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How to Break the ‘Thankful’ Cliché

Copyright Creationswap. Image by Kevin Carden.

Copyright Creationswap. Image by Kevin Carden.

How many times have I heard the phrase ‘be thankful’?

Approximately 6,359,345,101.

Yes, it is a great philosophy. Yes, it is biblical.  Yes, it’s a wise way to live. But do you want to know why I’ve never tried very hard to apply it?

Because by the time I say, “Thank-you God for saving me, thanks for my family, thanks that I have food and a house…” I feel like I’m three years old, I’m bored, and I don’t see the point of what looks like an exercise in stating the obvious.

I know I take these things for granted. When I was in India, (and that was only a 2 ½ week trip), I was instantly thankful for my Aussie house, food etc. But when I live in Australia every day, it is difficult to sustain excitement over things I’ve always had and am likely to (well, hopefully) always have in the future. The worst part is, God gets lumped in with those things I take for granted.

So how do I practice thankfulness without feeling like a living, breathing cliché?

I think the God part of it could be tied to the idea of ‘longing for God’.

It’s a thought that came up at Bible study on Tuesday. Our group is doing a study on the end times and it mentioned how some Christians long for God’s return so that they can spend forever with Him. And I thought, ‘Huh?’

Sure, I look toward heaven with pleasant anticipation. But it’s mostly for selfish reasons, like how everything will be awesome there. It’s not really because I long to spend time with God. And a few of my Bible study mates said the same thing.

So how do I cultivate a longing for God? I think that would have a big impact on the thankfulness thing, because if I long for God then I’m definitely not taking Him for granted.

So…how do I do it?

This isn’t one of those blog posts with answers. It’s one with a question. I’m asking you.

I have a couple of ideas I plan to try. There are some beautiful Psalms (today’s was Ps 63) that talk about the Psalmist’s desperate desire for God. I’ll read those and meditate on them.

And I’ll put a sticky note on my desk so that I remember God during the day and think to myself, “God, I love being with you and I look forward to being with You forever.”

But the plan doesn’t extend far beyond that.

So what about you? Have you ever thought about this? Do you have any ideas? What do you do to be thankful in your own life? Share in the comments below!

When Serving Isn’t What You Expected

 

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I learned lesson in serving on the weekend when I took part in a youth outreach event with Project X.

Well, it was actually more of an extension of a lesson that began in March this year.

While at an event called Simply God, God challenged me about my motives behind serving Him. One of the most challenging questions was: If my books never generate money or recognition for me, do I still want to put the effort into writing them?

We all know what the ‘right’ answer is. But honestly, my motivation diminished when I considered that scenario.

Then God presented the question another way: If I never land a publishing contract or a husband—two things I’d like to find in the next 10 years—will I still be as enthusiastic in serving Him?

I knew then that my attitudes would be challenged. However, it was all head-level at that point. On the weekend, I got a taste of it in practise.

I’m part of a group called Project X, and we held our second annual youth outreach event in the outback town of Roma last weekend.

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JC Epidemic put on an awesome BMX and motorbike show.

It included freestyle motorbike riders, an X Factor competition, a gaming zone, a graffiti art zone, a girl zone and more. My job was in the girl zone, where I had prepared a creative writing workshop and brought in magazines and games, planning to chill out and chat with high-school aged girls.

In the lead-up to the event, there was a lot of talk about how teenage girls were a particularly vulnerable demographic in that area. We planned accordingly, and prayed every step of the way.

The even wasn’t supposed to kick off till 3pm Saturday, so we were pretty pumped when people started rolling through the gates at 2.45. The first few through the door were younger girls, aged between 4 and 8, so I plopped down at our nail painting station and started with them. We expected the older girls to arrive soon.

Within half an hour, the place was packed. But there wasn’t a lot of teenagers in sight. In fact, it seemed that we’d attracted every age group except girls aged 15-19. By the end of the day, I’d spent a couple hours simply asking, ‘Which colour glitter would you like?’

Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time with those little girls. They were adorable and told me all about their schools and siblings and glitter preferences.

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One of my fellow nail-painters.

But the day didn’t go quite the way I expected. While I knew I’d played my part in a larger movement (our group preached the gospel to hundreds that day), I had little contact with the spiritual side of it myself.

So at the end of the night, when my friends were on a total high about the conversations they’d had and things they’d seen, I … wasn’t.

At first, this bothered me. I journaled a little during church the next day (yes, I’ll admit I wasn’t really listening…) and God used that time to point out a few things that I’d momentarily forgotten.

PX

My friend Brooke, our little buddy Tom and me at the photo booth.

The biggest one was: serving is not about me! 

I’m not supposed to serve just because I want warm fuzzies or a spiritual high. I’m not supposed to serve because it makes me look holy or important. And I’m not supposed to serve just because it’s going to be fun. (Though it was a pretty fun adventure with my mates!)

I should do this because I want to obey God. I wanted to spread His message and hopefully be part of expanding His family. And I want to glorify Him.

At the end of the day, whether 1 or 100 people responded, we were successful if we fulfilled those three objectives.

And I think we did.

New Book Blurb Revealed!

Lots of exciting things have happened this week, the first one being my new book blurb!

Below is a sneak peek at my novel-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters.

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I’m a good church girl. How did I end up in this weird pseudo-family with two kids and the guy who broke my heart?

 

Natalie Groves could never hate anybody. Anybody, that is, except the love of her life.

She was nineteen when Jeremy Walters declared that he wouldn’t—couldn’t—keep faking his faith in God. Not for his overbearing father, not even for her. Natalie ended their relationship and he drove off to Chicago and never looked back.

Now Natalie is 26, single, and broke from paying off her father’s medical bills. And she just lost her job.

When Jem lands back in town, desperate for a nanny for his teenage niece and infant son, some say it’s Providence. Natalie says God has lost His marbles.

But with no paycheck and no savings, she can either go bankrupt or accept his job.

She’s tempted to go bankrupt.

 

Jem Walters knows Natalie better than anyone else. She’s ridiculously ticklish. She does terrible dance moves when she thinks no one’s watching.  She’s never felt good enough for God. And she’s still angry at him for leaving.

She never understood that he couldn’t fake his faith anymore, not even to save their relationship.

But now Jem’s talking to God again, and unusual circumstances mean he and Natalie are caring for his baby son and troubled niece together.

But raising a family is never easy, and doing it with a spitfire who wants to strangle him complicates things a bit.

Jem’s family doesn’t help, either. His niece is going off the rails, his son keeps drooling everywhere, and his father is an overzealous sheriff who’s more likely to give Jem a ticket than a hug.

And then there’s the secret that will rock their makeshift family to its core …

 

This week’s other two events are the arrival of my first writing business cards (!!!!) and Project X this weekend.

I’ll be running a creative writing workshop at the youth outreach event, as well as chatting with the girls who come through our tent and hopefully sharing God’s love.

Everybody’s prayers have been great, keep them coming! 🙂

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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!

What do Cheese and Pepper have to do with faith?

OK, I’ll admit Pepper the puppy has nothing to do with faith. She’s just cute and I wanted to share her photo with you guys!

Pepper is the newest addition to the Everingham farm.

Pepper is the newest addition to the Everingham farm.

She’s my little sister’s new Moodle (Maltese cross Poodle), and since I’m spending my short holiday at Mum and Dad’s farm I’ve had lots of fun with her.

The cheese refers to my latest guest post on Christine Lindsay’s website, How to Convert Knowledge to Action. Read it and you’ll understand. (Though I wrote it one or two months ago, so the job dilemma I refer to in the post has obviously been resolved. I start on Monday!)

Since I’m on holidays I’m taking a break from my usual weekly post, but I’ve had three guest posts up this week so hopefully that will be enough to satisfy you guys till next week. 🙂

I’ll let you know how the new job goes.

Meanwhile, enjoy Pepper!

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Novel Contest Results Are In!

I just received my score sheet from the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest for unpublished authors.

I submitted a few chapters of my first manuscript, Open Your Eyes, into the competition. While I didn’t make it into the next round, I was still encouraged by my score and received helpful criticism from the judges. 

They seemed to like the premise of the book and my writing ‘voice’, which I’m really excited about! Many of the comments were about writing craft issues, not the real guts of the book. 

Can’t wait for next year!