Month: July 2014

Book Review: Just Between You and Me

Just Between You and Me

Funny. Romantic. The sucks-you-in-so-you-can’t-put-it-down kind of interesting. Jenny B Jones is onto a good thing with her book, Just Between You And Me. Here’s the blurb on Amazon:

Maggie Montgomery lives a life of adventure. Her job as a cinematographer takes her from one exotic locale to the next. When Maggie’s not working, she loves to rappel off cliffs or go skydiving. Nothing frightens her. Nothing, that is, except Ivy, Texas, where a family emergency pulls her back home to a town full of bad memories, painful secrets, and people Maggie left far behind . . . for a reason.

Forced to stay longer than she intended, Maggie finds her family a complete mess, including the niece her sister has abandoned. Ten-year-old Riley is struggling in school and out of control at home. The only person who can really handle the pint-sized troublemaker is Conner, the local vet and Ivy’s most eligible bachelor. But Conner and Maggie keep butting heads–he’s suspicious of her and, well, she doesn’t rely on anyone but herself.

As Maggie humorously fumbles her way from one mishap to another, she realizes she’s going to need to ask for help from the one person who scares her the most. To save one little girl–and herself–can Maggie let go of her fears and just trust God?

I bought this book as a birthday present to myself on the weekend (I got a Kindle for my birthday and LOVE IT!) And I wasn’t disappointed. Jenny B Jones is the author I’ve been searching for.  I love to read a good romance, and I have no problem with a contemporary setting, but most modern romances are either full of suspense, depressingly tragic, or sickeningly sweet. I struggle to find a middle ground that combines realism with an entertaining story. That’s part of why I’m writing my novels; I want to fill that gap. But Jones’ stories do that and more. That girl had got one awesome funny bone, and she puts it to good use. Just Between You And Me had me giggling all the way through at the snappy one-liners and unexpectedly good comebacks. I give it 4.5 out of five stars!

How to Know if You’re Doing Enough

David Webb

Am I doing enough?

The argument in my head goes like this:

1. I look at all the suffering in the world and feel sad. I wonder why God doesn’t do more to stop it. Then I wonder if He’s looking at us and saying, “I gave you the tools (like money and time) to help, now use them!”

However,

2. I don’t want to have no spare time and no money.

I do already give away a certain amount of my money, and up until my new job started I volunteered my time in youth ministry. But now I’ve got the job, writing commitments, and I just don’t want another night out of the house.

But is that selfish? Should I do more? Am I letting someone down?

The more I think about it, the more I feel like I can’t find the right answer because I’m asking the wrong question.

At the moment, my thought pattern seems to be guilt and obligation-based. I only have one idea of how to turn that around. (If anyone else has others, please share them!)

My one idea is that, instead of asking specific questions like, “Should I volunteer at XYZ organisation?”, I should ask God, “Please align my heart and life with You”.

I figure that if I’m more like God, and if I’m where He wants me to be, then I’ll want to do the right thing and be confident in what I’m doing.

But will God deliver on a request like that? Or is it up to me to determine where the line of selfishness is and keep away from it?

I read Matthew 7:7-8 this morning.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:7-8 NIV

And last week, Dad reminded me of Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

The  message I get out of that is; if I search with God, something’s going to work out. And if I trust God, I’ll go the way He wants me to.

I know this isn’t an excuse for me to just keep ‘seeking God’ and use that as an excuse to not actually do anything. James 2 makes it pretty clear God thinks that’s a stupid idea.

But it’s also not up to me to figure everything out. God’s promised to guide me through this. We’ll work it out together.

I need to keep asking, searching, putting Him before myself, and ask for help to make sure my mind doesn’t close off to His unexpected answers. I also need help to keep my eyes open for opportunities and jump on them.

But I think He’ll be happy to help me out with that. 🙂

 

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This Will Make You Smile

I am one of 7,000,000,000 people on the earth. I am one of tens of billions to exist in history.

Original map sourced from Creationswap.com, by Kaitlin McMichael.

Original map sourced from Creationswap.com, by Kaitlin McMichael.

I just pulled a hair from my head, slipped on my Supernatural Glasses of the Unseen (i.e. my imagination) and looked at the tiny, tiny number stamped at the base of the follicle.

#7,651

That’s right, God not only pays attention this little 1/7,000,000,000th of the world’s population, He knows exactly how many hairs are on my head.

Don’t believe me?

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-8 NIV

That’s straight from the Big Man himself.

He giggled at the funny cartoon I drew at work today. He pondered my next novel idea with me. He heard my silent thoughts, wondering if anything I did today had eternal value. (And the follow-up thought, wondering if I think too much.)

I’ve been studying Experiencing God this week, and I’m up to a section that particularly deals with the church and our roles in it. It struck me anew that EVERY part of God’s ‘body’, the church, is vital.

 A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

1 Corinthians 12:14-18 MSG

Do I treat myself like I am an essential part of my Christian community? (With the community being not just my church, but also my Christian friends, family, and organisations I’m involved in.)

Uh, no.

My default thought has always been that I’m a small toe. Handy, but not that effective or vital.

But there’s another part to this, too. Do I treat everyone else like they’re also the heart and muscle of this body called the church?

No again.

What would be different if I did? I’m not sure. But it’s something for me to ponder this week.

What I do know is, these verses make it clear that God has a very personal interest in my life, and my community. He wants to have relationship with us, work with us, and do life with us.

It’s a thought that makes me smile.

How To Look Intensely Attractive

Courage. It’s one of those awesome qualities that instantly transforms you into a babe.

 

Captain America is courageous, and a babe.

Captain America. Courage has never looked so good.

 

Tim and Olive Chan are exploring the whole idea of courage in their blog series, ‘Courage Is…’, and they’ve kindly let me contribute. Click this link to read my article, Courage Is: Being OK with Insignificance.

I wrote it a while ago, just after Easter, so lots has happened since then but the message is still the same.

The series also covers singleness, body image and more, so check out what the other authors have contributed too!

 

 

 

Swallow Me Up

Obsessed with God.

Picture sourced from CreationSwap, by Sharolyn Newington.

What do you love to binge on?

For me, when the work week feels like it’s never going to end, (though I’ve never had that feeling with my new job 🙂 ) all I think about is sitting on my couch all weekend. I just want to read books and watch my favorite TV shows and movies.

Don’t get me wrong—I like to get exercise and spend lots of time with friends. But when I’m really worn out, that chill-out time is what I crave. And a lot of it.

By the time Monday rolls around, I’m counting the hours till 5pm Friday again. And I don’t enjoy my week, because all I want to do is zone out with a good story…but people keep making me do stuff like go to work.

This is the point where I’ve tipped from ‘healthy enjoyable hobby’ to ‘unhealthy obsession’.

Lately God’s been teaching me that it’s not the people who have amazing big ministries that please Him most. It’s the ones that chase after Him, and those who honor Him by putting aside their own priorities and obeying Him. Even when He asks them to do seemingly insignificant things.

Recently I felt myself sliding toward that tipping point, but before I swan-dived over the edge I came across these verses:

 

“I am always with you;

You hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

And afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:23-26 NIV

 

Awesome. When I read verses like this (and there’s a whole bunch of others like it), it helps me get God back in His rightful place.

And when He’s number one, I enjoy other things—like my hobbies—a heap more. It’s also much easier to stay content.

Another tactic I use to keep God right in front of my eyeballs is to make sure I think about Him. When most people are killing a spare minute playing Flappy Bird or Candy Crash, I’m usually plotting my novel or day-dreaming about a TV show. Every thought is filled with it.

Sometimes I intentionally push those thoughts aside for a minute so I can think about God. Purposely looking forward to the time I spend with Him helps me too.

You love what you think about.

You love what you look forward too.

And in this case, He loves me back far better than any book ever could.

 

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When Deadlines Are Giving Me a Heart Attack: A Journey of Faith Part IV

OK guys, I’m babysitting my little sister tonight, so I’m gonna make this short and sweet.

As I’ve said before, on Sunday I’m doing a talk at church. I’ve been writing it for weeks.

Correction: I’ve been re-writing it for weeks. I think tonight’s version is number 4 or 5.

I’ve also started my new job this week, my newsletter was due out at the start of the week, and I’ve got other stuff going on. The words for my church talk just wouldn’t flow. My internet broke. I was getting frustrated. I wanted to hit the panic button.

Problem was, this talk is about faith. Basically it’s an extended version of the post I did two weeks ago, How to Make the Fog Work for You: A Journey of Faith Part III.

So it would be a tad ironic if I hit the panic button.

Still, I came so close, at least two or three times.

Long story short, I took a deep breath, prayed for faith, remembered that God would provide what I needed…even if it was as I walked up the steps to deliver the talk.

Tonight I finished what is hopefully the last rough draft.

The Big Guy came through again. 🙂