Saturday, May 29, 2010


Sometimes I worry, and worry, and worry. In my devotions the other day, a verse in Psalm 94 hit the nail on the head. ‘When my anxious thoughts multiply within me....’

I stopped at that, and read it several times. This summer I have some big decisions to make that will have repercussions on my household finances as far reaching as my retirement. And I have never yet in my 40-some years of following Christ received an audible answer to my prayers or a blueprint laid out with directions to say, go left or go right.

I hate making decisions. I’d rather be like my cat. Scottie is a coward. Like me, he doesn’t like change. He goes rigid with fear when you move his kitty pedestal, while he’s sitting on it, a few inches closer to the window. He doesn’t comprehend that we’re moving the pedestal so he can better see the birds in the tree outside, which are his chief entertainment.

My daughter, Lana, who moved the pedestal laughed at Scottie. “Yeah, you don’t like change unless you’ve sat down, made all the plans and decisions yourself, and know exactly how it’s going to play out.”

Yeah, that’s Scottie. And it’s me too. If you’ve read my blog, you’ve heard me say it before; I’m a person of small faith. I prefer—no I want—to know it’s all going to be okay before I take that first step. But God doesn’t tell me the end results. As I pray for direction, I often don’t know if He’s saying take that direction, or the other. But it says in His Word that He does whisper directions in our ear if we ask Him, and if we seek His will with all our heart. So how do we hear that still small voice of God?

The second half of verse 19 in Psalm 94 was ‘Your consolations delight my soul.’

After my devotions, I prayed the Lord would show me in some small way that He heard my prayers, and that He would direct me. On that day I desperately needed something that I could comprehend. I needed to know, I really was like a sheep in God’s pasture, and that He was watching over and guiding my muddled mind into the right decisions.

For the rest of the day I mulled over, how God could console my heart.

My mum called later in the afternoon. She chatted about her day, and then told me of an unusual occurrence that morning. A small robin had hopped onto her balcony, checked out her potted flowers, and then sat on the arm of her patio chair, peering through the window at her for several minutes.

She laughed and said, “I wonder why I received that lovely blessing?”

“Probably because God wants to remind you that He has His eye on you,” I said.

When we hung up, I was pleased the Lord had sent my mum such a sweet blessing. It wasn’t until later it dawned on me. My mum and I often think the same thoughts. When she feels the Lord has told her something, I listen carefully. I realized then, this was God’s very personal way of consoling me that He has His eye on me too. That He’s watching carefully. He had sent the message through two members of His creation I would listen to—my mother, and a tiny, feathered ambassador of His earthly kingdom.

I feel I must acknowledge, the picture above is not of my cat Scottie, but of my precious little Daisy, who I lost the very day I came home from India in January.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

THE GIFT OF SILENCE--by Guest Blogger Rachel Phifer

My guest today is my dear friend and writing partner, Rachel Phifer from Texas. Rachel grew up in Africa as the child of missionaries. She is one of the Lord's greatest blessings to me in my writing. She's my # 1 critique and editing help on everything I write, but I am leaning heavily on her as I write the Children's Camps International story. When that book is finished, there will be an acknowlegement tucked away at the back to thank this wonderful friend and writer.

THE GIFT OF SILENCE--by Rachel Phifer

I was sitting at my window earlier this week. I’d taken a day off from work, and sent the kids to school, so it was quiet. The only sound was the tweeting of sparrows. It was perfect. Sane. I’d even say holy. For some reason, I sense God more when it’s quiet.

Silence is one of the spiritual disciplines, and in one sense it comes to me easily. Easily because I enjoy it and feel my need for it. In another sense, it’s all but impossible. Normally when I’m home, there’s the sound of TV and music and kids’ squabbles. At work, there’s cell phones going off and voices raised in business conversations. But the biggest barrier is the voice in my head. When there’s a lot going on in my day, the internal chatter is non-stop.

In silence it is so much easier to hear God. I notice this big time when my life gets harried. I’m trying to get this done and that done. My brain fills any space with noise, in between conversations and TV. But I’ll hit a wall and I’ll begin to feel as if God has forgotten me. Or that he’s not there at all. The world gets very dark.

It’s only when there’s silence and time that I sense him filling the world. That I have the space to think about his ways and what he might be doing around me or wanting from me. After a quiet time, I open the Bible and it’s rich with poetry and wisdom and full of God’s spirit running through the words like a river. Too often in a noisy day, the Bible is just another book and another thing I have to do. I’ll get nothing from it. If I can make it happen, just spending two minutes in silence before I open the Bible makes a difference in what happens when I start reading.

It’s been in the quietest times of my life – childhood and the two years I was a stay-at-home mother - that my prayer life ran rich and constant. I felt God in the empty spaces.

“The Lord is in his holy temple; let the earth keep silent before him,” Habukkuk says.

But it’s not easy to keep silent, is it? Every once in a while, I’ll be in a worship service and a preacher will say he’s going to give us a moment of silence to pray or reflect, but in thirty seconds or so, he’s talking again. He’s afraid worship can’t continue without his voice. It’s to be expected. We Americans are afraid of silence.

When I was a student teacher, my advisor told me to wait seven seconds after I asked a question. “Count it out,” she said, “It will feel way too long, but most students can’t come up with a good answer in less time.” She was right. Seven seconds felt like an eternity. And I did get better answers by waiting. It makes me wonder what else might happen in our lives if we waited in silence, even for just a few seconds.

When I lived in Africa it wasn’t uncommon for there to be long lapses of silence in a conversation. The conversation would be picked up again, but only after the person had time to think seriously over what was being said and how to best answer. There was time to hear people out, time to hear yourself out. Would it be a stretch to say there was time to hear God out too?

As Mother Theresa said, “God cannot fill a heart that is already full.” Neither can he be heard by ears that are filled with other sounds and minds full of other voices. If you want to hear God’s voice, leave some silence in the air. He might just speak into it.

Christine here again: Thank you Rachel for such beautiful meditation and writing.

I hope you'll read more of Rachel's clear and gifted prose on her blogsite by clicking here on Rachel Phifer. Below is a picture of my friend, Rachel.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


The art form of the novel is quite different from what it started out to be. Storytelling isn’t new. Since the first, human beings sat around crackling fires in the evening and passed on a good yarn. It was fun. That’s what a novel is—fun. The first novels to entertain the masses were long poems packed with adventure, myth and a fair number of nasty situations you wouldn’t want your children reading. The novel as we know it emerged between the late 1500’s to the 1700’s. Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott in the 18th century shaped our romantic notions of what a novel should be.

I’ve always devoured books. And I’m talking fiction here, which is in addition to my reading the Scriptures and Christian teaching books just so no one is confused. As a Christian writer I value the teaching tool of a Christian novel. But a topic that comes up often within my writer’s groups is, ‘what makes a Christian novel, Christian’.

Some say it can’t be a Christian novel unless the gospel is clearly laid out and at least one of the characters believes in Christ as savior by the last chapter. Others say, a Christian novel can tell a story within the point of view of a Christian and show how they learn to trust the Lord with their circumstances. I’ve been moved to tears when a character from a book has grown on me, and in a natural way shows me an element of faith that strikes a chord in my own life.

Growing up, I didn’t just read Christian novels though. I loved fantasy, gothic and suspenseful romances. I’m a big fan of the Dragon Riders of Pern series. My husband and I read the Lord of the Rings together, and CS Lewis’s space trilogy after we were married. These two Christian authors wrote books that didn’t always spell out the Christian message. The message was there, but it was painted with broad brush strokes. The only problem was a lot of people I knew who were not Christians, didn’t pick up on the significance of the symbols and metaphors because they didn’t know the Biblical clues. But who’s to say one book has to answer all questions. That's why God gave us the Bible.

In literature, a clear brush stroke of truth can go here, another can go there. I thought the other day, that my own infinitesimally small literary work is like placing silver headed pins, one by one, on a large backdrop of black velvet. If Christian writers put up enough little pins of truth we could create a similitude of the galaxy. My 10 years of learning to write fiction, finishing 2 manuscripts, and my 3 or 4 years of blogging has been just that. Each week I put up a little pin in the atmosphere, hoping someone will find an element of truth that will point them to God.

I believe there’s a place in the world for all kinds of stories written by Christians, whether they come right out and explain the gospel of salvation through Christ or they use the tools of symbolism. It’s like the old parable—some furrow the ground, some plant the seed, some water.

I read a book this past month that was one of those painted with broad, bold brushstrokes. I say ‘broad’ because the author didn’t spell out the gospel, but it was there in the daily life of her medieval characters in Cornwall 1353. I use the word ‘bold’ because the author spun a gossamer thread of fantasy into her otherwise realistic novel.

We must always remember to suspend our belief while reading a story while at the same time be ready to catch the grains of truth. A Christian author finally did what I was looking for. Deb Kinnard took one of my favorite story-telling devices—time travel—and wove it into a Christian novel 'Seasons in the Mist'. No one is saying, time travel is real; that’s where the suspension of belief comes in. At the same time though, Deb Kinnard had me thinking, He is a great God. Maybe at the end of all we know, and the beginning of all that’s new, He will send us on journeys through time. But that wasn’t really the grain of truth that glistened at the bottom of the story when all else was washed away.

The character, Bethany Lindstrom, a graduate student in medieval history, mysteriously steps through a time portal to King Edward’s court. I was entertained listening to the modern day voice of a young woman trying to adjust to wearing--not jeans and t-shirt--but surcoats and veils, eating with a knife, walking on rushes on the floor, and doing without coffee, Aspirin, and a million other conveniences. Then Bethany falls in love with a Christian man from that time. But does God want them together? Did God bring her to this time and place to marry this man who loves her as deeply as she loves him? Or is she supposed to go back to her own time and never see him again?

Bethany asks the same questions of her God that any committed Christian should ask today. So, while going along for the fantasical ride through a time portal, I found the truth resonating within me---prayerfully surrender to the Creator of the universe in real time, and ask the God who is all-powerful what He would have me do.

Psalm 37:3-4 "Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart."

Here's a picture of Deb Kinnard.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


This isn't going to be much of a Mother's Day posting. But Happy Mother's Day to all you motherly souls out there, whether you have children or not. You most likely have a dog, a cat, a bird, or even your friends that you nurture. So, enjoy the day. It's yours.

I've had an interesting 48 hours. Came down with some kind of flu bug with a high fever. I was feeling way too hot the night before last, and trudged downstairs, trailing my blanket. I thought the living room would be cooler. But I didn't make it all the way to the couch. Somewhere in the dining room I felt faint, and woke up a few seconds later staring at the legs of the dining room table. After that I made it to the couch. Sure enough, the coolness allowed me to return to a muddled sleep. But I couldn't figure out why my mouth hurt.

Somewhere in my swirling dreams, I wondered if I had malaria. After all, I did get those 8 or 12 whopping mosquito bites in India that left welts. But I don't really believe I have anything other than the boring old flu. The travel doctor had put me on way too strong of medications for that trip. But it was entertaining in my slightly delirious state to compare my 'writerly' self to Hemingway. That overblown author had his alcohol to inspire his work. Wouldn't it be cool--I thought--to be the author who writes about India and suffers the occasional bout of malaria. Sounded terribly romantic to me. At the time.

David found me on the couch at six that morning as he was getting ready for work. That's when I discovered I'd bit my inner lip pretty badly as I was going down. I received his scolding for not alerting him in the middle of the night. That made me feel cherished. Insert a smiley face here.

Have no fear. I'm fine. I'm just not feeling well enough to go to church today. And of course you can be sure the fainting episode will find its way into something I write. I've already dissected and examined every facet of the moment in detail for future reference. Not that women swoon all that much in real life, not like they do in older romantic novels. God made women of stronger stuff than that.

But nothing is ever wasted in a writer's life. For that matter, nothing is ever wasted in a Christian's life. God promises to make everything that happens to us turn out for good to those who are called according to his purposes. We're not going to discuss today, the fact that the 'good' He promises may be character development. And we all know how much that can smart at times. But it is good none the less.

So, I'll go get myself a cup of tea, a nice bowl of soft cereal, a teaspoon of peanut butter and mush my way back to perfect health.

Happy Muddled Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Jennifer Hudson Taylor--Highland Blessing--Guest Blogger

Today my guest is Jennifer Hudson Taylor, another of my writing friends, and she's going to tell you about her lost prayer journal.


A couple of years ago I began a prayer journal. I wrote down long-term prayers over a lifetime. I had three main sections:

1) My Relationship with God
2) My Family
3) My Writing Career

These were BIG prayers--the kind that I knew wouldn't be answered overnight, but would eventually be answered. After a year, I realized there were more prayers that needed to be added, especially for my daughter and the things I wanted to see God accomplish in her life and her to accomplish with His help. I felt led to do this after listening to a sermon from Joyce Meyers.

These prayers kept me focused on the BIG picture. They helped me not to get so caught up in the tiny details of my life in the here and now--especially in the issues I would like to have solved NOW. Somehow this prayer journal gave me peace and hope. Reading it aloud each day or week to myself and God built my faith. One of the things I remember Joyce saying about a prayer journal is that "you're going to go back and read it ten years from now and see all the blessings God has been faithful to pour into your life."

I lost my prayer journal sometime this year. Before that I had stopped reading it. My excuses were always two things: 1) Too Tired 2) No Time.

Once I gave into those excuses long enough, then I began to think, "well, none of those prayers are likely to be answered today anyway." Impatience set in and took root--once again. If you spend any time around me, you'll learn that impatiences has been a lifelong thorn in my side. Paul had his thorn and I've got mine.

Then came the thought, "I've already prayed those things so many times, God already knows what is in my heart. He knows my heart's desire. How many times can I pray the same thing? How many different ways can I say the same thing?" Doubt began to creep in. And soon I wasn't praying for those things at all.

Yesterday I finally had a melt down. I had a heart-to-heart with God and my husband--in fact, 2 heart-to-hearts with my hubby, bless his heart. My daughter's teacher was convinced I was mad at her, and I was close to letting my boss have it. I did my best to force a smile and stay away from anyone I might blow up at.

When my daughter's teacher asked her if I was mad at her, my sweet girl responded, "My mom is mad at everybody right now." It was the first thing that made me smile yesterday. Only a child can state it like it really is. And she was right, I was mad at the whole world. Frustrated. Tired. Weary. Not getting anywhere fast enough. Angry. And I wanted someone to "fix" everything for me. I wanted God or my hubby to ride in on a horse like a knight in shining armor and deliver me from this burden I've been carrying.

But this morning I passed through my husband's office to make the coffee and warm my pastry and I saw my Prayer Journal--the one that has been lost to me for months. I sat in the floor, right there, read through it and began to cry. Joyce said it would be ten years, but it has been TWO! Some of those prayers for my daughter's special needs have been fulfilled. I've gone from no contracted books to two contracted books. I've seen the salvation of one of my family members (a cousin) that I had begun to wonder if I would ever see.

Reading those prayers again, gave me renewed hope, strength, and faith. I needed my Prayer Journal back and God knew that. I don't know why things happen the way they do, but I'm reminded that He hasn't forsaken me. And I know in my heart that the words He whispered to my heart this morning are a PROMISE of blessings to come.

Christine here: Thank you Jennifer for your encouragement. Now I'd like to tell my readers about your book which I REALLY LOVED. Keep up the good work.

Highland Blessings is a fresh, gently-romantic, intelligent read set in ancient Scotland.

Akira MacKenzie and Bryce MacPhearson are caught between their two opposing families. To bring peace, Bryce vows to his dying father that his father’s heir, Evan, will marry the MacKenzie’s daughter, Akira.

Bryce kidnaps Akira on her wedding day and whisks her away to the MacPhearson castle. But vengeance follows close on their heels and a member of Akira’s family murders Evan, Bryce’s elder brother. To keep his promise to his father, it now falls to Bryce to marry Akira. But can a marriage begun on mistrust and the hatred of generations succeed?

The young couple contends with the difficulties of being married to someone they’re not sure will ever truly care for them. They live under the constant threat of the two families rearing up in war. And, as love begins to flower, the awareness grows that there is a traitor in their midst who will commit murder to keep the clans apart.

I love it when an author knows their historical setting. This is true of Jennifer Hudson Taylor. This author breathes the Scotland of warring clans, castle ramparts, claymores and swordplay. Yet she weaves her vast knowledge of the history into a fast-paced story in such natural ways you are transported to that era. You can hear the rolling r’s within the dialogue, and smell the Scottish pines and heather. You can feel the soft highland mist against your skin.

I highly recommend this book. For several nights I tucked myself into bed with it. This story unfolds with easy to follow twists and turns. And if you like a gentle love story, and an inspirational read in a book that isn’t going to jar you with unpleasant images, and about 300 pages, then this is one you’ll enjoy. If you would like to buy a copy, click here on Jennifer Hudson Taylor and find out how.