April 2, 2014

Changing the tape

We were in Charleston, WV with an itinerant preacher and his team. It was rare for us to accept invitations to travel but since we'd planned to slip over to another area of the state to spend Thanksgiving with my grandparents the timing of it all couldn't have been better.

Most of us didn't know each other well. Many in the group had never met before. We spent the early afternoon having lunch and getting better acquainted. The wonderful mix of temperaments made the meal a very entertaining experience. More then once I nearly spewed hot chocolate through my nose listening to the humorous stories being shared.

What a fun bunch.

God Is Not Fair: A Review

We all have them at one time or another. Whether they come, as unwelcome visitors, when trials or tragedy occur or as a result of watching someone else suffer---they are as common as "a cold."

In her latest book God Is Just Not Fair Jennifer Rothschild takes each of these questions apart and examines then in light of Scripture.

Who better to do so then someone who has asked them all herself.

Having lost her sight as a teenager, Jennifer has navigated the world blind for her entire adult life. And she does it with grace and dignity, I might add, not to mention while maintaining a sense of humor.

I've read all of her books because there is much to be gleaned from this woman's life.

This is by far the author's most candid work. It may very well be my favorite. I found myself laughing, crying, and praying as I read.

Jennifer's words provide incredible insight for those in the thralls of hardship. They also brings bountiful comfort and hope.

And who doesn't need hope?

There is not a person alive who in some way won't find themselves within the pages of this book.

It is not wrong to ask questions. In fact, it is right. How we process them and where we turn to for answers is what makes all of the difference. There are only two potentials when dealing with hardship: we get bitter, or we get better. Much of that depends upon the lens through which we choose to view life.

I'm so grateful that Jennifer Rothschild has chosen to view her hardship through the lens of faith.

Even in the darkest moments while suffering deep depression, due to chronic exhaustion and other physical changes, she continued to look to the right source for her answers. With more holes in her "blanket of faith" then she could possibly patch she allowed God to fill the missing pieces.

There is so much to be learned from her experiences as well as her teaching. I find myself re-reading portions of this book over and over again.

God is just not fair. Sometimes that can be a very hard pill to swallow. Which is why you need to read this book. It is medicine for the soul...a real heart cure!

March 28, 2014

Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful-A Review

Do you ever feel lost in the shuffle? If so, you're not alone.

In her new book Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful  Laurie Wallin states "In these busy days, spent vying with the seven billion people on earth for jobs, resources, real estate, and recognition, we can feel lost in the crowd, unimportant, isolated in the midst of the throng. In the building intensity of these times, we need to know that we still matter. 

That to someone, somewhere, we're not just known but loved intentionally, wholeheartedly, deeply. You know the way I'm talking about: the falling-in-love, time-stands-still, life-lives-in-his-smile, who-cares-if-he-chews-loudly-or-never-irons-his-shirts kind of love. Everyone wants to feel that kind of unconditional affection from someone."

March 12, 2014

Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful-An Interview with Laurie Wallin

"What if the weirdest, most annoying things about you exist on purpose--for a purpose--to bring life, joy, strength, and healing to this world?" Laurie Wallin from Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful

Did you flinch when you read the quote? Shake your head? Resist even considering the possibility? If so, you're not alone. So did I. The very idea that my quirks or annoying character traits might exist for a purpose was/is mind-boggling to me. And it appears that I'm not alone.

Many people, of both genders, find it difficult to embrace the notion that what they or others deem as "weird" could be even remotely "wonderful." 

Which is why life-coach, speaker, author, wife, mom, Laurie Wallin, has written a book to address the subject. Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful will be released on March 18th. (It can currently be pre-ordered in either the paperback or Kindle version on Amazon.com) 

March 9, 2014

Why I Hate The Word Heretic

There was a time when I rarely saw or heard the word. When it was used it usually accompanied the story of a person being imprisoned, burned at the stake, or otherwise punished.

Recently I've heard it with such increased frequency that I've come to hate it. What word am I speaking of, you might ask?

Heretic.

Webster defines a heretic as: a dissenter from established religious dogma. Related words include disbeliever, apostate, defector, and infidel.

Those who garnished such a label were guilty of leading a movement away from sound truths. Many times they were killed in an effort to snuff out their teachings or leadership lest others be equally affected and "go by the wayside" too.

February 16, 2014

Life Support: A review

I recently had the good fortune of winning an ARC copy of Life Support by author Candace Calvert which is currently on pre-order at all major book retailers. Although it appears that Amazon.com is shipping the paper copies even as I type this review. This is good news!

If you rush over there before finishing this post, I will not take it personally. It will just mean you are probably already familiar with Candace's work. However, if you can wait just a few more moments here is more information on Life Support including an overview of the book, the author's bio, and my review.

And yes, in short, I loved it!

February 4, 2014

He Never Sleeps

Photo credit Microsoft 
The recounting of a "true story" from a few years ago...

It had been another hard day of intense physical therapy. In a rehabilitation hospital several hundred miles from family and friends, I was waging war against a painful crippling illness and fighting to regain the ability to walk again.

Many times we do not realize the value of something until it has been taken from us. For over 32 years I had begun my morning by placing both feet flat on the floor. That action was as natural to me as breathing until illness robbed me of the ability.

Weary of crutches and walkers, I was determined to take back what had been stolen from me. Consumed with the desire to walk out of the hospital unassisted I pushed myself to the limit daily.

Progress came slow but each day I thanked God for it. But then came the wall, that place that could not be pushed through or pressed past. Busy looking toward my goal, I didn’t see the wall coming and ran into it full force. Now added to the physical pain was an anguish, which no words could express.

As nighttime fell a deep darkness enveloped me. I had hit the bricks so hard that my goal of walking became a blurry dark shadow. Thoughts of discouragement quickly turned to despair. Alone with my thoughts, I was taunted by the enemy of my soul.

“Give up…it will never happen…die and put everyone out of their misery…” I was bombarded with negativity as I laid crying in the darkness. Never had I felt so helpless, hopeless, and alone. I finally cried myself to sleep escaping my sorrows temporarily.

Somewhere in the distance a ringing sound grew louder and louder. My sleepy escape was interrupted when I realized that the sound was coming from my telephone. In a fog I reached to answer it. At first the voice I heard seemed unfamiliar but, as I came to, I recognized the caller. Laying face down, still wearing my exercise clothes, I looked at the clock. It was nearly midnight.

The woman calling began immediately to apologize for waking me. We had only met once but she went on to explain that God had laid me so heavily on her heart that she felt compelled to call. Since no incoming calls were allowed after 10 p.m. my mind was boggled. I asked her how she was able to get thru. Apparently she had just dialed the number as usual.

Feeling dazed, I pulled my aching body up to sit on the edge of my bed. It was then that I saw the large blood stain. Then I felt something wet against my skin. Looking down my shirt was soaked with blood. In a very flat tone I added, “I have blood all over me.” Sensing the urgency of the situation the caller told me to call a nurse and that she would pray.

I called and two nurses came immediately. The look on their faces sparked terror in me. They quickly located where the blood was coming from. The clamp had come loose from my subclavian port and with no tubing attached, blood was flowing freely from it. They clamped the port off and then checked me out thoroughly.

I was literally covered in blood along with the entire bed. But things could have been much worse. The linens could be bleached, my skin washed and my clothing salvaged, but my life could have ended while I slept.

Both of the nurses attending to me were born-again believers. The events of that night moved all three of us to a new level as we discussed the other scenario that so easily could have played out because, under strict orders from my doctor, no one was to disturb me during the night. This was so I could rest and sleep without interruption before beginning each grueling day.

Had the phone not rung, I would not have been checked on until 7:00 a.m., and who knows what the morning nurses might have found. We agreed that the mysterious call, probably saved my life. There was no human explanation as to how that call reached me without a switchboard operator--but our hearts knew the answer.

While sitting there pondering things the Holy Spirit brought to mind a Scripture that came alive to me. Psalm 121:3-4 says “He Who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He Who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”

I slept from sorrow in a darkness that was blacker than the night, but not My Heavenly Father. Not the God of My Salvation, not My Deliverer in Whom I trust. He was wide awake and working through people just for me.

Why? Because He loves me. (Jer 31:3) He understands my sufferings and sorrow and is acquainted with my grief. (Is 53:3-4) He has a plan to give me both a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11) His will was for me not to die but to live and declare His works. (Ps 118:17)

As things sank in I felt the weight of hopelessness being lifted from me. Realizing that God had gone to such trouble to spare my life breathed new life into a dying dream. As I sat and watched the sunrise the darkness of my despair was replaced with a new sense of hope.

Many difficult days were ahead of me, but I was forever changed by the reality that God NEVER falls asleep on the job. He doesn't even take naps. When we find ourselves exhausted and our bodies force us to sleep He is awake and alert, watching and working.

Perhaps you are finding yourself in the blackest night of your life. You feel a sense of hopelessness overtaking you and you are in desperate need of rest. Jesus is extending an invitation to you right now. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

There is a place of rest in His Arms. No matter how long the dark night of your soul may last He will be watching over you with His eyes of love because He never sleeps!

February 1, 2014

All I Have is a Whisper

At the beginning of January, I accepted a challenge by Jeff Goins to write 500 words daily for 31 days. Simple and direct it required nothing more and nothing less. 

This is a challenge which I should never have had to take.

Writing was once as natural to me as breathing. I did it often. For many years, prior to blogs and "vlogs", I published short stories and devotionals almost daily. When I wasn't mining words, I was storing ideas or brainstorming for teaching series. But then something happened to my voice. Or, perhaps, the venue changed around me so suddenly and dramatically that it left me feeling disoriented and lost.

One person in a sea of voices--with laryngitis.

Yes, it seemed that suddenly I lost my voice. I found this to be both frightening and sad. Especially when time didn't heal it. Doesn't time heal everything? Or have I just read those words so many times on Facebook feeds and Twitter tweets that I've come to take them as fact.

How does someone just stop doing something they have a passion for? It happens all the time. People quit jobs, leave relationships, drop hobbies, etc. Many times they fill the voids in their lives with mind-dulling activities to numb the pain of the loss of something that they love or loved.

I have been guilty of this.

You see, I once loved to write. While I never claimed to be good at it, I truly enjoyed penning my thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc. I was delighted when people responded to my words. Whether it was a handwritten card, conversational email, e-magazine article, or a devotional it seemed that people enjoyed my writing and related to what I shared.

How I miss those days. 

The times before the internet became a cacophony of sounds. The years before "churnalism", blogs, and social media, etc. when people communicated mostly face-to-face. They used email to bridge the gap of distance. Not to promote or sell stuff.  Back then my voice seemed loud and clear.

Not so much these days.

This is why I now struggle to write. Having lost my voice in all of the online noise, it is hard work to try to find it. Can I still type words? Yes, of course. But what should I talk about? There are droves of writers clamoring for people's time and attention. Many of them have a loud voice and a big audience.

All I have is a whisper.

I know that I need to write first and foremost because I am a writer. It is not for other people that I pen words. I write to fulfill one of the purposes for which I was created. But is it a waste of time if no one hears the words? Wouldn't my time be better spent doing something else? Have all of the words already been said, re-said, reclaimed and spoken again?

That is what it feels like most days. I, myself, feel as though I'm being stretched and pulled in many directions to keep up with other writer's content. Why do I bother? Because it is good stuff.  It is useful, insightful, and meaningful. But do I need to add to it? Be another voice in the mix. One more person promoting their ideology in an already overcrowded space?

Sometimes I don't know.

I have been told that "my voice is needed" but just how can a whisper be heard above the roar of this world? It seems to me that it can only happen if the voice has the right message. Words are good. They are beautiful. Even lovely. But we already have enough words floating around the atmosphere.

What we need are messages. 

Life-giving, spirit-stirring, thought-provoking, plan-altering words. I don't think that just turning oneself over and spilling out will do these days. There is enough of that going on already. For me, as a reader, it gets old unless it happens to meet me "where I am at."

In the crowd. Longing to be heard. Whispering.

It is hard to imagine that a thin-voiced writer could be heard above all the noise that is already being made. Those kinds of thoughts taunt me daily when I even think about picking up a pen. I am heckled by my own questions. Chided by self-doubt. 

And then I remember the words of a song by Tracy Chapman which say "don't you know, talking about a revolution starts with a whisper." Hmm, maybe she is on to something. And perhaps, so am I. 

Could it be that the volume of your voice doesn't matter nearly as much as what you have to say.

Is it possible to make an impact with words without being a braggart, liar, or self-promoting fool? I guess that I am about to find out. To do so, I've got to find my voice in this season of life. That all begins with a barely audible throaty whisper which says...

"Within me there is a message that matters."

October 15, 2013

Salvaged


Today I am interviewing Stefne Miller the author of the book Salvaged. Recently Salvaged, Stefne's first book, was transformed into a web series with the hope of being picked up by a network or distributor for full length production. After viewing the pilot episode, I can see why.

Here's more from Stefne about the Salvaged web series:

How did the Salvaged web series come about?
I was working with Director, Paul Morrell on a movie adaptation of my third novel, Collision. We had just completed the screenplay and were about to move in to the next phase, when I told him about an idea I had for Salvaged. I'd always believed that it would make a great teen drama series - either on television, straight to DVD or web streaming. He loved the idea and was interested in doing it. Within days, a friend that I mentioned it to, offered to pay to have a pilot/proof of concept reel developed. Less than a month later, I was in LA holding a casting call. Two weeks later, a cast and crew of 25 were in a rented house, shooting for five days. We decided to take the pilot episode and also release it as a web series so that we could introduce people to the story, characters and our quality of work. We believe that this can only help both the Salvaged and Collision projects.

What is the big goal?
The big picture goal is that a network or distributor would pick up the series. I've already written the scripts for eight 45 minute episodes or what could easily be turned in to a mini-series.

Who are you hoping to reach with this series?
Salvaged, the web series is based on my first novel by the same name. It is a young adult Christian fiction novel that was able to transcend the lines of Christian fiction and also move into the secular market. Salvaged was first picked up in the mainstream young adult fiction blogging world and the reviews and ratings landed me on the Goodreads.com Reader's Choice Awards finalist list for Debut Author of 2010. I am hoping that Salvaged will continue to reach out into various audiences and present them with a powerful story that has the ability to impact lives - no matter the way in which they receive it (book, web series, tv show, etc).

When does the series come out?
There are six episodes. The first was released on September 25th. The remaining episodes will release every Wednesday at 8 am (CST) through October 30th.

Where can viewers find the episodes?
Salvaged has it's own YouTube channel at: youtube.com/salvagedseries. The episodes will stay on the Salvaged YouTube channel for viewers to watch far into the future.

Where can we find out more about the series and the book?
You can also learn more about the series on the official Salvaged web site at salvagedseries.com. You can read an except of the first chapter of Salvaged, the book, at my web site, stefnemiller.com, or purchase a copy online or at your local bookstores.

What are more ways we can get involved in the Salvaged Series blog tour?
Post a comment on the Facebook page for this book tour - CLICK HERE
Join the Salvaged Series Blog Tour & watch new episodes - CLICK TO TWEET
Watch the weekly episodes on the Salvaged YouTube channel ... Post comments and give thumbs up - CLICK HERE

This blog tour is hosted by Christian Speakers Services.

February 22, 2013

The Moses Quilt: An Interview

Today I am hosting an interview, once again, with author Kathi Macias. She has been a frequent featured author on my blog because I love her writing so much.

Her latest series begins with The Moses Quilt. I'll let Kathi tell you more about that book and the rest of the upcoming books in this series.


The Quilt Series sounds interesting, but what makes it unique or sets it apart from the many other quilt books that are so popular right now?

First, I must confess to NOT being a quilter. I’ve never even considered taking it up! Second, I love quilts and have always been fascinated by the stories behind them. I combined that fascination with my passion for writing issues-related fiction, and I ended up with a three-book series that is, for the most part, contemporary but told against historical backdrops.
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