answer would be to read it in a small group or Bible Study setting. Use the questions and process the message in the company of those who will encourage you to act on it. Questions that challenge you to rate your spiritual passion and how you differ as a believer from those who do not believe. And questions that encourage you to listen to God’s call on your life. That is what will take this book from a good message to one that is life-changing.
Check it out for yourself:

                I received this book for free from Thomas-Nelson as part of their Booksneeze efforts in return for an honest review.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What's Keeping You From Your Special Assignment?

     Please welcome Staci Stallings as a guest blogger on LBOC today. Along with her talent for writing inspirational stories, she has a heart to help people use their God-given gifts for His Glory and some important insights into the traps Satan implements to stop us from using them. So, the question is ...

What's Keeping You From Your Special Assignment? by Staci Stallings

     I love reading The Message Bible.  I don’t know if that means my brain doesn’t wrap around the words in “regular” Bibles or what, but I can read The Message and come away in two minutes with more inspiration and uplift than two hours with a normal Bible.

     Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I love certain translations of certain verses, and some I even have memorized that way.  But the Message puts it in terms I just “get” without any mental gymnastics as to what it’s saying.
For example, the Apostle Paul begins many of his letters with a variation on this phrase, “I, Paul, sent on a special assignment to give the Message of Jesus to the world…”

     I love that!  Don’t you?

     “Sent on special assignment.”

     What would it be like to truly believe that you were in that place of feeling like God had sent YOU on a special assignment?  How would your life be different?  Would you treat it with more diligence, more vigilance?  What if you proclaimed to someone that you had been sent to them on special assignment from God?

     How would your spouse (for example) react to that proclamation?  Your kids?  Your co-workers?  Your friends?  Would you have the guts to tell them that?  Or do you even believe it?

     I believe every Christian is exactly like Paul.  We are all sent here on special assignments from God to bring Christ into our world.  Through His Holy Spirit, God empowered each of us to use our gifts and talents to further the Kingdom.

     But too many of us shun our gifts, hide our talents, and drown ourselves in busyness–believing there is no way that we’re special like Paul.  What do we have to say?  What do we have to give?  Nothing, we believe, and so we follow that up by giving and doing nothing.  We hear another in spiritual struggle and quietly step away because we don’t know what to do, we don’t know what to say.  And in that moment, God, Who could have spoken through you, loses a channel of His love, a means of speaking His Love and Mercy and Grace into this hurting person’s life.

     So why do we run?  Why don’t we step into the special assignments Jesus sends us on?

1) Disbelief and fear.  Topping the list have to be these two.  We are afraid what others might think of us.  We are afraid we will say the wrong thing and make things worse.  We are afraid we will say something, and it won’t turn out well.  So we say and do nothing at all.

2)  No time.  We have all fallen hard into the trap of busyness.  We are so busy, we can’t take the phone call from someone who needs to talk something through.  We can’t sit with our kids and listen to their struggles.  We have no time for friends or family.

3)  No resources.  I think some of us fall into the trap of thinking that money or things will solve the problems of the heart, and since we don’t have the resources to help, we choose not to help at all.  But one of the things I have learned from one of my writing groups on line is how very important and sacred just listening and praying for someone are.  Countless times members have come online asking for prayers for everything from a spouse being unemployed to some simple something that’s been lost.  No prayer request is too big.  None is too small.  If it’s important to you, it’s important to the group.  No physical resources trade hands, but spiritually we are there for one another.

4)  What will they think?  Oh, how many times did this one stop me from following through on a special assignment.  I was in the moment.  I knew what God was telling me to say, but my courage left when the thought came, “I can’t say that!  What will they think of me?”  Satan loves to use that one because it tears both people down simultaneously.  I finally found a way over that hurdle.  I would simply say, “Okay, I’m weird, but…”  That way I got my fear that they would think I was nuts on the table.  I was honest about it, and that put Satan in his place real quick.

     So what special assignment from God have you been sent on?  Believe me, it’s not random.  It is one of the assignments you were sent here for.  If you think you can’t, have the faith of a mustard seed and ask God to help you.  He will.  After all, He’s the One Who knew enough to send you!

A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from.  Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again.  Every title is a new adventure!  That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.  Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe every week with her various Internet endeavors including:
Books In Print, Kindle, & FREE on Spirit Light Works:

Spirit Light Books--The Blog


Staci’s website

Come on over for a visit…

You’ll feel better for the experience!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Good Jesus Cardio

            We get up early every morning so we can exercise before we start our day. A five-mile run will do the trick. Get the blood pumping and the synapses firing. Well … maybe. But a good cup o’ coffee works just fine for me.
Now, I know there are those of you who love your cardio. You’re that person who could run a marathon. Maybe not a sprint, but if it’s got length and requires endurance, it’s yours. However, today, I want to talk about another kind of endurance. We’ll just call it good Jesus cardio.
            This week I heard a great sermon at my sister’s church. The pastor, who stated he had no particular talent, praised God that he was at least given perseverance. He said he may not be able to do anything well, but he would complete the job no matter how long it took. He also added that the road to failure is littered with talented people who couldn’t hack it. And though I must disagree with the pastor on his assessment of his own skills—I always enjoy his down-to-earth, though poignant sermons—I loved what he said about perseverance. Perseverance is the heart of the Body of Christ. It’s that part we need to exercise so we can run the marathon of life … and it is a marathon. So good spiritual cardio work is imperative to running, what the Apostle Paul called “The Race.”
            The story of Joseph in Genesis is one of the best examples of perseverance in the Good Book. Joseph spent years being mocked by his brothers, more years as a slave and then even more in jail. Every time, he worked diligently and prospered, yet something always seemed to ruin his efforts. And yet, he maintained a strong faith in God and His purposes. God used all of those experiences to make Joseph the man he became and to place this Hebrew in a position of power in Egypt. Only an act of our Creator could do such a thing.
This is the kind of endurance we need through trial. We need to trust that God is still there even when life seems to block Him from view. Second Peter, verse nine tells us that if we are missing this quality (among others), we are nearsighted and blind, and have forgotten that we are cleansed from our past sins.
I’m sure you know believers who have a lot of heart. Those who are gifted with an unusual amount of spiritual perseverance. If you do know them, watch and learn, because this is definitely a gift you’d like to have rub off on you. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

No One Wants A Prosthesis

     Please welcome Jennifer Slattery, our guest blogger for the day. Also a member of the writer's group ACFW, she has inspired me on many occasions with her reminders to continually draw nearer to God and use our gifts for His Glory. That's why I am so excited to have her guest blog with me today.

No One Wants a Prosthesis--by Jennifer Slattery

     This summer our family spent a week in El Salvador. While there, we worshiped with another church, served at an orphanage, and helped facilitate nightly crusades. In each of these events, I was struck with how different the culture was from ours, and I’m not talking about music or food choices. The biggest difference? The El Salvadorans took the idea of a spiritual family very seriously. When they said, “She is a sister in Christ,” they meant it. You could see their deep love for one another in their eyes. You could hear it in their tone. But most importantly you could see it in their actions. If you belonged to Jesus, you were family--plain and simple.
     That’s not true here in the states. We have learned to be independent and to focus on ourselves. We train our children to do the same. More often than not, we see to it that life revolves around them–their social schedule, their sports schedule, whatever. Oh, perhaps we’ll ask them to give up an hour out of their seventy-two hour week (not counting sleeping time) to help with an outreach event, but what does that teach? Honestly, it might help exacerbate the problem by reinforcing the idea that service is done on a time-schedule. When it fits in. Friends are convenient--for our pleasure.
     This temporary friendship mentality has trickled into the church. How often do we drop gospel tracts on someone’s door, never to see them again? Do we really think those people will somehow appear for worship because of a slip of paper? Or when a new couple comes to church, we’ll offer our friendship and invite them to dinner…until they become established. Then we move on to someone else.
That’s not friendship and that’s not a Body. That’s a temporary prosthesis.
     And here’s the deal. By conforming to our westernized, individualized culture, we’re losing out on one of the biggest draws of the church. Our love for one another is meant to draw others to us, which in turn is meant to draw non-believers to Christ. I believe they’ll come for the relationship first, and will be exposed and drawn to Jesus in the process.
     So here’s the challenge: How do you view your brothers and sisters in Christ? According to the Bible, they are your family. More than that, they are part of a Living Body. If you struggle viewing them in this regard–in truly loving them as Christ loves the church, ask God to help you  find ways to get out of your comfort zone, ways to connect.
     Second, focus on long-term. No one likes to be a project. When you reach out to that new couple or leave a gospel tract on a doorstep, ask yourself, “Am I ready to be here for them for the long haul or am I just trying to ‘get them in’?”
     Because people can tell the difference. One type of friendship draws them and creates a place of safety where they can learn about Christ. The other type of friendship results in increased distrust.
     I’m speaking to myself here. I’ve experienced many “temporary friendships” in the church, and honestly, it’s left me a little gun-shy and distrustful. But I have to remember it’s not about me. Yeah, chances are those people I reach out to are going to hurt me. Chances are they’ll ditch a year or two down the road, but the Bible tells me “as far as it depends on me….” meaning, it’s not my concern how others respond to my love or friendship. My concern is living out my faith with full surrender, letting God’s love flow through me moment-by-moment.
     This mentality also applies to how we do missionsIn the meantime, spend a moment in prayer and ask God to show you faulty thinking in regard to the body (not just your church body, but all believers world-wide). Then be diligent about cooperating with God. When you catch individualistic thinking creeping in, take your thoughts captive and reroute them.

Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, publicist, and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of sixteen years and their thirteen year old daughter. She works for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, as an assistant publicist, is the marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles and writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse and Samie Sisters. She’s also written for numerous other publications and websites and has placed in numerous writing contests. You can find out more about her and her writing at her website: Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud (http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com)

Writers, want to add juice to your book proposals? Need help building a novel-sustaining platform? Want to turn your novel from good to great without going broke? Jennifer can help. She’ll create a marketing plan uniquely designed for you that targets your readers. Don’t have the time to implement the plan? That’s okay. She’ll do it for you, setting up guest blog slots and interview opportunities, writing press releases and relevant articles, and more. She’d also love to review your work, highlighting your strengths and helping you zero in on and strengthen your weaknesses. Contact her at Jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com to find out more.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Signs of God

            I once told a Christian Counselor colleague of mine he should see the movie Signs. After all, it’s a story of a man battling a lack of faith. My colleague came back a few days later and said, “What are you talking about? Signs was about an alien attack!”
            Well, maybe that’s the writer in me, always looking for the underlying story. Or maybe my view of the premise had more to do with what had been occurring in my life the week my husband and I decided to rent this movie.
            We picked it up on a Sunday night. A final means of entertainment for the weekend. But we started the movie late and were unable to finish it that evening. So we watched the scenes of the family, having recently experienced the loss of their wife and mother, engage in grief-riddled, and in some cases, bazaar behaviors. Interesting, but no aliens … yet. We planned to finish the movie the next night.
            Then Monday came. My husband went off to work and I took my three and a half year old son to a follow-up neurology visit with a doctor who had, in the past, assured me my son was healthy, though he sometimes “beat to a different drummer.” Yeah, he and the rest of the family. However, my son still didn’t speak, and this delay was beginning to exceed the path of others in our immediate and extended relations, who had overcome similar delays.
            This was the day the neurologist changed his tune.
            He examined my sweet, little boy, sat me down and heaved a sigh. “Your son will never exceed fifty percent of normal development.”
            My heart hit the floor. My son was only half of normal? I looked at the child whose smile could light up a room. And I could tell stories of how his gentle, sweet, thoughtfulness had wordlessly lit up troubled hearts. But he would only be half?
            As hard as it was to take those words, it was a million times harder to repeat them to my husband. The man who counted on me to care for his son while he went off to the daily grind. A man who was the strength of the family … and yet he crumpled in pain, and grieved like I’d never seen him do before. By the end of the night neither of us could muster enough energy to speak, let alone finish watching a piece of entertainment about aliens. So we just dragged our bodies to bed and prayed for the merciful blanket of sleep.
            The next morning, my husband schlepped off to work, a new burden on his shoulders he had no idea how to master, and I sat like a lump on the couch not bothering even to get dressed. I couldn’t move from my space where I sat, practically fetal. So I decided to watch the rest of the movie Signs. What else could I do? I had no plans to clean. Who cared? Maybe it would distract me a little from the thing that saturated my thoughts.
            In popped the movie and on went the video player. I scanned through the scenes to find where I left off and drifted into numb oblivion as the screen displayed the characters. The story, as I saw it, of a man struggling with his faith after a terrible tragedy. I could relate. But what astounded me as I watched the remaining action unfold, was how all the bazaar behaviors and occurrences were used by the all-knowing God to prepare them for a battle against evil. The little girl’s obsession with water. The boy’s need to obtain information. The uncle who was the strike-out king of the minor leagues. And yes, even the death of a loved one.
            In the end, the father holds his limp son in his arms and praises his Creator for the child’s asthma. I sobbed until my chest ached. I was reminded again (this wasn’t the first or last time), that God had a plan, and my son’s autism would play a part in it. I may not like it now. And sometimes I truly rail against it. But I trust in the One who created him.  God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.
            Whenever I write or talk about my son and his giftedness in heart, I feel I need to caution readers who do not experience the effects of autism on a daily basis. Yes, I can see my son as a gift from God. His autism has made him quiet and even serene. His particular gifting is in how he seems to read the emotions of others in a room better than the average person. Others struggling with this disorder have a very opposite experience. Their affected child may speak and understand, read and write, but are emotionally distant, and may engage in violent behavior. If you know someone struggling with the effects of this disorder in their homes, please do not press on them how they should see autism as a gift from God. Though I truly think God can reveal Himself through their struggles and their child is also a gift, this kind of intrusion can only leave the afflicted feeling alone and misunderstood. Pray for them … and in any way you can, help to bring them relief!