Timing has been on my mind a lot this last month.

I've been sprinting for the last couple of weeks and feel like I'm on the air-starved side of life. And I'm excited to tell you why...

Jewels of Encouragement opens its doors today!

This is an extra special site for me because I've been wanting to do this for two-and-a-half years and because 90% of the team writers are Faithwriters. You can read more reasons why Jewels of Encouragement is special here.

It's been a topsy-turvy two weeks for me--filled with highs and lows and littered with a bunch of deep thinking in the cracks of time I've had to think. But it's been good and it's helped me remember that God's timing is the best timing of all. It's HIS timing I want. Not mine.

And now that Jewels of Encouragement is up and running, things will get back to normal around here. LoL--it's only been eleven days since I mentioned this to Joanne, and in those eleven days the site was built, loaded and staffed. Sure we still have a few spots open for writers, but still... Eleven days. God amazes me!

I hope you join me today at Jewels of Encouragement. God has once again blown me away with His blessings, and that site has already been a blessing to me.

So tell me, my friends, what have you been up to?
I've missed you!

Lovely Fruit

Happy Valentines Day!

I'm still here, just a little crazier than usual. I'll tell you about it later, but here's a hint: Jewels of Encouragement.

Be Spongy with Me

In today's buff world, sponginess isn't sought after, but we're a people set apart.

A few weeks ago, while preparing for Bible study, I realized that there ARE ways we want to be spongy, and one of them is when it comes to God's Word. I'm posting today at the Internet Cafe about Spongy Christians and the devotional makes a great object lesson.When I did it at the Bible study (well, tried to. I got tongue tangled) I didn't use water, just had a sponge with me, but it still worked well because we've all used sponges so much. ;-)

Come see what I'm talking about!
Spongy Christians at the Internet Cafe.

Matthew: An Introduction

Radical kingdom living through inside-out transformation

I have to admit that when we decided to study The Sermon on the Mount at our ladies Bible study I was a little disappointed. I really, really wanted to dive into 1 Samuel, but we had spent most of last year studying in the Old Testament, so we moved into the New Testament since some of the girls love the New Testament like I love the Old Testament. But as I prepared for tonight's study I changed my mind. I cannot wait to jump into The Sermon on the Mount, and wish we were studying the whole book of Matthew!

So let's look at Matthew, the man, for a moment. What do most of us equate with him personally? Tax collector, something that Matthew himself reminds of us as we read the Gospel. As much as some of don't like tax collectors in our day and age, being a tax collector in the days of Jesus was close to being despicable. But it did have its advantages--namely wealth and social standing. I loved how this put Matthew into perspective for me: “Since tax collectors generally were fairly wealthy and were despised by the local populace, Matthew's calling and response were completely out of the ordinary and required nothing short of a miraculous turnaround in this tax collector's life.” His unique background gave him the training he needed to be able to write the account. Combine that with his Jewish upbringing and training in the Scriptures, and you have a man able to interpret the life of Jesus from the perspective of the Old Testament expectations.

The Gospel of Matthew breaks the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments acts as a bridge between them.
“Matthew demonstrates repeatedly that Old Testament hopes, prophecies, and promises have now been fulfilled in the person and ministry of Jesus. Matthew begins with the 'fulfillment' of the messianic genealogy in the birth of Jesus and then goes on to demonstrate the fulfillment in Jesus' life and ministry of various Old Testament prophecies and themes and the fulfillment of the Old Testament law. The early church likely placed Matthew first in the New Testament canon precisely because of its value as a bridge between the Testaments.” ~Michael J. Wilkins

In the early years of the church, Matthew was the most widely read Gospel, as it was through much of church history since it verifies Jesus was the Messiah of Israel, who brought salvation to all of us, not just the Jews. Matthew also acts as a “manual on discipleship” because it has an extended collection of Jesus' teaching ministry, especially The Sermon on the Mount.

There are five distinct messages Matthew:
  • Matthew 5-7 - Kingdom-life disciples. What it means to live out a radical kingdom life in their everyday world.
  • Matthew 10 -  Mission-driven disciples. Jesus' disciples are to go out and live out the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God.
  • Matthew 13 - Clandestine-kingdom disciples. What it means for Jesus' disciples to live as kingdom subjects in a world not yet fully manifested with God's power.
  • Matthew 18 - Community-based disciple. Discipleship to Jesus that is expressed through a church characterized by humility, purity, accountability, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
  • Matthew 24-25 - Expectant-sojourner disciples.  Disciples are to live each day in expectant preparation for His return with power. (The New Application Commentary on Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins.)
When you study these five messages, you get a full picture of the kind of discipleship that was to be taught to the disciples of Jesus—us! These teachings were to be the basis for obedience to Christ and they became the basis of instruction as many early churches used them to teach believers how they were to live.

NOW do you see why I wish we were studying the whole book of Matthew? Wow! But at this point we're just studying The Sermon on the Mount, which is still really cool. It tells us what it is to be kingdom-life disciples. “Jesus expounded the reality of a radical everyday discipleship lived in the presence and power of the kingdom of God within the disciples' everyday world. This kind of discipleship involves an inside-out transformation into the righteousness of the kingdom.”

An inside-out transformation. 
That's real transformation, not just a mask that's put on when it's convenient.

It sounds like a task way beyond me. And it is. But it's not for God! And look how Matthew opens and closes his Gospel account. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a con, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) Matthew starts with “God with us.” And then check out how Matthew ends in 28:20 “...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

God with us, forever, working that inside-out transformation in us. It doesn't get much better than that.

Why don't you pick one of these messages and read it this week?

*Quotes taken from The New Application Commentary on Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins.

Knowing Your Character, Knowing Yourself

Lately I've been interviewing the characters for my manuscript "Beyond the Rapids" and it's made me stop and think about more than just those characters. It's made me think about myself. It's also made me think I need to interview myself. Now there's a scary thought.

Here's just a small sampling of the questions I've been answering for Seth and Torie, the major characters in my manuscript...

1. What does your character want more than anything else in the world?

2. What is his/her goal?

3. Whom does he/she dream about, yearn for, hate?

4. What virtues characterize this person?

5. What is your character's greatest fear?

6. What one thing does your character hope no one will ever find out about him/her?

7. In one word, what motivates your character?

8. How would your character describe him/herself? (Self-concept determines destiny.)

9. What makes him/her laugh?

10. What is your character's personality temperament?

11. What is their deepest unfulfilled desire of their heart?

12. What is he/she most proud of accomplishing?

13. What is he/she least proud of having done or being a part of?

14. What are their warts?

15. What are their phobias?

16. If they had only one day to live, how would they spend that day?

17. What kind of obstacles will most challenge them?

18. What will it take for this character to get to where they need to be with God?

19. What is the pivotal issue of faith that will draw them to a closer relationship with God?

I don't know about you, but it would take me more than a few minutes to answer these questions about myself. In fact, some of these have had me pondering for several days now. Not just idly thinking or wondering, but heavy-duty thinking. And I don't know that I've come up with the answers even now!

Knowing our characters as we write fiction is important if we're going to tell their story and show how they get from point A to point B. Especially as we write Christian fiction that carries a message with it. But yanno, knowing ourselves helps us get from point A to point B without going around Robinson's barn 30 million times, or without wandering in a wilderness for 40 years.

Just like knowing the answers to these questions (and at least 100 others like this) will help you plot your characters' stories, knowing the answers about ourselves will help us plot our lives so the message of our lives is crystal clear to those that are watching and reading our lives.

So tell me, are you open for an interview with yourself?

Because Everyone Needs Friends

Maybe January affected me more than I thought.

Maybe I missed my little lap warmer (but kittens that poop in the house lose their house privileges) and maybe I was just trying to not have to clean the turtle tank as often... Whatever it was, it's been fun. Well, once we got past the poop and dead fish stage. LoL

Our critter number has grown from Turtle, Gracie and the 2 cats and 1 kitten, FlufferNutter (isn't she adorable?) to 4 new residents in the turtle tank.

See, it's Turtle's fault. If we weren't given a turtle 1.5 years ago, none of this would have started and we'd simply have Gracie and the cats...

But everyone needs friends!

The newest friends for turtle? Yoyos! (The skinny silver fish resting on his leaf hammock.) Oh. my. goodness. I love those things! We started out with one (this one) and he delighted us with his antics so I googled his breed: yoyo loach, and learned they like to be with friends. So I had to buy a couple more because everyone needs friends and I want happy yoyos because happy yoyos are characters and full of personality. So far we've seen them cleaning the tank (ahem, that's their official purpose), cleaning turtle's back and head (he didn't like it when they tried cleaning his eyeball. Huh. Imagine that), playing  tag and taking naps on their sides! These critters are crazy. And that's why I love them.

Since FlufferNut has been banned from the house, she thinks her life is over. She loves perching on shoulders (so does her sister who lives with Abby's classmate. What's with that?) and she crawled inside my middle son's hood today. They both loved it! Because they're friends.

(See the background? That's all the rain we're getting instead of ice. SO thankful!)

And that's the tale of my critters and what happens when Patty grows tired of hovering near the window to see if the rain has turned to ice while her kids were going back and forth to the college campus.

So, from a wet, but wonderfully ice-free very-Southern Illinois, Turtle and I wave good night to my friends in blogland.

The last one to bed feed the Yoyos.
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