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captive audiences, compassion, Faith, featured, Soothing Rain, Tonya Jewel Blessing

The Movie Credit: “Compassionate Woman”

p 20 Compassionate Teacher Helper A Perfect Tree

Chris and I recently enjoyed a date night. As part of our special evening, we went to a movie. The credits at the end of the feature included a character identified as compassionate woman. Her small act of kindness in the movie did not merit her having a name.

“And some have compassion, making a difference.”
(Jude 22)

The same can be true of real life. Small acts of compassion and kindness are often not given merit, except by the recipient. People value and remember when others show them kindness. Noticing someone is like giving them a gift.

Acts of compassion include benevolence, empathy, grace, kindness, mercy, sympathy, tenderness, charity, clemency, commiseration, condolence, consideration, and softheartedness. True compassion focuses first and foremost on the revelation of God’s great love demonstrated through His Son Jesus Christ.

Earlier today, I read an article written by Bette Owens on compassion. “When I think of a compassionate woman, I think of a godly woman.”

Bette Owens also describes the characteristics of a compassionate woman:

  • A compassionate Christian woman has a hunger for God.
  • A compassionate Christian woman lives for eternity.
  • A compassionate Christian woman avoids sin.
  • A compassionate Christian woman loves others.

In my first novel, The Whispering of the Willows, the Ashby children have endeared themselves to a single woman living across Big Creek from them. They escape to her and call her their “love aunt” for good reason. In many ways, her hospitality shows through, by her taking the time to listen to the children, and taking action on their behalf when called for. She hides a child in safety and she calls the sheriff when an investigation is warranted. My own sweet aunt is the prototype of the loving aunt in my story.

Recently, I enjoyed reading a story featuring another compassionate woman.  This woman is the teacher of a child who has been wronged at Christmastime. She has put away extra gifts for such a time as the story presents. I highly recommend A Perfect Tree by Denise Dunham for your younger kiddos this season. Disappointments abound in life, but compassionate women can make a difference.

“A compassionate Christian woman will make a difference in the lives of all who meet her. Her life is truly one that makes a difference. We can all be a compassionate Christian woman and make a difference if we would love and serve the One who makes a difference.” (Bette Owens)

Author Tonya Jewel Blessing is working on her third novel in the Big Creek series.  Don’t miss out on her first two installments, they have been highly recommended by many readers!

Melody of the Mulberries Book cover perspective

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A Perfect Tree Teacher Helper Scene
A Perfect Tree – scene with compassionate teacher-p19 by Denise Dunham
Artistic development of a children's book, National Children's Grief Awareness Day, op-ed, Will You Hold My Story?

National Children’s Grief Awareness Day

traipsing home from school
Artist’s Sketch Meggi Beth in different perspectives
Busy woman in title Will You Hold My Story
Choosing the color scheme for the busy woman in Will You Hold My Story? picture book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The late Mister Rogers is quoted as saying, “It’s ok to not be ok.”

National Children’s Grief Awareness Day is a day to honor kids who are grieving – in any season – and particularly as we journey into the holidays.

Children need to feel safe inside the space of their sorrow.

They need to tell about it.

For Meggi Beth, it’s been hard lately to carry the weight of her grief story. In the book, “Will You Hold My Story?”, this lovable little girl is patiently waiting for someone else to ease her burden. In this endearing book for kids and grownups, Meggi Beth discovers two things: a secret and a story-bearer who becomes a treasured friend. Settle in and get acquainted with the delightful characters who stop by to comfort Meggi Beth.

You may even recognize yourself in the story.

Scene from Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s Sketch Old Man Passing By Meggi Beth
Sketch Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s Sketch Old Man’s Face Close up
Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s sketch Old Man Pats Meggi Beth
Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s Sketch Old Man Passing By

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“Will You Hold My Story?” by Kathy Joy, to be released February 2021.

a side of sweet potatoes, ah autumn, better together, featured, Kathy Joy, Laura Bartnick, op-ed, Thanksgiving hostess gifts, Winding thoughts of a Widow

Stepping on Nano-seconds as Stepping Stones

My house is getting colder by the moment. I think I’ll go down and turn up the heat. Just a moment. I’ll be right back.

Okay. You know how that is, adjusting the thermostat by the ups and downs in fall as winter approaches, and the warming up days of spring only to be downcast by a late winter storm? I’m sure that’s why God made us pets to hold and help us through these uncertain times.

I used to take these walks with my dog, but I myself am in a time between times now, and I have to walk by myself. So, I step onto the nano-seconds with the fallen leaves and bright sunrises and sunsets, electric rains, and bristling winds.

In these private times, I give thanks for many things past, present, and future.

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Here’s a pop quiz on a Tuesday:

  1. What is free, but priceless?
  2.  What can you never own, but always use?
  3.  What can you never keep, but always spend?
  4.  Once you’ve lost this, you can never get it back; what is it?

Answers:

  1. TIME
  2. TIME
  3. TIME
  4. TIME

The Time Between Times

Have you noticed how Thanksgiving tends to get lost in the time between times?

Decorations and celebration planning hops right over Thanksgiving like we are guided to hop from the treats of Halloween right into the serious celebrations of Christmas and the duties of gift-giving.

When do we get to spontaneously pause and reflect, it’s because we’ve stolen time away from these carefully sculpted hours for a private moment.

Celebrating Thanksgiving
Ah Autumn – Breath of Joy

I’ve written a series of seasonal books for winter, spring, summer, and fall (autumn) celebrating Thanksgiving and hospitality. My books use the nano-seconds as stepping stones, pauses to reflect, similar to you’d use a labyrinth.

Sometimes, when these seconds slow down, I discover treasures and turns of phrases. I find myself reaching in, reaching out, praying.

A Nano-Second of Impulse

I’m not an independently wealthy author. I work a day job at the front desk behind glass. Today at my place of work, we got an email about burnout, which many of us are experiencing.

One of the perks of working in a glass bowl is that you get to see what’s happening outside. I’ve witnessed some interesting moments, plus a few things I’d rather un-see if that were even possible.  Outside the door to my place of work, humanity passes by on skateboards, pushing strollers, in sneakered youth and well-shod business attire. I’ve seen army recruiters, pre-med students, construction workers, and grub hub drivers; bicyclists, policemen, delivery trucks, and dog walkers.

I’ve laughed to see people leaning close to the glass to examine their teeth, fix their hair, or admire their physique; the glass is a great mirror for them and a handy camouflage for me.

Back in the before-days, it was a common delight to see small tots on a daycare outing, holding hands, or maybe grabbing onto a long cord and marching in a wiggly line.

These days, everybody is hyper-alert.

This over-stretched year of Covid is marked by caution, measured in tiny increments of care, and burdened by restraints that brush by us and tip over our natural human boundaries. Humanity is unable to cope with robotic demands for long.

Asian woman elderly soup
Ah Autumn – Breath of Joy

I want to shout, are we tripping over our own watchfulness, calculating every move; hesitating over every decision?

Whatever happened to healthy distractions, good old spontaneity?

A friend I’ve been missing tells me, “There’s simply no room for the unknown; the unplanned.

It’s been raining lately, that off and on drizzle that makes you want to stay in bed. The persistent showers are cloaking the sky in a steely gray curtain. Occasionally we get a glimpse of soft pearly clouds, like the inside of an oyster shell. It’s the kind of weather for becoming a mirror of my ceilings, becoming a well-polished pearl.

If you have to go out, the umbrella is up and the head is down. Jackets are pulled snug. That’s why, while stealing a look at the world passing by, something caught my eye.

Spontaneity kicked to the curb, my ache for one rare and splendid moment is rewarded through the mist of incessant drizzle.

Some guy stood in a puddle.

He was standing in – not avoiding – a puddle.

He stomped one foot, then the other, and watched the spray fly upward.

A smile emerged from his face, then I was smiling, too.

He leaned down for a look at his soaked shoes. Wildly, he swept the puddle with one foot, then the other. Then he jumped.

The light changed, cars passed, and still, he stood there, sloshing in the cold rainwater.

I’d have expected this from a youngster, but this – this was a grownup; a man, roughly in his 40’s. It’s hard to tell.

Impossible to know whether he was a traveler, a vagrant, an executive who’d just lost his job, or perhaps a professor. It doesn’t matter. All speculations are off when you are splashing in puddles.

 

The world stopped for a moment.

He did not notice me watching from the office window. He did not care about ruined shoes or wet trousers. He wasn’t concerned with anything, except the lure of impulse.

The phone rang. I got back to business.

When I turned around for another look, of course, he was gone.

While the world was joining Zoom, masking up and maintaining an abundance of caution, this guy had an appointment with a mud puddle. A meeting, he honored. With reckless abandon. At the southwest corner of 9th and Sass, with St. Pete’s Cathedral towering over it all, a basic human emotion was felt: spontaneity.

And I got to see it, to feel the joy of it.

Our hearts need mending, our souls need healing, and our bodies need rest…one splendid moment at a time.

Author Kathy Joy writes The Weekly Jab to connect/encourage/remember. She also writes Coffee with Kathy and is a regular contributor to the Books For Bonding Hearts blog.

Co-contributor, Laura Bartnick manages Capture Books, a boutique publishing group.

__________________________________________

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17 ESV

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

Advice, Author tools and hacks, featured, Laura Bartnick, op-ed, Speak Wonder

Models of Author-Speaker Income

At the Capture Books retreat (fall, 2020), the question was posed in open session, “What kind of money do you actually make when you speak on an author platform?”

Trying to filter the pointedness of this question, I diverted the authors to talk about the variety of benefits they have received through public speaking. And, there are many– were many prior to Covid-19 state rules and restrictions.

After many of these benefits were discussed, including the fact that authors have continued to make appearances even through the pandemic this past summer, the question was posed again, and to my surprise, authors in the room rose to the challenge, opening up about their choices and experiences in forms of payment for speaking engagements.

Taken aback at the variety of models used, I was impressed by the author’s willingness to discuss individual finances.

Because the models were so varied, the opportunity to cover them for an article on publicity seemed like an appropriate topic, and an important one, to offer for exploration.

Books sold at events can represent the best money an author earns apart from being underwritten by a name brand.

Since an author rarely makes more than two dollars on each book sold through a store or book selling distribution service, an author’s presentation at public events can help sway not only market sales of one’s books, without a middleman, but also provides authors with an opportunity to address topics of personal importance to them.

Authors are influencers, after all.

But, how does an newer author get booked?

One author, a media library specialist, said she was regularly offered a pretty decent flat fee for public speaking in relation to her specialty. Her presentations were given to audiences of educators, other librarians, and media-industry professionals. Being employed by a school system helps.

To this end, it may be worth it for an author to get a three year substitute certification or license in order to speak as a teacher’s substitute.

Why is this? A school system has pre-tested their employees, thus an employee asked to present at an event is regarded to be free of liability silt, overcoming the first bar of recommendations.

Additionally, a substitute teacher has already proven an ability to organize under pressure and has some ability to manage time, a message or presentation, and is able to hold the interest of an audience.

Any teacher who has learned to use hooks and gimmicks can grab the attention of an audience. A great teacher keeps a prop or two hidden up his or her sleeve in order to entertain. So, an author who also happens to be a teacher has a distinct advantage in the field of speaking at educational events.

+

Another author, a ministry founder, said that since she regularly spoke to women in retreat settings, she often requests that an honorarium or love offering be taken. She also asks that she be allowed to sell books from a book table.

Since she views each of her speaking opportunities as a ministry event, she doesn’t want an awkward conversation about payment to delay or burden the relationships. Mixing business and ministry outside of traditional employment can cause unnecessary speculation. She doesn’t want any of this to get in the way of her greater goal. She does, however, ask for the travel expenses to be covered and the hotel accommodation if she has to stay overnight.

The point is not to go broke

When asked how this model works out financially, she said that most often, the offerings have been generous and they have covered her expenses and time. Because the woman asking for a reasonable model of payment was known to have small children, this author then added to her experience telling about a time when Capture Books had booked an name branded author for one of their retreats. This name branded author had small children. In the author’s contract, there had been a childcare line item, and it had happily been paid.

+

Another author who writes and sells gift books said that she often approaches gift and novelty shops as well as libraries for book signing events. These venues are in addition to local festivals and church events.

Since she often brings supplies for workshops such as making vision boards and life maps, her contract request includes the price of one of her books with the cost of art supplies. We call this wrapping the cost of a book into the price of her author appearance.

Bonus: In addition, she also offers a clever and quick gift wrap option for books for tips.

In most venues, authors pre-autograph stacks of their books for signing events so that they don’t have to be distracted by writing out a full dedication page while others are waiting to speak to them.

+

One author said that she felt a certain freedom and joy when she presented educational workshops on her unique process of creativity.

She speaks to creative writing classes as a substitute teacher, and group therapy counselor. In the course of her presentation, she can ask the students to look up her book on Amazon and bookmark it for purchase if they are interested. She divulged that it is mostly the booking of these opportunities that has been difficult for her.

The group discussed the possibilities of approaching the receptionist with the conversation to present for a counseling group, state run health associations, and charter schools or colleges.

With or without a hired publicist, this off-topic conversation drifted into using the contact lists provided by Capture Books to woo speaking opportunities through well-edited emails with great opening lines, a couple of endorsements, and then following up an email with a phone call to the receptionist.

During stay-at-home seasons, Zoom or Skype conferences work well for joining a classroom already set up by the teacher and school system.

At this juncture, a brainstorming process took place about who is hiring for speaker events, and included the convenience that many of these groups have a set fee with the option of hosting a book table. An author shouldn’t feel embarrassed to ask about a set fee or a book table.

It is the author’s job to bring their own tablecloth, banner, postcards or bookmarks, a sheet to collect new contacts’ emails, and books, plus a couple of different ways to accept forms of payment.

Square and PayPal were the main forms of receiving payments preferred besides cash. But, many customers do not carry cash or exact change, even when they are shopping at holiday bazaars.

Why is the productivity so much higher when an author speaks at an event?

When speaking authors sell their own stock of books at events, the middle man fee is eliminated because they don’t have to pay the brick and mortar store their hefty fifty percent cut. [Though, when speaking at a book chainstore, the store’s retail policy will demand that the books are purchased through Ingram or Amazon. sold according to the list price guaranteeing their cut.]

Otherwise, the author can choose to offer the audience a discount, or they can sell the book for what it is valued at, or they can simply wrap up the price of the book with the cost of their presentation and offer each person who comes an autographed copy.

Some authors give their books away in order to woo someone to their business or product.

Authors make money and choose to work in a variety of ways because every author is uniquely gifted and embodies unique aims for having written their book(s).

In addition to the models mentioned above, an author can find partnerships in:

  • charities
  • alma maters
  • athletics organizations
  • youth organizations
  • senior organizations
  • sales organizations
  • hobbie organizations
  • missions events
  • religious denominations
  • and corporate causes.

In the beginning, and continuing for some authors throughout their writing career since they do not have a national platform for their book topics, they must be able to borrow a platform.

Take a moment to investigate online one of the above potential partner platforms for drafting an author email to and a follow-up telephone script. Reflect on your good relationships with an organization from your past and follow the trail to where it might lead. Then, repeat and file your emails into a computer file or desk file. Begin working methodically through these contact lists.

Remember that power of familiarity

When you find an intersection of interest between yourself and a possible event partner, make sure that you put them on your email opt-in list so that your author name, press releases, and recommendations come regularly to their inbox.

Books are still sold at charitable auctions and fundraisers. One of the Capture Books authors sold her humorous housewarming book, Before Long, Let’s Move!, in a picnic basket at a State-wide realtor’s conference last year.

Authors can look at speaking events as a way to broaden their unique voice and ministry, a way to raise awareness for a cause, and as a way to offer their talents to an educational system or charity for fundraising or a church or corporation for special events.

At the very least, when an presentation is booked, the author’s book is highlighted in pre-presentation materials and in the introduction when welcoming the author to the stage.

If you want to sell books, get yourself booked!

©Laura Bartnick, 2020, is the managing partner of Capture Books, a boutique publishing group.
Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of Welcome to the Shivoo! a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s great party.
G.K. Johnson, author of The Zealots, 2021, historic fiction surrounding the Passion of Christ
Tonya Jewel Blessing
Tonya Jewel Blessing, Appalachian novelist and Bible Teacher
Sue Summers, education and media, co-author of Soothing Rain
Denise Dunham, children’s author, A Perfect Tree, offered in English and a Thai-English translation
Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy seasonal event gift books
Charmayne Hafen, M.A. young adult author of the Land of Twilight Trilogy and Indebted: The Berkshire Dragon

 

 

Everyday joy: Winter Whispers, Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy
breath of joy, Coronavirus, family caregiving, improvisation, interview, winter

Joy Germs Gone Rogue

While we are taking precautions against sickness and anger and injustice, looking out for the vulnerable, measuring our group outings and postponing trips, I believe cultivating joy has never been more critical than in this murkiness.

As human beings, we are naturally inclined to focus on bad news; therefore, germs of joy and laughter are the “super germs” we need in order to boost our immune systems.

Yes, it may be time to infect each other with love and fortifying stories.

How do we summon joy?

Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, it may alight upon you.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Is joy also like the butterfly of happiness? If so, how do we infect one another with good, fortifying, stuff?

They tell me that volunteering in tandem with others is one pathway to the fortifications of joy. Why is this? Is it the teamwork? Is it the joy that comes from change or conversations or bringing results? I’ve experienced this joy when I’ve pushed myself passed my lethargy to schedule myself into something worthwhile.

  • We all know talented seamstresses with a superhuman tolerance for Zero Sleep who are churning out handmade masks – many of them are donated wherever there’s a need.
  • Others are delivering food and medicine to their elderly neighbors; gardening; cooking; spending time in nature.

Let’s be real – nurturing joy isn’t the same as ignoring reality. While nurturing joy, some emotions will cloud the process. There will be bumps in the road ahead. Feelings of fear, worry. And anxiety will threaten our well-being.

The future is unknowable, but we are known.

The future is unknowable, but we are known.

The future is unknowable, but we are known

We can start with that if you dare to believe it. I believe my Creator knows me better than I know myself. It helps me to trust the process and the outcome a little more.

We can recognize our own strengths from remembering our past. Bank on those. We can remember those who love and care for us. We are known.

Just in case you wondered … you are seen.

You are known.

You are valued.

Your smile is still felt; your presence still matters.

No mask can conceal a soul.

It’s a privilege to see you whether I find you in the office, on a walk, in a store, or whether I hear your muffled voice on the phone. It is a joy, an honor, to watch you, hear you, and know you even a little during this Season of the Mask.

Perhaps the most radical act of resistance in the face of adversity is to live joyfully.”

Ari Honarvar

The Virus of Joy

We care for ourselves and others by carrying the Virus of Joy into the workplace, the home, the marketplace. Hints of hope, colorful memories, practical teaching, and helpful compliments. These relational inspirations build up returns, like deposits for future interest on human bank accounts.

Let’s spread droplets of high regard to our fellow workers.

Let’s cross that six-foot chasm with an air hug of affirmation, a verbal Atta-girl or Atta-boy. Now – especially now – we don’t want to miss an opportunity to remind someone how much they matter, how what they do, matters.

Let’s light up so brightly that our eyes outdo our half-covered faces, that our radiance surpasses the mask and leaves happy dust on anyone who is sad or struggling.

In a world of extreme caution, and angry avenues, let’s practice radical acts of human connection.

We can outwit any fluish boundary and find a way into the soul.

  • With a word.
  • With a note, a phone call.
  • With a meaningful look, a listening heart, a watchful prayer.
  • Mask if you must, but laugh openly.

De-germ as you are told, but re-germ with shameless optimism.

  • Keep your body temperature within range, but heat up the place with fierce encouragement.
  • Play a game with someone across the table.
  • Mask if you must, but walk in the park while greeting others.

But above all, remain tethered to other souls. We need each other.

Joy germs gone rogue – they can rebuild our immune systems into powerhouses of Resilience.

winter whispers
Breath of Joy: Winter Whispers by Kathy Joy

©Kathy Joy, 2020 Capture Books. Ask about booking KATHY JOY for your next motivational zoom conference here. Besides being an author and a fine editor for other authors, she writes daily for Pennsylvania’s Daily Jabs, and blog articles for Coffee with Kathy and Books For Bonding Hearts.

Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books
Book Cover by Chloe Belle Arts for The Melody of the Mulberries by Tonya Jewel Blessing
Humorous Pug in Blanket
Advice, ah autumn, Author tools and hacks, captive audiences, improvisation, Kathy Joy, Laura Bartnick, poetry, trust, winter

Untangling the Knots

Do you ever have a day that feels like a never-ending loop of knots to be untied? You have to solve one problem in order to gain entrance to the real problem – find an outlet, silence your phone, then assist a client all comes before you can see your way clear to untangling your own problems.

I had an hour of work that turned into two weeks of work because I had to back up and do the math, then I had to learn how to complete a new task that was part of the finished product. Then, I had to get permission to buy a software program in order to implement the answer.

It was a lot easier when all I had to do was give the ball of knots to my dad to untangle.

You may hear from a doctor that self-care is the act of providing yourself a sacred space in which to quiet your jangled nerves. It’s important, yes, to schedule peace in an overwhelming world.

To this end, I’ve found some simple things will sustain you  – things such as:

  • Giving yourself time to untangle a problem
  • Sharing hopes and dreams with somebody safe
  • pausing during a busy moment for a nudge of encouragement

Take a Step Against the Flow

Take a step against the flow and look at the surroundings for a different perspective.

Life is too short to go with the flow. Have fun and be different.”

Bianca Schlappa, Everyday Matters

Look further afield.

Look over a detail up close.

Sometimes, the masses have it mostly right but the right way just needs tweaking, and that is something that a different perspective can provide.

Use Your Humor, Wry Humor Acceptable

What’s the use of feeling sorry for yourself when you just get tangled into more knots? Even the wise and wonderful Oz got himself tangled up for a time behind a curtain far outside of Kansas and his usual County Fairs. Someone came along and discovered his need.

He was a little ashamed, but he laughed at his way of bumbling things up, and that helped. A lot. Someone came along and helped him find his way back home.

Laugh at yourself as you consider the past.

Open your hand to future options.

Celebrate Even a Partial Loosening of Knot Strands.

Thoughts from Winter Whispers: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

It heartens me in a way to know my knots are not all born from my individual situation or my personal inadequacy. It seems to be a community problem: “Humanity is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.” This wit, from a friend of Job’s (Job 5:7). We are all just making our way through the challenging phases of life.

Help will arrive.

Ask for help.

Laugh a little.

Be willing to accept truth.

Choose as wisely as possible.

This article is co-written by good friends: author, Kathy Joy and editor, Laura Bartnick.

©Capture Books, 2020

Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books
Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of Welcome to the Shivoo! a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s great party.

Ask about booking KATHY JOY, or any of our authors for a zoom session with your book club or with your employees. We specialize in creative strand untangling.

Kathy Joy writes for Coffee with Kathy, and Pennsylvania’s Daily Jab.

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Rx for Rest

Harvests are mostly gathered and stored for winter by now. Unbelievably, Thanksgiving will be here soon.

We will celebrate Abundance and gather in the fruits of our farming community’s labors.

Thoughts from Ah, Autumn: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

Our tables will stagger under the weight of Plenty; traditions will keep us grounded during the niggling uncertainty that is Covid.

What gets lost in the thrill of costumes, bags of sweets, parties, then the whipping of Thanksgiving spuds and cranberry sauce, is the season of rest to follow.

“If we only see the harvest as a time to be grateful, we miss the opportunity to be grateful for rest, planting, and caring.”
Mike Martin

I didn’t really want to mention it, but Winter is coming – this season of sleeping bears and soft flannel; an interval of climbing in and hunkering down.

Dormant crops will slumber beneath the frozen earth.

It’s a time for rest, a well-deserved respite for planters, reapers and gatherers.

Symbolically, we’re all in the business of planting, reaping and gathering.

Seems logical, then, that we should plan for rest, and lean into it like a comfy quilt.

But we don’t.

Rest, in our industrious, git ‘er done culture, is the Last Stop on a Fast Track.

In some ways, the year 2020 has forced many of us to rest from something, open our hands, wear some masks, separate from all the parties and associations of labor, and receive something very new. Some new growth. New perspective. New value. New understanding.

Rest is too often frowned upon, equated with “lazy”.

That’s just sad. I know a woman who never tells her mother that she has been reading for hours, or drawing, or quietly designing something. It would be frowned upon.

What’s worse is, we often feel guilty for getting some downtime when there’s so much yet to cross off the To-Do List.

People who own their own company rarely get to just shut down and go to the beach for a week. Others feel their vacation time must be spent with family when they would rather explore a mountain retreat alone. Is that kind of vacation commitment more productive?

Give yourself permission to relax. Schedule down-time and honor that impulse to shut all the calling needs out. As a colleague is fond of saying, “You’re not lazy – you’re spent!”

She’s right — we’re operating on 2 cylinders and still hoping to put more miles on before bedtime.

We.

Are.

Spent.

No judgement here.

You can’t serve from an empty vessel.

Book KATHY JOY as your speaker/presenter here.

©Capture Books, 2020

Ask about this mug and matching coaster set here.
Thoughts from Winter Whispers: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

children's literature, Darling Hedgehog, halloween, op-ed, protecting our children

Is It a Good Idea to Scare Little Kids?

Would adults change their behaviors in the jokes they tell or in their scare tactics with children if they knew how little children absorbed horrific events? Would it make any difference to you?

The professionals and parents are divided. Some say horror can permanently scar a child’s conscience. Others say for a child to experience a series of frightening events at a young age can strengthen a child in a variety of ways.

Let’s take a vote.

DO YOU BELIEVE AT AGES FIVE, SIX, AND SEVEN:

  1. children should be protected from all frights because fright might scar them spiritually, emotionally or psychologically;
  2. children should be scared (occasionally) for the fun of a joke with them or for rites of passage such as in Halloween, sitting on Santa’s knee, taught about the police or the courts or jail, or riding a bike or a motorized skateboard;
  3. children should learn that fright exists to teach us important lessons which can be learned about together;
  4. children should learn about the sometimes frightful powers of God and the differences between evil frights and wickedness in human nature as appropriate.
  5. children can learn courage and problem-solving creativity at young ages if they can learn to analyze a frightful situation the best of which was seen in the Home Alone movies.
(Please post your answer in the comment section below)

The cat is out of the bag. I’ve authored a scary story for children. It was recently published by Capture Books. So, I have a dog in the fight, or a hedgehog, rather.

In the first draft, Darling Hedgehog was not able to save all of the other animals due to the time crunch of escaping the danger. Several beta readers, however, suggested that this fact would not go unnoticed by their first graders. Honestly? I wrestled with the question of whether it was important to be realistic in a fantasy picture book. Silly me.

Children develop empathy when they read about another’s problems.

Not too many know this about a girl, Auralee Arkinsly, who’s been called sweet for many years, but when she was in fifth and sixth grade, she’d sit on her neighbor’s porch with a gaggle of children from their house, and the rest of the neighborhood who had all come by to hear the scary stories that she’d happily created for them. The problem was, she frightened herself. She gave herself a fear of going along to bed alone in my room way down in the dark basement.

This is the simple reason my scary story times ended.

For years afterward my laudable storytelling experience, I stayed completely strawberry and vanilla in my taste for stories, jokes, movies, and literature. It was due to an introduction to two classical authors in my 30s that I was inspired to rethink my vanilla beans ideals.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

This 1962 dark fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury is about two 13-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, and their nightmarish experience with a traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern home, Green Town, Illinois, on October 24th. Since it was eventually made into a movie, I sent it to my niece and nephew one October when they were preteens.

Particularly, the clever, atmospheric writing Bradbury used when he painted late summer windstorms and dawdling days with falling leaves and evil intent made me feel like All Hallows Eve inside. All of this desire to fast and pray for protection is happily explained when… well, I won’t give away the fabulously moralistic tale in case you haven’t yet read Bradbury.

The Short Stories of Flannery O’Conner

The other ingenious author, Flannery O’Conner, introduced to me at a writers group, typed her twisted tales from the south. Due to her subject matter, i.e.: fraud, criminal minds, and human ignorance, her stories could almost be transported to any place. Perhaps it was the nature of things she read in her local newspaper. Perhaps she was only highlighting a sinful lack of imagination when she invoked the perfect storm for a family traveling on an isolated road, or a Bible salesman in a barn, or a nuclear bomb at our front door.

Of course, great themes of any adult or children’s book have intrepid and surprising settings that morph with the characters. These are the stories that teach readers and viewers about life and personal values.

It seems that night terrors can be developed at any age given a 3 a.m. pounding on the door and intrusion to a person’s bedroom, or due to war experiences. Night terrors are not limited to the fears of little children.

But is it right to purposely frighten kids?

It’s easy to see that Halloween and Trick-or-treat are right around the bend.

This year, a house in my community has skeletons crawling all over the house, mixing a zombie like activity with the bones of the picturesque dead. Another house on the same street has a half dozen wild-haired witches flying from the low hanging branches of their trees. The wind helps them stir up fright.

Several other houses have graveyards with chained skeletons, and voice boxed startling movement detectors. Apparently, most people think that given the right season, yes, it is just fine to frighten children.

Babies and toddlers in the arms of their fathers

Young children, who visit Santa Claus for the first time in a shopping mall, who are told to sit on his knee and tell him their secrets, well – parents think this is funny. Just fine. A rite of passage, they say.

Given it’s Halloween, babies and toddlers in the arms of their fathers come knocking on our door.

The saying, “That’ll put the fear of God in ya!” is ancient. You’ve heard it. The fear of God can be conjured in trying to stand in a forest of redwoods in the midst of a monstrous wind storm. Suddenly, one feels like Jack and the bean stock, having climbed up to the house of giants and seeing them thunder after you. Where does one hide?

There may be a kind of healthy fear that comes as a sense of awe or as a warning such as a careful look over the edge of a precipice in the Grand Canyon, or in diving out of an airplane with a parachute on for the first time.

“In ancient days,
There dwelt a sage called Discipline,
His eye was meek, and a smile
Played on his lips, and in his speech was heard
Paternal sweetness, dignity, and love.
The occupation dearest to his heart
Was to encourage goodness.
If e’er it chanced, as sometimes chance it must,
That one, among so many, overleaped
The limits of control, his gentle eye
Grew stern, and darted a severe rebuke,
His frown was full of terror, and his voice
Shook the delinquent with such fits of awe
As left him not, till penitence had won
Lost favor back again, and closed the breach.”

Samuel Philip

An artist who paints the potential of Venetian floods does so with both goodwill and warning. I realize there are warnings, opportunities, to learn introspection and courage at every age.

Any season is a good season to be goaded towards stronger mental analysis.

So, I went ahead and wrote my picture book about what happens between a fox and a hedgehog family living in geographical proximity. This story does have a sincere model of courage, quick thinking, and Darling-to-the-rescue in it. But, how much mental analysis can a child conjure at ages five, six or seven?

In a climate of it never being okay to confront a child with possibilities of an existing dark side in life, my first review, always to be Darling’s first review, pasted a one-star nasty put down for scaring little children. Yet, it never has been a child who’s been frightened by Darling Hedgehog.

Poor Darling!

It’s funny that fear of a book’s content is often combated by a snarky deed, a single evil star. So it was that I learned how Book trolls can play overly-concerned, conscientious adults snuffing out a book before it sees the light of day. That’s a little twisted, though. Book trolls playing overly-concerned, censoring adults – why they are considered book trolls? Here’s what I believe about that.

I believe that book trolls are begotten accidentally from genetically normal, avid readers who skip meals. Then, around midnight, when they become voraciously hungry, they hastily eat spider sandwiches in the dark under dim reading lamps.

These are the foxes who run through the fields of Amazon books ready for harvest with firebrands tied to their tails.

Maybe it is just Gremlins passing as sweet, innocent influencers begging for a new deal. But we must remember that Gremlins have rules.

The grandson secretly sells the mogwai to Randall, warning him to remember three important rules that must never be broken: do not expose the mogwai to light, especially sunlight, which will kill it, do not let it come in contact with water, and above all, never feed it after midnight.”

Gremlins rules

Hey, I don’t mind that the reviewers liking my picture book may include a caveat for an adult to be available to answer some questions. Not at all.

I agree. Picture books are best when a child sits down with an adult who preferably reads to them and talks them through the story with questions. Aren’t they?

The question still makes me queazy.

Is it a good idea to scare little children at all?

When I was very young, I came across the story of Scuffy the Tugboat at a doctor’s office. Scuffy thought he was made for more important things than swimming in a bathtub. When his little boy took him to swim in the river, the current carried him far into a gushing flood zone and then in the sea. I remember feeling so frightened to see the huge tugboats and ships and to hear their horns through the eyes and ears of poor Scuffy.

Thankfully, Scuffy was saved by the little boy who had come to the sea just that day.

The Brothers Grimm believed it was not only okay, but good to frighten children about the wolf in Red Riding Hood. Was he the woodsman? Who was he? But, that’s the point, isn’t it – to beware of strangers?

Chris Roberts, the author of Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, tells Debbie Elliott in an NPR interview, “Childhood is a relatively recent phenomena, certainly over the last couple of hundred years, that children are seen as very separate from adults. So there would be no reason in the past not to have what would now be considered adult themes in rhymes that children could hear and sing.” (All Things Considered, October 2, 2005)

Apparently the publishers of Grimm’s Fairy Tales also believed the books would sell because wise parents and avid readers of well-written entertainment would buy.

“Plants raised with tenderness are seldom strong;
Man’s coltish disposition asks the thong;
And without discipline, the favorite child,
Like a neglected forester, runs wild.”

Samuel Philip

From first grade on, my teachers joined my mother in warning me not to talk to strangers. Even if they offered candy. Even if they offered to give you a ride home from school. My teacher had us memorize the phone number of the local police station. I hope it was helpful to someone.

Nearing the end of a favorite children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, on the night before an expected trip to the sea, the rabbit is thrown into the trash heap and overhears that he is destined for destruction by fire in the morning, making a tear roll down his face.

I’d forgotten how frightening that story became!

Parents should probably never allow the fear of God to come near their children. Neither should children be told that God’s Son died on a cross for their sins because they would not understand the gruesomeness of the good news – sins being separated from their beings – nor the idea of their own misbehaviors at age five, six, or seven being layered for punishment. Though love and fear do not go along hand in hand easily, I personally, had parents who embodied deep love and also a much feared anger.

As Walt Disney understood, isn’t it the point of a good scare to remind us that evil and opposites exist in the same geography? That there can be good news in the land of the living and in the land of the dead? Yes, a bit of sweet salvation goes a long way when we are frightened.

Enjoy the fall holidays, everybody. Enjoy the election season terrors. Enjoy reading and discussing great children’s literature with your own littles. May you reach for a tassel of wisdom, and may you keep your hand.

Darling Hedgehog Goes Down a Foxhole Book Launch Tour

©Capture Books, 2020

Contributing author, Auralee Arkinsly, speaks to parents and little children about writing stories, the value of stories, and specifically the value of good humor in storytelling. Book her now here.

https://www.amazon.com/Darling-Hedgehog-Goes-Down-Foxhole-ebook/dp/B07X534T28/
Preteen Fantasy by Charmayne Hafen
The Zealots, coming soon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08L9HMQCJ

bedtime, Faith, halloween, monsters, Tonya Jewel Blessing

Bedtime Monsters

Tonya Jewel Blessing

My great-nephew, Sawyer, is three. His light brown hair is often ruffled. His wide blue eyes twinkle with mischief. His full lips are quick to smile, and his chubby arms and legs are healthy to do whatever is in his heart.

I recently enjoyed some creative playtime with him. The swing set, which included a slide, climbing ladder, and tiny clubhouse, was set on a sand platform by a small pond. Sawyer was acting as the papa and I was his daughter. Before our pretend bedtime, Sawyer noticed monsters in the pond. He quickly explained that since he was the daddy and I was the daughter that he would take care of the monsters.

He armed himself with a stick and climbed down from the small cubby at the top of the slide. He waved his “weapon” and shouted. Then, returned to our sleeping quarters declaring that the monsters were dead and that daddys always take care of their children. Sawyer was not only my hero during our playtime, he was also a bedtime storyteller, the keeper of the alarm, and breakfast maker.

My sweet great-nephew is confident in his parents’ love. He trusts them to provide security and safety. I found his simple faith that mom and dad would take care of any monsters refreshing.

The monsters of fear and insecurity sometimes appear out of nowhere just as I am falling asleep. They lurk in the recesses of my mind. My weapon is not a stick but the Word of God. There is power in knowing that Papa God can be trusted. I am confident in His love and know that He provides security and safety.

There is so much unrest in our world. Fear is being openly used to manipulate. Anxiety and depression are on the rise. People are holding out for a hero. They are looking for someone to rescue them from the harshness of living in this day and age.

Holding Out for a Hero
Bonnie Tyler

Larger than life
And he’s gotta be larger than life!
And it’s gotta be soon
He’s gotta be sure
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light
I need a hero
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight
And he’s gotta be fast
He’s gotta be strong
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
I need a hero
And I dream of what I need
Late at night I toss and I turn
Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
And where are all the gods?
Where have all the good men gone  


There are heroes among us who sacrifice for others, but the greatest hero is Jesus. He paid the ultimate sacrifice. He is strong, fast, sure, and larger than life!

Tonya Jewel Blessing is the esteemed author of the Big Creek series. To book Tonya for a presentation or speaking engagement, even via Zoom, please contact us!

An “unreservedly recommended work for libraries” – Midwest Reviews, 2020
Tonya’s official website

The most recent endorsement for Tonya Jewel Blessing’s fiction series can be found here.

©Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find several children’s books of high literary quality.

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Acknowledgment, adaption, ah autumn, breath of joy, compassion, darkness inside, election season, grief, Guides, op-ed, Speak Wonder

Words, Like Nets

Thoughts from Ah, Autumn: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

Today, writing a blog feels inadequate as I shift under the weight of yet another personal loss. In a short week, I found I had lost a dear family member and a co-worker whom I really liked.

“Words are like nets – we hope they’ll cover what we mean, but we know they can’t possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder.”

Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart

I feel like any combination of words cannot capture the wistfulness of wanting everything to stay the same; for everyone to remain alive; for grief to pack its bags and visit somewhere not so close-to-home.

What a relief to know we don’t have to cast out our nets and fish for words to express how we feel.

There are other ways to reach out for meaning. Or to stay folded-in.

In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart.

Blaise Pascal

Beautiful Things You Might Carry in Your Heart…

  • A memory
  • A discovery
  • An anticipated event
  • A person you love
  • A song
  • A landmark place where you discovered God
  • A promise
  • A smile
  • A secret
  • A scripture
  • A rare and splendid moment

Let these treasures sustain you, carry you, ground you and tie all your loose ends to something real. Something of substance.

We know we must carry on even during a time of grief. How is that possible? Here is a quote I often turn to.

Just for Today

Just for today, keep it simple.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Look at your life

for all you have gained

rather than lost.

Look at your path for everything

you’ve gotten through, rather than

where you think you should be.

Celebrate rather than criticize.

Experience rather than expect.

Stand in the sunlight

Rather than the shadows.

Quietly honor your heart

rather than disown pieces of yourself.

Take a break from all that.

See how that goes.

Just for today.

Author, L.C. Lourie

Maybe today you need this. If not, I’ll not be offended.

The power of empathy is often felt deeply in silence.

Thoughts from Ah, Autumn: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy
Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy seasonal gift books

Book KATHY JOY for a speaker event here.

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

analysis, breath of joy, Bridges, Kathy Joy, op-ed

The Lowly Compliment

Kathy Joy

A compliment is usually a short phrase or sentence.

A compliment isn’t usually an essay or character development based on your uncle Henry. It doesn’t take a PhD or a master’s degree to offer one up.

The art of giving and receiving compliments is often pushed to the margins as an afterthought in life and business – but today let’s take a moment to applaud the power of the warmly-delivered affirmation.

Recently my daughter told me, “Mom, I’m in a bubble of sadness”. That was enough to make me want to get in my car and drive the two hours so I could burst her bubble.

Instead, I reminded her of her own talent for making others laugh.
She laughed, and I like to think she emerged from her little bubble in that moment onto a steadier footing.

A well-placed compliment, even a lowly one, can carry the day – and several days after that.

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
– Mark Twain

>Gratitude grows and fills the gaps where doubt once flourished. 
>Giving a compliment is a meaningful way of being fully present.
>Giving a compliment breathes hope into a difficult situation.
>Saying something positive is a booster shot of confidence.
>An honest and sincere compliment validates who we are.

While googling the difference between “complements” and “compliments”, I stumbled on an unconventional list compiled by a blogger named Mary. She is all about affirmations and “seeing ourselves more gently”. Here’s a sampling from Mary’s list, with a few of my own thrown into the mix:

15 Unique Compliments to Give Someone

1. You are as vibrant as a Lisa Frank angel kitty deluxe pen set.
2. I bet you were voted “Most Likely to Stay Fabulous” in high school.
3. Looking into your eyes is like looking into a kaleidoscope.
4. Your sense of childlike wonder brings others joy.
5. The world is so lucky that you exist right now.
6. You’re more fun than the corn pit at Port Farms.
7. Your ability to overcome adverse situations is inspiring.
8. If I had to choose between unicorns being real or keeping you in my life, I’d keep you.
9. You are cooler than The Fonz.
10. Your level of general awesomeness is getting a little out of control.
11. I’m consistently impressed by the dedication you give to your passions.
12. Your perspective is refreshing.
13. I’d rather do something boring with you than pop an unlimited supply of bubble wrap.
14. You’re so un-basic your pH level is almost zero.
15. Anyone’s coolness level increases by six percent just by being in the same room.

It is also a compliment to invite your best friends to your kid’s wedding when there isn’t a stay at home order in place. To give a nod to your favorite author in your next book is a valued compliment; to ask someone you highly respect to read and endorse your novel is a compliment you may have to pay for; It is a compliment to ask a good cook to bring whatever they’d like to cook to your family reunion because you trust their opinion and you’ve never tasted a bad thing from their table. My supervisor gave me a compliment when she said that she had sent my daily jabs for our company on to the division head over us.

Being a best friend, doing life with someone, is a compliment to each of you.

The Art of Receiving

Equally important as delivering a compliment, is receiving one.
Many of us tend to deny or deflect compliments others give us.
This is nonsense. Honor the giver by lovingly receiving what is shared. Simply say “thank you.”

And move on.

Allow the expression of gratitude to propel you into even better workflows, improved habits, more genuine depths of living.

Taking a compliment is one form of extending grace. It may have taken a bit of courage for your colleague to say something meaningful to you; take it the way you would a donut or a funny meme – with absolute pure delight!

Wear your compliment like a badge of honor. A badge of honor is a complement to you.


When nothing seems to be going right, dig deep into your emotional pocket and pull out a past compliment that has helped define who you are today. I have a folded up piece of paper I carry around in my wallet with three words written on it: warm, professional, funny. When my confidence is fragile, I unfold that paper and read the words my program director wrote in an evaluation, a long time ago. It’s a treasured note that carries me through the doubtful times.

Compliments give hope. Don’t be stingy with them.

Compliments are not “empty praises” … they are life-givers.

Compliments are not casual statements; they are launching pads to creativity and intention.

Kathy Joy The Daily Jab

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

 

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analysis, Author tools and hacks, captive audiences, How To, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, op-ed, Replete

Building Publishing Credits

Brittany Nicole Lewis

Why are building publishing credits important? 

Building publishing credits is more common for traditionally published authors than it is for independent or hybrid authors, but it is something that is extremely important. Why? Because it helps establish and grow your brand. It puts you in front of people. Not just people that might want to buy your books, but people that might want to interview you on blogs, podcasts, or (gasp!) TV. It can help put you in front of school administrators that might decide to invite you to do a presentation. There are many reasons why building publishing credits are equally as important as building your platform (which I’ll talk about in another article). 

But what are publishing credits? 

An author earns publishing credits by having their work published. There are different ways you can do this. A nonfiction author can pitch to blogs, magazines, and journals that have to do with the topic they write about. A fiction author can submit to literary journals. There are different kinds of literary journals, some accept fiction, flash fiction, short stories, and poetry. Another great way to build up publishing credits is to enter writing contests. This is a simple way to build up your credits, and could help you win some neat prizes at the same time. 

Some examples of magazines that accept fiction writing are Boulevard Magazine, The Sun Magazine, and SubTropics. These magazines accept fiction, poetry and essays. Boulevard Magazine pays $300 for prose of no more than 8,000 words, and $250 for poetry of no more than 200 lines. The Sun Magazine pays anywhere between $300 and $2,000 upon publication of between 500 and 7,000 words, and SubTropics pays $1,000 for stories and essays and $100 for poems upon publication. Articles written for SubTropics should be no more than 500 words, and novellas can be up to 15,000 words.  

Some examples of magazines that accept non-fiction pieces are The Southern Review, Black Warrior Review, and AGNI. The Southern Review pays $200 for essays under 8,000 words. Black Warrior Review would like submissions that are less than 7,000 words. Their pay is unspecified. AGNI has no word limits for their submissions, and they pay $300 for essays upon publication. 

There are several different writer’s associations you could become a member of also, such as the International Association for Professional Writers and Editors, and the Evangelical Press Association. There are roughly two-hundred different denominational newspapers, magazines and other outlets that can be found through the Evangelical Press Association that say they are welcoming new writers with thought-provoking content. 

Keeping a List

One place that you can find a list of potential faith-based publications to write for is The Write Life. This book, Christian Writers Market Guide, also with its online resource, has been helpful to some looking for content writing resources.

A 2021 resource is the book, Where to Submit Christian Writing: Freelance Opportunities.

Always review the writing guidelines for any place you submit. Here is one example of writing guidelines. Notice that these guidelines for Discipled magazine indicate that the article itself should be an end in itself not a way to promote your other books or interests.

  • Keep a list of what the writing guidelines require from your submission.
  • Keep a list of places you have submitted material.
  • Keep a list of these magazines, journals, association emails, and blog sites on which you have appeared as a guest or expert writer. A ready list makes it easy to include these subjects as part of your topics of presentation and build your publishing credits up.

Publishing credits are something many editors look for when reviewing your book proposals. 

The more publishing credits you have, the more your brand will grow. It gets your name out there, establishes your credibility, and helps drive more traffic to your website.

Brittany Nicole Lewis

So grab a pen, fill up your coffee mug, and get writing!

Brittany Nicole Lewis is an associate publicist and author. Find out more about her writing at https://booksbybrittanynicolelewis.com.

Find out more about becoming a successful author here.

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

Advice, analysis, better together, debbie johnson, election season

THE NEXT 30 DAYS

Debbie Johnson, Author

We need a VISION of how to do the better things so we can practice them. Where is that vision?

The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” (Richard Rohr)

Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Prov. 29:18)

Perish. That’s a pretty strong word.

Debbie Johnson, activist, author of A Pocketful of Seeds

(Note: I sound like an old school politician in this post, but man, we need to reclaim (or re-create) our vision for our country. No time like the present to do so.)

Can you see the American vision right now? Does it exist? Or is it buried under piles of mockery, deception, illness, anger, and fear? We need to be able to see it.

We need to demand it of our candidates, especially in these days leading up to the election. We don’t want to perish. Quite the opposite.

In starting a non-profit, the first task is to create both a vision statement and a mission statement. The vision statement is the “to see” part. The mission statement is the “to do” part. Vision statements are often virtually impossible to achieve, like “to see every American gainfully employed” but still, it’s the vision. The vision informs the mission.

I want to see unity, goodness, recovery, health, creativity, positivity, leadership, unselfishness, strength of character, humility in the face of mistakes, courage, clear goals, trustworthiness, morality, honesty, nobility, self-sacrifice (if that’s what it takes), “unlikely” alliances, optimism, and iron will. I want to see people of all races and creeds and even political parties sitting at the same table to hammer out solutions, listening first, speaking later. I want to see a healthy nation that has the respect of other nations. I want to see reclamation of what our country has done right and repair of what we’ve done wrong. I want to be able to look ahead with great hope.  

That’s quite a laundry list of virtues, but is it impossible? Maybe, but vision gives us guidance and passion. It gives us the reason to get up and march in the right direction.

There’s a song we sing at sporting events. It’s gotten a lot of press lately, but think about the words. “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there.” Even through the fog of battle, the flag was still there. Even through OUR fog of battle, let’s find the vision or start creating a new one for a better country.

This blog was originally published as The Next 82 Days, and is used by permission of the author. Debbie Johnson’s decades of mission work include founding DenverWorks and serving in leadership positions at the Dalit Freedom Network and India Transformed.

Click www.debbieljohnson.com to order “The Journey:  A Traveling Companion Through the New Testament” and/or “A Pocketful of Seeds.”

A Pocketful of Seeds is available on Amazon

#electionDebate #electionseason #kingdomEthics #beNice #beforwardthinking #kindness #vision #thrive

Caroling Through the Psalms Book Tour

Advice, analysis, Charmayne Hafen, election season, featured, journey to twilight, op-ed, protecting our children

Keeping a Head Above Election Quicksand

Charmayne Hafen, children’s author

Did you also hear?

The scandalous election season report of an assault carried out on a 12-year-old boy holding a political sign in Boulder, Colorado set me off. The father of the boy, Jesse Rosales, “told officers his son came home from a bike ride early Monday afternoon and told him a woman had assaulted him.”

If I allow myself to watch the news, I hear of a new shooting or beating almost every day. Evil seems to be erupting everywhere.

I find it difficult to know how to respond to evil as I strive to uphold my belief that all people are created in God’s image. I want to live out the truth of the Imago Dei while keeping my head above the sand. Denial helps no one.

Charmayne Hafen, Children’s Author

Maybe it’s partiality to protect the innocents, but I’ve been in a mild rage over the last few days as I see our country imploding. I know intellectually that I cannot control the actions of another person. Emotionally, I want to scream out negativity. The only thing I can control is my reaction to the insanity. How do I respond as a Christian to what I see going on around me?

I love to memorize verses and passages in the Bible. Romans 12:21 has been in the forefront of my mind for at least a month now. I asked God what my response needs to be in the face of evil. He told me very clearly how to handle it. “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

The more I focus on the evil so rampant in our country, the more violent I feel inside. How strange a turn! I want to take action and lash out. When I ruminate on all that is wrong, I find myself spiraling downward. In a short time, I’m having thoughts about doing things I so vehemently oppose.

“Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” I’ve heard true-life stories of good overcoming evil. It’s late at night and a man standing in a subway station is accosted by a robber. The robber has no jacket and so the man offers him his coat. He offers to buy the criminal something to eat. In a short while, the thief gives his life to Christ.

I have a story from my life. I worked with someone who liked to slander and gossip. She eventually got around to calling me a choice name to a mutual friend. Only by God’s grace did I decide to talk to her in private instead of saying something negative about her to the mutual friend. I told her I heard she had called me a choice name and wondered if I had offended her in some way. She apologized, said it was a joke. There was never an issue again.

How do we overcome evil with good? Here are some practical ways to live this out.

  • Be kind to people I encounter daily
  • Get out and meet people
  • Make a priority to give
  • Spend time loving my family
  • Invest time in the gifts God has given me
  • Actively listen to other people

In Return To Twilight, the second book of my Land of Twilight trilogy, Sam must face the challenge of overcoming an evil influence on his best friend, Lorna. Lorna is not acting like herself. She follows the lead of Jenny, the new girl in the neighborhood, and treats Sam poorly. He has to decide how he will react to her bad behavior.

Return to Twilight is the second book in the Land of Twilight trilogy by Charmayne Hafen.

My focus must be on the good God has placed in my life. I have a precious and priceless family and friends. I have the gift of writing which brings me so much joy. I have resources and the ability to influence other people. When I think about these things or ponder “whatever is true… whatever is lovely,” (Philippians 4:8), evil shrivels in the light. I’m still aware of what is going on, but I am not overwhelmed and I do not become part of the hatred.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

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adaption, breath of joy, dreams, op-ed, singing, Summertime

Let Songs Be Heard and Not Sighs

Something rather good has erupted like pollen from this past spring and then the addition of summer’s social isolation. My mind has been drifting.

All by itself, it is dredging up memories, mostly good ones. I mean, the really, really good memories are from the innocence and wonder of a typical American childhood, really distant memories – from lifetimes ago – when we were still allowed to spend pennies at the store, and nobody told us the mint was not making coin.

Simply Summer Breath of Joy

A recent National Geographic study polled many people around the world—including more than 600 featured in just one study—who say they are experiencing a new phenomenon: coronavirus pandemic dreams.

Science has long suggested that dream content and emotions are connected to wellbeing while we’re awake. Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the safety of their subconscious.

The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed, the study concludes,

The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed into so many different things.

Deirdre Barrett, Harvard University

This week I woke up in one of those post-dream phases where you’re not asleep but not quite awake, either: the best time to rein in the edges of your dream and frame it before it is erased by cornflakes and coffee and morning light.

I remained as still as possible to capture the details.

We were all back in elementary school. As dreams rarely make sense, my classmates included pint-sized versions of people I have known throughout my lifetime, even my grandmother.

No matter that she was in grade school a full 60+ years before I was; dreams are like that.

Let it be

So anyway. We were out on the playground. It was recess and lunchtime and a cluster of us were sitting cross-legged in a circle near the swing set. I remember there was a teeter-totter there, too.

We were trading lunches.

Two Twinkies for a homemade cookie.
Bologna for a PBJ.
An apple for a Hershey Bar

A kid named Robert was in the circle, and he had a liverwurst sandwich. This detail rang true – there really was a kid named Robert in the first grade whose mom packed a liverwurst sandwich nearly every day; Robert seemed to like it and rarely traded it out. He probably wouldn’t have very many takers, anyway.

I mean, liverwurst.

It was only a dream, but it had real slices of reality sandwiched in.
Maybe you, too, did your share of lunchtime negotiations back in the day.
You got rid of those vegetables and Mom was none the wiser.

Trading lunches was a childhood career for me

Those murky-dream-drenched lunch swaps – snippets of real memories rising to greet me during the Great Sequester of 2020.

A metaphor for what we seem to be doing these days ~

Opening our lunch pail, assessing the situation, and looking up to see what tastes better on that day. Negotiating a trade, pooling our resources, helping each other survive the “liverwurst” of life.

What if?
What if we traded sorrows for singing?
Worry for watchfulness…
Anxiety for trust.
News grazing for window gazing.
Deep breathing for stress eating….
Curiosity for despair.
These are good swaps, life-lifters.
Switching out the bologna for a ribeye; 
trading the mundane for the moment you will savor 
and return to it again and again
for a tasty reminder during a day of scarcity.

There’s a song lyric from a favorite musical that goes like this:

The clouded sun shall brightly rise,
And songs be heard instead of sighs.

Godspell

What a glorious swap.

A chorus of songs rising up to conquer the gloom – a goofy, ravaged, joyful mix of imperfect voices. Gathering momentum, drowning out the cries and the sighs.

We will wake from this dreamlike state one day, looking to each other for guidance into the light of a New Normal.

Pass me the Corn Flakes, I can hardly wait.

Kathy Joy, wordsmith, event speaker
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©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

Acknowledgment, breath of joy, greeting cards, Guides, kingdom ethics, Lift Assist, op-ed

WANTED: A Harbor Pilot, Please

Kathy Joy

Have you ever wondered what’s happened to all the working lighthouses? How could they be defunct? What takes the place of helping a vessel to anchor or to its pier in safe harbor?

Harbor Pilots are, by sheer tenacity, a remarkable crew. The job requires round-the-clock availability, a complete understanding of the local waters, hazards and weather conditions, and the agility to climb a 30-foot rope ladder up the side of a large vessel.

Our harbor has them. Any port of call has them; these sailors are navigational experts regarding local waters.

When a ship comes into unknown waters, the harbor pilot maneuvers a small craft right up to the big rig, climbing up that ladder and getting behind the wheel to steer the vessel into safe mooring.

And so it is with the staff I work with.

There are a few who understand the aim in a specialized way. They can plot the course for shoreline and safe harbor in waters that most of us have never seen prior to this. We don’t want to encounter nasty surprises, do we? What will we do if a rock pierces the hull?

While most of us are sequestered with our laptops and zoom sessions focused in on the target for the day, someone with years in the industry will come alongside and prove their maturity and faithfulness by soldiering our vision through our company’s performance of the necessary tasks.

Tasks, such as security, handling delays, sorting through the troubled complaints and defunct systems, and steering the crew into the final destination with wisdom and other hands-on assignments move us beyond the irritations and angers and abnormal shallows.

Mister B is the story of one such harbor pilot. From his daughter’s memoir, Mister B: Living With A 98-Year-Old Rocket Scientist

These are our harbor pilots – these comrades who are sailing in to assist our somewhat lurching, unsteady building to navigate in unknown waters.

In rough waters, how does a ship or smaller boat find it’s way around sandy banks, jutting rocks, and unusual winds to safe harbor? Guided by the strength and knowledge of someone who has a firm grasp of the way around the banks that would beach us, that’s how.

We all experience waves of gratitude and relief as we are coming to the shoreline.

We are all in this together – but today, let’s take a moment to applaud our unsung heroes, our unseen administrators, first responders, our essential leaders.

A collective “thank you” from all our various ports of call; our kitchen table offices, our cell phones, laptops and heart connections everywhere are warranted. You are worthy deckhands, but it would mean there’s nowhere to land without the harbor pilot.

Can you list one or two harbor pilots in your most choppy, unpredictable waves of life?

Later — when we are all back together — tossed, tested and polished bits of beach glass will emerge gleaming in our midst.

What treasures we will discover.

A page from Breath of Joy: Ah, Autumn
https://www.amazon.com/Breath-Joy-Ah-Autumn-Kathy/dp/0999635379

Kathy Joy, writes the Breath of Joy coffee table series. Simply Summer, Ah, Autumn, Winter Whispers, and Singing Spring. These books make for exceptional “thank-you” gifts and acknowledgments of special someones in your life.

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Welcome to the Shivoo!
A book to help and inspire biblical creatives

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

a side of sweet potatoes, ah autumn, breath of joy, Nancy Ceyters

Sweet Potato Harvest of Laughter

Nancy Ceyters

As hard as it is to wave goodbye to summer, I find myself once again greeting fall with a hearty hello.

There’s something about that time between air conditioning and heat; the lower electric bill coupled with crisp nights brings on some good sleeping. The darker mornings and earlier sunsets force us to be the light as we get out of bed to savor the three month transition to winter.

For some, fall’s glory is celebrated in corn mazes and caterpillars, raking more and mowing less; for others, it’s the ginger beer and sweatshirts, football games and pumpkin spice lattes. Still others embrace the fall by stirring hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick, while riding atop a wagon of hay.

When I welcome fall, I reminisce the harvest, especially the autumn harvest of 2012.

For years, the entire back yard was converted to several large summer gardens and, come autumn, a few fall gardens as well. The entire process from turning over the land in the spring to yielding the harvest throughout the fall and into the winter brought hours of joy and pounds of produce to record in my garden ledger.

The first year I planted sweet potatoes, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I opted to start small until I knew they would be a success, so I planted just a few slips. From what I had read, I expected about six to eight sweet potatoes from each plant. Of course I had no idea what if anything was going on underground all spring and summer. Neither did I know when the potatoes were ready for digging.

Photo Credit: Jerenita Leavy

In October of 2012, my friend Kathy Joy was visiting for the weekend. We had a full schedule between a trip to our favorite Delaware beach, a guest pass for a Combat class at the gym, an event at the homestead where I volunteered as a docent, and a dinner and music night with my parents who were coming in from out of town. Knowing that Kathy’s late husband Roger was a farmer after retiring from the police force, and a farmer before they married, I felt that I needed Kathy by my side as I dug through the earth.

We had to fit this into our schedule somehow. Besides, how long could it take to dig up a few potatoes? We’d dig and then cook dinner.

If there were no sweet potatoes, Kathy would be there to console me. If there were six to eight per plant, we could celebrate together, eating sweet potatoes for supper and sending some home. I read that a pitch fork—rather than a shovel—is needed to avoid breaking or bruising the tubes. That was one garden tool lacking in my shed.

Breaking the earth gently with a shovel, I then dug nervously with gloved hands, not wanting to hurt what little produce might be underground. Every other scoop I turned to Kathy for the go-ahead to dig deeper. And then there was a tint of orange!

One potato, two potato, three potato, more! With each potato, came a squeal, and the count continued. Kathy! There are more over here. And over here! And over here! Even when we thought we were done, we found more, far from where the few slips were planted.

Seventy-one potato, seventy-two potato, seventy-three potato, more!

As the sun began to set and the cool of a fall breeze blew our hair, a train of sweet potatoes tracked the benches of a 22 foot square deck. From big-as-our-faces-enormous, to medium, to small-as-a-fist, we were overwhelmed with potatoes. A few were bruised by the excitement of the digging and the harvest, but not enough to have to toss them. Even after we finished digging, I wondered if there were more out there that we missed.

With several large buckets full of sweet potatoes, and a search for more containers, we had enough root vegetables to last a number of households the winter.  We laughed and counted, counted and laughed, well past the dinner hour. We’d have potatoes for a bedtime snack.

Spring and summer, hidden from view, potatoes were growing like crazy. From a little, came a lot. The element of surprise, the beauty of the root vegetables, and sharing the moment with a friend who celebrated with me made the harvest of 2012 the sweetest ever.

I didn’t grow sweet potatoes again after that, wanting this memory to be the one I cherished and celebrated when waving goodbye to summers and greeting falls with a hearty hello.

– Nance Ceyters

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©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

analysis, kingdom ethics, op-ed, Soothing Rain, Tonya Jewel Blessing

LIVING WELL

By Tonya Jewel Blessing

Proverbs 15:31 is aimed like an arrow right to my heart. Receiving good advice is an important aspect of spiritual maturity.

King David was an amazing man – not perfect, but a man after the essence of God. He desired to serve the Lord and His people wisely and justly. According to Psalms, he recognized the need to be both skillful and heartfelt.

In 2 Samuel, David decides to take a census that angers the Lord. Theologians have long debated why the census was wrong:

  • David was numbering the men under the age of 20 for military service.
  • The census had no direct order from God.
  • David was going to use the census to tax the people.
  • David was not trusting God’s promise to Abraham to make the people innumerable.
  • Pride and power were possible motivations.

There is also the possibility that once the census was taken that King David neglected the portion of God’s command that required a ransom be given. This ransom was the requirement given by Israel’s meek leader, Moses.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD when you number them so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.”

(Exodus 30:11-12) https://gentlereformation.com/2020/03/02/why-davids-census-was-wrong/

Before David took the census, he neglected to listen to the good advice he received from his trusted friend and mighty man Joab (2 Samuel 24:3).

Had the king listened to great trouble and dire consequences could have been avoided. The Lord’s punishment was severe. A plague fell over the land for three days. David suffered and those he served experienced devasting circumstances.

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ISBN 13: 9780997897630 ASIN: B074F2C8SV
Soothing Rain is a humorous and provoking look at a variety of events in a woman’s life, and what might be done in the moment. Soothing Rain is a women’s crowd breaking system of stories and discussion questions (a global interchange). https://www.amazon.com/Soothing-Rain-Living-Water-Refresh-ebook/dp/B074F2C8SV/
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 ©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

analysis, auralee arkinsly, breath of joy, captive audiences, Kathy Joy, living water, op-ed, Pennsylvania author

Splashing In the Mysteries of Water

By, Kathy Joy, author

In this season of limited restaurant outings, my family and friends are happily opting into beach picnics on the peninsula.

The lake beckons and our sunset suppers are a highlight of summer 2020.

These water encounters are full of life and laughter; no matter how old or young we are, the urge to squeal with delight is irresistible.

A page from Simply Summer: Breath of Joy coffee table book

The other night I met up with my daughter, who has an unmistakable kinship with All Things Water. She snaps pictures of sunsets, scours the beach for bits of smoothed glass, and runs to the waves for all the splashes, all the water therapy she can absorb.

Her red hair in the glow of a Lake Erie sunset is a work of art, and can never really be captured in a photo.

After a beach picnic of turkey sandwiches and fresh fruit, we kicked off our flip flops and headed for the surf – which that night was full of kick and sass.
The waves were rolling in high and splashy.

The break-walls in the distance were pushing back towers of froth and spray.

I carry this memory like a tall glass of pure hydration: every sip replenishes and renews.
Water is a living, dynamic being – just like us.

A scientist-writer wrote a book, “Secret of Water – A Language of Life”. In the book, the late Masaru Emoto claims water has memory. He says water can be influenced by positive words and form beautiful crystals.

This one has allegedly responded to the words “love” and “gratitude”.
The researcher says water also responds to music in the form of these exquisite hexagonal shapes.

On the flip side, less vibrant, or “dead” water, does not form hexagonal shapes; rather, its image appears flat and unremarkable.

Some might call these ideas bogus, an extreme hoax; even pseudo-science.
No matter where faith and science might overlap, water is pretty amazing.
Water is pretty amazing.

We can all agree it’s important for life.

We, like the surface of the earth, are least 70 percent water.
An adult should drink at least 2.5 liters of water every day to sustain normal life functions. Another 1.5 liters is absorbed through the skin during bathing or showering.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle

It is also absorbed from standing in the rain!

Pretty much every living thing depends on the abundance of water.

Can water drops retain memory?

I don’t know.

Personally, I defer to the Creator for the mysteries of water.

To me it’s no secret water is life-giving, that it cleanses bodies, refreshes the earth and draws us to the shore for our own rejuvenation.

Test the waters, and see for yourself.

Kathy Joy writes for The Daily Jab, for Books for Bonding Hearts, and for her own blog, Coffee with Kathy. You can transition directly from ordinary to extraordinary with her Breath of Joy seasonal coffee table books. Find out more! Sign up here for inspiring posts from this author! She is available for speaking engagements geared to your needs.

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A page from Simply Summer: Breath of Joy coffee table book

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

breath of joy, memoir, Nancy Ceyters, simply summer

SUM-SUMMER, SOME BEACHES

By Nancy Ceyters

COVID-19 may have washed the summer beach date off the calendar, but we have a backup plan: the beach webcam.

Not kidding.

Through the eyes of the webcam, we watch the sun sparkle on the tips of the waves, the tides ebb and flow, and the seagulls swoop too close to the lens.

We have witnessed weddings on our beach webcam, volleyball games, summer lifeguard Olympics, foot races, and fights; we are drawn in by the boats and planes carrying written messages, and the people dropping their ice cream on the boardwalk and spewing verbal messages we can only imagine.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B077ZKWCV5/ref=dp_st_0997897686

Last night when in need for a beach fix, the beach-cam was down. Don’t they realize? We watch the cam all seasons, and we especially need it now.

Quickly my party came up with another backup plan: beach memories.

I recited, “Every summer during the growing up years, my family spent two or three weeks at Point O’ Woods beach in South Lyme, CT. A small private beach with no motels, stores, restaurants, or amusement parks, Point O’ Woods is a beach, not a city. We pulled the car in on a Saturday and did not get into that car again until the day we left. Days were spent on the beach, and evenings were spent taking walks, playing whiffle ball, and dealing cards. Even when the sun didn’t shine, we enjoyed the fog horns, the rocks around the sound, and the lively waves fighting back at the rain.”

I’m talking, a few winters we visited the old aunts at Haven of Rest Trailer park in Hobe Sound, FL. The sun on the beach seemed stronger there, and the waves rougher, but this quiet beach was home for a week.

Our only worry there was the Portuguese Man o War, as even the dead ones can sting, and one put an aunt in the hospital for several weeks.

As an adult, Rehoboth Beach, DE is my beach. Although it isn’t as built up as Ocean City, MD, it is lined with motels, shops, arcades, and eateries. We face the ocean with that “city” view behind us. The only time we leave the beach is to feed the parking meter or empty the bladder.

I love the beach, in and out of season.

A page from Breath of Joy: Simply Summer by Kathy Joy

Trudging through the snow on the beach in Asbury Park, NJ made it too tempting not to take off the boots and test the water. Visiting Rehoboth in the fall surprised us with kites flying and a superpod of dolphins in synchronized swimming.

The salt air, the therapeutic lull of the waves, and the refreshing water, along with the sun and kick-up-the-feet and lose-the-cares beach spirit does not mean every experience is joyful, but all are memorable.

My memories are stealing the conversation, but I don’t care much now.

I’ll never forget seeing Grandma sobbing in the dining room chair of the cottage the day her dog Ladybug was killed on the trip to visit us at the beach. I can still feel that sinking in my stomach that kept me from a second bite of a muffin the day we sat at the picnic table and the police officer came around the back of the cottage to tell us our childhood friend Freddy had died. Nor will I forget the fear, as a child, seeing someone steal a carton of cigarettes and worrying that he knew I saw him do it.

But with those memories come the 20 lb. bluefish my brother caught, the many friends who came to visit, the five-cent Good Humor ice creams, swimming out to the raft for the first time, and many hours of pure delight.

The beach has played a significant role in my life and in the friendship with a dear friend of 42 years. We have shared trips to Rehoboth, and we have had fun with the webcam—one at home viewing, the other waving to the camera. In the 1980’s we saw the movie Beaches and claimed it as ours. Over the past four decades, our life stories and our friendship—in their own way–have paralleled that of CC and Hillary. As we kept in touch through letters, email, and now text, we closed our message with “Beaches.” At times the entire message was “Beaches.”

This summer’s beach plans are shot, and from time to time the webcam is down, but if I have learned anything from the beach and my longtime beach friend Kathy, it is that we can make the best of it and still find something to celebrate. Kathy celebrates all four seasons, beach or no beach, and between her wit and her wordsmith talents, she brings that celebration into the life of all who meet her. 

I can’t visit my memories of the beach without celebrating my friend, “Beaches.”

Nancy Ceyters

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©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

better together, captive audiences, Charmayne Hafen, Cog Railway, memoir, Middle School Author, op-ed, Twilight

Time Crunches By Like Cogs on Wheels

I’m Charmayne Hafen, a Colorado-based author of several elementary, middle-school, and young adult fiction novels.

Sometimes I think I’d like to live out life with the mindset of young wanderer but, I turned 50 this year, yes 50, and time seems to be crunching along faster and faster, as though I’m seated and antsy to be traveling the Cog Railway in haste to the cloud-shrouded top of Pike’s Peak.

It sometimes frightens me.

I glimpse strange and glorious scenery passing by outside my window, and small animals I have never been introduced to before. I have no vocabulary for what is going so quickly by me.

I want to slow down the days and appreciate what is.

This pre-election season in our global climate accompanied by a pandemic and never before experienced rioting in America has brought such suffering and yet, for me, so many God-given gifts. One of these is the gift of meaningful time.

Here, I am spending more time with my husband than I ever have in our 20 years of marriage. I’m discovering things about him I didn’t know. I have come to realize that his sometimes stern tone of voice is just a focused response, unintended to be harsh or even mean. He loves me so much more than I ever knew. He told me the other day that he would always rather be with me than alone.

Time spent is an investment in the future of a loving relationship. Time is our most precious commodity. If we spend our time with people that don’t support us or even tear us down, we are investing into a bottomless “whatever will be”, to our own detriment.

We tend to think animals live in the present, that they don’t have a future and don’t have a past. But we know that’s not true. They can use tools to fix something for the future. In a Swiss zoo, orangutans had a skylight in their cage and dismantled the whole thing. That way they could spend summer nights on the roof of their building. Then in the morning before the caretakers came back, they would go back in the cage and put the skylight precisely back together. So no one ever noticed. On a nice summer night, it was better to be on the roof than inside the cage.

Steve Paulson on Primatologist and author, Frans de Waal, via Nautilus; Empathy, Morality, Community, Culture—Apes Have It All

Time is more precious than any amount of money.

Book Two: Return to Twilight by Charmayne Hafen

To enjoy money there must be time.

To enjoy my calling to write, I must prioritize it and take the time to write.

In my middle-grade Trilogy, The Land of Twilight offers readers a time and space altered dimension. Sam and Lorna occasionally get lost between what matters and what is and what they wish could be. But, they are growing up and their inquisitive minds begin to discover answers to replace their usual acceptance of “whatever”.

In the most recent third book of my Land Of Twilight trilogy, Trouble In Twilight, my seventh-grade characters, Lorna and Sam, travel through time to learn how to save the dying Land Of Twilight. As they pay a visit to ancient Greece and the city of Nazareth, the friends grapple with what it means to have faith as well as faith in whom or in what you put your faith.

It takes the passing of time to reach different conclusions about faith. God is gracious and gives us this time.

I’ve heard, and I believe that God lives outside of time. He already sees our sanctified, perfected selves. We are the blind ones. We’re stuck in a timeline where living only for today or living in the past or even the future can be dangerous if we don’t have the cogs on the wheels to grip the cogs of the railroad machinery.

Ignoring the importance of time well-placed, this gift we’ve been offered to spend on our most important relationships can take our focus off of the One who calls us “holy” or set apart for a special relationship with our Creator.

If we focused more on who He says we are, that He made us for the purposes designed within our make up, and for Him, we might be free to live at last.

I pray I’ll maintain this investment of time with my husband even after things “go back to normal”, whatever that is compared to now. I also pray I will continue to slow down and take time with those I love and that God places in front of me.

Time is a precious gift to be given with full focus and care.

Charmayne Hafen, author

Charmayne Hafen co-owns and manages a petroleum testing company with her husband. Besides this dimension, she sets the pace for each day with her morning rituals of listening to music, painting and art, prayer, and writing.

Book One: Journey to Twilight Book Tour, 2020

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find several children’s books of high literary quality.

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auralee arkinsly, Author tools and hacks, better together, family caregiving, improvisation, op-ed

Closeted Confidence in a Shoe box

Two days ago, I discovered a shoe box on a shelf in my closet.

For six and a half years, I’d been caring for a parent, hence most of my stuff had been closeted away all of that time.

I brought down the shoe box intending to toss it borne on a tad of disgust for the things one keeps. To my great delight, I rediscovered all of my favorite jewelry and hair clips inside! Even my wedding ring was there, and I might have tossed it away!

As I sorted through it, I remembered, however vaguely, that I’d put it all in there and hidden it under the bed when we were selling our old house so that strangers walking through the house wouldn’t find it. Then, when we moved to my parent’s house, I’d just stuffed everything I had into closets, including this box. I never imagined that it would be almost seven years before I’d find it again.

An elastic bracelet was one of the first things I touched. I slipped it on remembering the women’s retreat in which I’d made it. The letters read, C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T. It was from the retreat in which a speaker helped us examine our names and the way we felt about ourselves. She had challenged us to lay our insecurities, failures, and sins at Jesus’ feet, and allow Him to do what He’d promised, to give us a new name. Then, the speaker asked us to make a piece of jewelry with the new name on it so that we would have our own landmark of His promise over us. It was a way to help us live in the new name.

I’m so glad I found that little elastic bracelet. It brings me to my knees in Christ, and it raises me up in the same instant to live fully in Him.

Some people have said they stand in awe of the things I’ve tackled and accomplished in life, but that just isn’t the way I feel. Naturally, I am never very confident when my eyes are on myself, my failures, my longings, and my attempts to figure things out. I do tackle things that others don’t try out, but then, I pay the price for trying because there usually isn’t a “how-to” list or a mentor to help me get ‘er done. So, like Peter who got out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus then began to sink when he looked at the waves, I also tend to sink in despair and self-loathing.

I knew a girl in college who couldn’t find her voice. She whispered whenever she spoke. Several years later, I ran into this sweet girl who was transformed and now vivacious! I saw that she had become a leader in her church and she’d somehow found the umph of her vocal cords. She was happily married, and people had only good things to say about her. She told me she’d found her voice when she read all about the Lord and His goodness toward her particularly, and His plan for her.

Some people struggle because of the things they’ve been told by a parent or someone in authority over them, things that are lies. Some people struggle because they do not feel beautiful or mentally or physically or socially well-equipped. How did the Psalmist get to that place where He could praise God for his mind and body?

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.

Psalm 139:14

My emotional life has honestly been a roller-coaster for good reason. However, when I take my eyes off of myself and put them firmly on the Lord, I can find the courage and confidence to keep on keeping on.

Jesus said very little about being confident. He only said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6 We often skip over the first bit and go directly to the piece of evangelism, but does this verse say Jesus is the life? Does that mean He wants me to live fully and pursue the dreams in my heart and to increase my skill and to be a good steward of my relationships and things? Why YES!

The Bible is clear that He also “was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of humanity.” John 1:1-4 — Okay, that’s a WoW!

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To clarify, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26-27 This says to me, that you and I have been given relationship, assertiveness, creativity, ideas, and the abilities to articulate and to make things happen in teamwork as He did.

I can be confident to initiate and also to ask for help. The Triune God acts as one mind and spirit. Wouldn’t it be great to act in unity with each other, helping one another succeed? Confidence is about a solo act, but it does begin with an understanding of who I am in God, and beyond that, who I am hidden in Christ in God.

Those who trust in their riches will fall, but

the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. Proverbs 11:28

This is the confidence we have when approaching God:

that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:14

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

In Him, and through faith in Him, we may approach God with

freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
Jeremiah 17:7

“[. . .] With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. 2nd Chronicles 32:8

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Find more Bible verses about confidence here.

God bless you and all you accomplish as you put your faith in Him! Here is a benediction to lift up your life forever. This is what God says:

I will change your name ... You shall no longer be called Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid. I will change your name ... Your new name will be Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One, Faithfulness, Friend of God, One Who Seeks My Face. - Isaiah 62-4

Auralee Arkinsly is an author with Capture Books. In each of her books, Before Long, a housewarming book, and her book for first and second graders, Darling Hedgehog Goes Down a Foxhole, Arkinsly writes about life’s quandaries with great humor. ©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find several children’s books of high literary quality.

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The Ordinary Normal Is Still Here

Everyone’s talking about the “New Normal”.

It’s important, though, to remember the former elements of “normal” are still with us, if we will only take a minute to notice.

Take fireflies for instance. What a wonder a single firefly still is to me!

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There’s a quote that’s traveled with me for a long time. It’ on my fridge:


Normal Day,
Do not let me pass you by in search of some Rare and Perfect Tomorrow.

Mary Jean Iron

This power-packed memento has been a mainstay through all of life’s seasons. With every move, every new fridge, this little saying has traveled with me as a reminder of the splendor in little moments.

The little ordinary moments are ever-present while we sigh and long for:
Brighter tomorrows, better sleep, happier children, perfectly manicured lawns, stronger connections, brighter lighting, exotic destinations, more flawless skin, shinier memories…

Here’s the thing. When we are off chasing after a happier reality, the one we’re IN is quietly passing us by.

A page from Breath of Joy: Simply Summer

I’m not asking you to embrace The Summer of Covid, but I am suggesting you uncover the good stuff inside this interval.

Your “normal” will look different than mine.

Here’s mine.
The texture of my kiddo’s voice on the phone; it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about – the sound of her voice is life-affirming.

The smell of towels that have been line-dried in fresh air and sunshine.

Summer kids riding by my window on their bikes and skateboards.

Dandelions gone to seed.

  • Waking to sunlight,
  • That first sip of coffee,
  • curbside pickup,
    • the hypnotic hum of a lawnmower,
    • Old Glory rippling in the breeze.
    • a real letter in the mail,
      • silence,
      • my music jam,
      • fireflies in the whisper of dusk.

Not everything is a joy-bringer; some things are a slog through scary passages.
But still – not everything is skewed into some narrow margin of “the New Normal”.
We can still count on the ordinary, normal things.
And those will sustain us.

Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books

Kathy Joy writes for The Daily Jab, for Books for Bonding Hearts, and for her own blog, Coffee with Kathy. You can transition directly from ordinary to extraordinary with her Breath of Joy seasonal coffee table books. Find out more! Sign up here for inspiring posts from this author!

Learn about Kathy Joy’s inspirational gift books on this site.


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analysis, book excerpt, Bridges, inspirational, op-ed, Welcome to the Shivoo

Rooted in the True Story

Excerpt from the book, Welcome to the Shivoo!

“Weeding a bed of iris rhizomes in late summer taught me something about the Creator’s winnowing tactics.

“I had left the irises all spring and summer. Their roots became infiltrated with grass roots.  It seemed daunting trying to pull out the grass that year. Every time I yanked at a few long pieces in irritation, the bed hollered, “I need your focused attention, please!”

So, in the fall, I decided to pull out all those evil pencil grasses choking my bed of prized spring flowers. 

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“It was difficult work digging up the entire bed and chopping apart or wrestling out the clumps of rhizomes.

“Hidden within each clump were grass roots that clung to the rhizomes as if they were the same thing, mimicking the iris rhizomes. The grass roots, though they looked succulent and almost identical to the hairs of the root, were not part of the root at all. They didn’t belong, they were fakers. They would never produce blossoms for me.

Even healthy, good grass is just “weedy” when woven into beds of blooming irises.

“When I tugged at each hair of the rhizome, they clung to the root because they belonged. When I tugged at a grass root, it would slide out of the other hairs, because it was not connected by anything other than dirt. This hard work made me think about the work the Lord does in pulling out the wild grasses in my life. He has to do this work even in the lives of very mature and colorful groups of people.

“Learning to thank the Gardener of our souls early on for the means in which He manhandles our lives helps us to recognize what keeps us healthy and blooming. Hardship means to bring us maturity and glory.

“Living a creative life is the closest sort of metaphor to living a life of faith that I can think of. Music infuses grace as a spirit-transforming wonder like a blessing. There are so many risks taken being creative and also living by faith. Yet there is hope! Inspiration. And, many self-adjustments.  So many prayers. So much involvement and intervention of God. So much personal growth.

“Being creative in a godly sense means turning out something of positive purpose from very little.”

Pages 54-55, Chapter 3, Welcome to the Shivoo! (Bartnick)

  • Q: What is creativity in writing?
  • A: You give someone a disaster, and they find a human spirit pulling a wagon with a child in it.
  • Q: What is creativity in writing?
  • A: You give someone a maniac, and they put a history onto her like a sack of stones so that you find the salt of sympathetic tears, empathy weeping, dashed upon her oily hair. You learn God’s mercy, and maybe redemption. Learning to experience mercy can be an artistic leap for anybody. Page 56, Welcome to the Shivoo! (Bartnick)

How are you working to winnow out a good result from a bad situation? Below the ground, we all find good roots and tangly, weedy roots. Telling the full story in a memoir is surprisingly more compelling than just telling the flowery stuff.

Find out more!
Book One, Reviewed by
Christian News Journal, June 10, 2020 here.

Book Two is reviewed by Midwest Reviews as “Exceptionally well written” on August 20, 2020, in the General Fiction section here and “is unreservedly recommended for both highschool and community library collections.”
https://www.amazon.com/Simply-Summer-Breath-Joy-Kathy/dp/0997897686/
Learn more about singing the Psalms!

Dust and Sparkles in this children’s Trilogy of faith
Check out our children’s picture book selection.

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

Advice, featured, How To, inspirational, op-ed, Tonya Jewel Blessing

The Woman Writer

Tonya Jewel Blessing

Most often when the day draws to a close and bedtime is near, my thoughts turn toward the story I am currently reading, and my heart swells with anticipation for when I climb between the sheets, gather two pillows on which to rest my head, switch on the lamp next to my side of the bed, and open a book to the dog eared page where I left off the night before.

Reading in Bed

I read myself to sleep most nights. Sometimes the book is so engaging that I read myself awake until the wee hours of the morning.

As a small girl, I fell deeply in love with books, and my admiration has not waned.

Along with my love of reading as a child, I dreamed of being a writer. I thought all writers were famous and lived loftily in houses in lovely places. They were also people of means who traveled the world looking for the next setting for their grand-scale story.

I have written three books (two novels and a leadership tool for women in ministry) and have a third novel in mind. BUT, somehow, the exotic places in my dreams and the resources to explore and experience adventures around the world based on book sales have not happened.

Writing and publishing are time-consuming and costly. In fact, it took me several years in the business to begin seeing a small profit. For the first two years, virtually nothing much sold. Sometimes, that can be the entire life of a book. But something hit a nerve somewhere in the third year of marketing of my first West Virginia book, and it made such a turn around that I wrote my sequel.

Writing and publishing a novel is a long, complicated, collaborative affair…

Jim Fergus

Last year, an audiobook organization located in Atlanta, Georgia approached me about recording my novels: The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries (Book 1 and Book 2 in the Big Creek Series). I was paid a nice advance, and the contract included receiving a small sum of money from each recording sold after the number of books represented by the advance had been sold. I paid my publisher, Capture Books, for negotiating the arrangement out of the advance. I am proud to say that last month, I received my first royalty check from the audiobook distributor for $34.

This morning, I opened my email to find a nice review from Midwest Book Review, the official book reviewing agency of Amazon. This is what it said,

“An exceptionally well written and entertaining work of historical romance for young adult readers that is unreservedly recommended for both high school and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that ‘The Melody of the Mulberries’ is also readily available in a paperback edition.”

A young writer recently asked me about the probability of her making a living writing. My initial thoughts were about the costs involved and the time spent in meetings and working on marketing, but instead, I told her to read every book placed in her hands, to write long into the night, and to wake-up dreaming about traveling the world either in her thoughts or in heels walking on faraway soil.

I don’t drink alcoholic beverages but have been known to toast with a ice-filled glass of water, a swirl of diet soda, or even cranberry juice – so here’s to the writers young and old, those starting out in publishing or the seasoned author – read, write, and dream!

Tonya Jewel Blessing is a founding author and partner of the Capture Books boutique publishing group. Her vision and contributions to the group have been a cornerstone to the ministry and success of several authors and readers to date.

If you would like to view the original post and join Tonya Jewel Blessing’s personal email list, find it here. https://mailchi.mp/1cc476cfbead/author-updates-the-woman-writer?e=babc5eea8a

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A 2020 Resource for content copy writing
Recent Review of Whispering of the Willows

“I am thoroughly impressed! I specifically enjoyed your characters. When I finish a book and continue thinking of the characters as people I care about and want to hear more about, I gage that a success!!! They are flawed individuals who are trying to live out a genuine Christian life, and that is refreshing!

“I also enjoyed the real tragedy these characters experienced…So often Christian fiction is hesitant to portray realistic tragedy. Thank you for facing some of the ‘ugliness’ of life and showing how Christ can carry us through it!
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Advice, Christian Writer's Manual of Style, editing, featured, How To, Lisa Thompson, Psalm Hymns, Welcome to the Shivoo

How I Edit Manuscripts with Bible Verses

Lisa Thompson, editor

Some of my editing clients seem to think that it’s easy to edit a manuscript with lots of Bible verses in it because the editor doesn’t have to do any real “editing.”

I can’t begin to say how incorrect that thought is. There are many technicalities for correctly citing and formatting Scripture, and I certainly won’t cover them all in this post. But I want to go over just a few guidelines here. These are taken from “The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, the Fourth Edition,” which should be used when writing a Christian book. This style guide is a complement to “The Chicago Manual of Style.”

The following list is by no means exhaustive.

  • Put Bible verses in roman (plain) font. Do not italicize or bold them.
  • Some versions have italicized words in the text if you cut and paste the verses from an online source. Change these to the roman font.
  • Use italics to add emphasis only. Example: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16, emphasis added).
  • In the above, move the period to the end of the sentence, after the parentheses.
  • Verses should usually run in the body of the manuscript. There are two exceptions: the Psalms and poetic citations, which should keep the identical formatting of the Bible version; and block quotes, which are longer than 100 words and indented from the left margin. (Indenting from the right margin is optional. I usually don’t do this.)
  • Blockquotes do not need quotation marks at the beginning or end of the quote.
  • Do not bold or italicize the references. Leave them in roman font.
  • Per the publisher’s request, you cannot make global changes to the entire verse. In other words, you should not put the entire verse in bold or italics. If you want to do this, you need to ask permission from the publisher. The only exception would be for a version that is in the public domain.
  • Use en dashes — not hyphens or commas — to show a range of numbers in verses. Example: Romans 8:28–29. Not Romans 8:28, 29. Not Romans 8:28-29.

This post is by no exhaustive. Please reach out to me if you have further questions about this or any other editing topic.

Lisa Thompson, editor

 

Happy writing!

Lisa Thompson
http://www.writebylisa.com

Lisa has been writing since she could hold a pencil. She has a degree in elementary education and a minor in English. After working in retail, law enforcement, and education for years, she transitioned to writing and editing full-time in 2009. In her spare time, she likes to hang out with her sons and eat chips and salsa. When she can do both at the same time, she’s especially happy.

 

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Rolling Forward

By wordsmith Kathy Joy

A page from Simply Summer, a Breath of Joy

 

A quote is hanging in the office of a colleague at my place of work: a building that, due to circumstances, is currently inhabited by a small percentage of our workforce.

This common quote is something a wise driving coach or a life coach might say.

“Even though there are days I wish I could change some things that happened in the past, there’s a reason the rear view mirror is so small and the windshield is so big. Where you’re headed is much more important than what you’ve left behind.”

Anonymous

The majority of my workmates are putting in their time remotely, sometimes passing through the building briefly to touch base, retrieve something, or peer curiously back into a world we evacuated in 2020. The rearview mirror seems so small, but the effects of yesterday have changed our courses.

How prophetic, then, as we drive forward into an uncertain future, to think of the windshield as our point of reference: Where we are headed is far more important than what we’ve left behind. Even this gradual return to “normal” will not look like the “old normal” we once knew.

The band, Pearljam, made their song, Rearview Mirror, popular by not delicately expressing the problems with seeing something vividly once and then having a hard time letting it go in order to move ahead.

That rearview mirror? It’s a handy reference tool, and we can check to see who’s following us into the unknown.

  • Good company or bad, we can keep an eye on them.
  • Look through that big windshield for the great things that await.
  • We’re getting some new dreams and goals to replace the old.
  • Let’s hang on and enjoy the ride.

Finally, whatever regrets or chaos you’ve found in the rearview mirror holding your attention, or slowing you down … let that stuff go. Keep driving forward into the next Great Adventure.

A page from Simply Summer, a Breath of Joy
Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books

Kathy Joy writes daily for her local county government, is an experienced and popular radio DJ, and is also a guest blogger for Books For Bonding Hearts See more on her personal blog, Coffee with Kathy. She is available for speaking engagements and holiday events. Book Kathy Joy!

adaption, boys and men, featured, G.K. Johnson, GK Johnson, Israel, op-ed, simply summer, Summertime, The Zealots

Magdala By the Sea

By Historic Novelist, GK Johnson

A hiking trip through Israel was one of the inspirations for my debut novel, The Zealots, appearing on shelves in January of 2021.

I first saw this incredible painting when my husband and I visited the ancient town of Magdala located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The painting, named ‘The Encounter’, by Daniel Cariola, takes up an entire wall in the Duc in Altum spiritual center.

As I sat on the rough-hewn stone bench across from the larger-than-life depiction of a woman’s hand snaked through a maze of dusty, sandaled feet, (view link to The Encounter) I was transported to a time over two thousand years ago.

***

When the bleeding first began she didn’t worry. Like all women, her menses arrived regularly. As required by law she gathered up her mat, some clothes, water, and food and bade farewell to her husband and children.

Wedding Scene from The Zealots by G.K. Johnson

She walked outside the gates of Capernaum and joined the other women gathered in tents on the outskirts of the city. They shared this in common: they were all considered unclean so long as their menses continued. Once the bleeding stopped they would complete the ritual purification rites and rejoin their families in town. The women were far from bemoaning their temporary exile, however. In fact, they thanked Adonai for the respite from their daily responsibilities, enjoying the time of community, and the rest with the other women.

She anticipated returning to town after seven days, the normal duration of her cycle, the required time by law. When the bleeding did not cease after seven days she refused to worry. A woman’s body was an unpredictable thing. She would enjoy the extra day of rest and return home soon. After ten days she began to worry. Her young daughter brought more food and asked when she would return home. She tried to reassure her, “soon.” Surely the bleeding would stop tomorrow.

Another week passed and then another.

It became a singular torture to see the other women come and go back to their husbands, their children, their bodies dependable and self-healing. Her body, broken.

She cried out to Adonai to stop the flow of blood. Her husband and sons sent messages to her. They often stood at a distance from the tents, their conversation disjointed and awkward. She tried not to cry when her daughter visited. Was this curse to pass down to the little one? Each time her daughter visited, she seemed a little older for carrying the duties belonging to her mother at home, a little more resigned to the fact that her mother now lived outside the gates. Magdala not only experienced the physical cramping, but also the cramp of guilt, resignation, loss, humiliation.

Many nights the woman cried herself to sleep, craving her husband’s arms around her, longing to touch her sons’ faces.

Months passed, then years.

The woman’s daughter soon joined the women who came to the tent every few weeks, but empty years had untangled their ties as mother and daughter. The girl seemed guarded and withdrawn. Other women treated her like a leper. They worried the issue was a contagion. Shamed and confused, Magdala grieved her years. The bleeding was a thief! Every morning and evening she removed and replaced the bloody cloths that evidenced her required isolation.

Watching her numbness to the physical pain and a growing bitterness to the emotional pain that tore at his wife’s heart, her husband had commissioned many doctors to try to find a cure over the years. None had been successful.

Where was Adonai?

What had she done that she was being punished–as people insinuated?

One day a friend arrived in the tent bearing news of a traveling rabbi. The man spoke like no other teacher and healed the sick and lame. The woman begged those who came to the tent for news of the great rabbi. She sat enraptured, listening to the accounts. At night she dreamed that the rabbi came to the tent and healed her, but when she awoke she knew it was impossible. Those in the tent were unclean. No man would ever enter the tent.

It had been twelve years since the bleeding began.

Magdala had missed the marriages of her children.

She hadn’t been home to share in daily intimate conversations with her husband, or touch the softened wrinkles that time had worn in his face. She was in the tent when her daughter gave birth to her first child, and had listened, tears streaming down her face, as her daughters-in-law described her grandchildren. She had missed so much.

In that moment she wished the bleeding would consume her.

When she heard that the rabbi was in Capernaum that day, the woman made a decision.

It was unlawful for her, an unclean woman, to leave the tent. If she were discovered she would be publicly humiliated, punished, forced outside the city, and her actions would bring dishonor on her family. But she was desperate. Hadn’t all of these things already happened to her and to them? From what she had been told, large crowds followed the rabbi everywhere he went. If she could simply touch the hem of his garment, perhaps then her prayers would be noticed as the physical reality they were.

She crept from the tent and covered her head with her cloak. She kept her face to the ground and joined those entering the city, glancing up furtively every so often. Maybe she would be seen as a foreigner. No-one had seen her up close in years. She hurried to the hope of a savior.

It wasn’t difficult to find the rabbi as the streams of people surrounding her carried her to where he stood, surrounded by his disciples. She listened. He spoke with authority just as they said. But how was she to get close enough to touch him?

Years of pain and desperation had worn away her pride. She began pressing through the crowd, one hand grasping her shawl over her face, so that only her eyes were visible. If anyone discovered who she was she would be removed from the crowd, this she knew.

Perfumed people stood with sweaty. Thickly, their robes overwhelmed her. They complained and elbowed her as she pressed past them, hunched over against the pain. Soon she stood just the space of another person from the rabbi, but here the people jostled one another, each wanting to be as close to the man as possible.

She sank to her knees and crawled around the leather-thonged feet. A curse rang out above her. She was kicked and stepped on, but still, she reached forward, her eyes fixed on the white linen tunic only a couple of steps from her. Finally, she was close enough. She stretched desperately to touch the hem of his tunic.

A jolt of pain wrenched through her then left entirely.

She sank back on her heels and was knocked over by someone. She didn’t care about that. Delighted in the complete absence of cramps, she also realized that the helpless river was stopped. She was healed. She could feel it.

Tentatively she stood to her feet. Drops of sweat and dust rolled down her forehead and neck.

Her back hunched, a body instinctively trained from years of pain. Yet now she felt nothing, no spasms or pangs. She drew her shoulders back, forcing herself to stand tall. Still no pain. A sigh of relief slipped from behind lips still covered by her cloak. She had forgotten how it felt to be well.

As the wonder enveloped the town of Magdala, the Rabbi in the white tunic turned and looked straight at her.

“Who touched me?” He questioned, looking into her eyes.

One of his disciples gestured to the masses surrounding them, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

“Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out of me.” The Rabbi replied. His eyes continued to hold hers, and the woman began to tremble. She fell to her knees. Those surrounding her drew back, hundreds of eyes now looking at her and the Rabbi. Voices quieted.

“I…I’m sorry, Rabbi.” The woman pulled back the shawl covering her head and face and heard some around her voice their recognition.

“I have been bleeding…for years now. None were able to heal me. I have been separated from my family…” Salty tears ran down her cheeks; she could taste them. She glanced up and saw her husband’s astounded face in the crowd.

“I heard about you…about the miracles you do. I had to see if you could heal me. I touched your garment and immediately I felt the bleeding stop.”

Tears flowed down her husband’s face. The woman wanted to stand and throw herself into his arms, but she restrained herself. What was the Rabbi going to do now that he had singled her out of the healthy crowd?

She hadn’t sent him messages about healing her before touching his robe. She, an unclean woman, had touched a holy man against the law, and had she made him unclean? Would he withdraw the healing and demand punishment? Would he make her pay for her disobedience to the law?

Trembling, she waited. She looked up into the Rabbi’s face.

Rather than condemnation, she saw his kindness.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

The crowds around her surged back to life, surrounding her. She shakily made her stance and wiped the hair from her eyes. Though people studied her, curiously, no one laid hands on her. She was free to go.

She flinched when a hand landed firmly on her shoulder and turned. Her husband stood before her. Without waiting a moment longer she fell into his arms. The tears they shared were tears of wonder, victory in love, and peace.

The town recognized that this rabbi had singled her out and pronounced her healed. Yet surely he was more than an ordinary rabbi making pronouncements.

“Where is he? Please thank him!” She turned to locate the Rabbi again among the people, but he was already blocked from her view. Still no pain.

Ref: Luke 8:43-48 NLT

G.K. Johnson is the debut author of The Zealots, a story of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot, a story for boys and men. Johnson is a regular contributor to the Books For Bonding Hearts blog.

If you would like to read a pre-release copy of The Zealots, please subscribe today.

The Zealots, coming soon. For men and boys. Illustration and cover design by James Dawson.
About The Zealots by G.K. Johnson
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©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find several children’s books of high literary quality.

Advice, featured, op-ed, Tonya Jewel Blessing

Bottoms Up!

Tonya Jewel Blessing

Recently, I joined my family in tubing down the Tuscarawas River.

Everyone had a wonderful time, except for my great-nephew, a four-year-old. The six-hour adventure was too much for him. My peaceful day of sunshine, cool water, and a slight breeze also included Joey’s repeated interruptions and adamant cries, “Get me out of here!” The cutie even told me a few days later, “Aunt T, I hate tubing!”

At once point along the rolling river, I got stuck by the shallow bank among logs, rocks, and overhanging trees.

A helpful friend told me to lift my bottom and kick my legs.

Soothing Rain is a devotional written by Tonya Blessing and Sue Summers

It was good advice, and I was soon on my way.

In my Appalachian historical novel, The Melody of the Mulberries, the Spanish Flu makes an ugly appearance. The flu pandemic originally occurred between 1918 and 1920 and affected the lives of over 500 million people. My story is set during the late 1920s when there was a small resurgence of influenza. In this excerpt, the granny witch is dying. She has been a nemesis in teacher Ernest’s side, but he comes along to help her.

A mystery apprentice acts as a witness.

 He patted her hand and tried to soothe her, “Granny, I’m knowing you think that I don’t like you, but, in truth, I admire you,” Ernest began.
The weary woman opened her glassy eyes and immediately closed them again. The weight of her chin rested on her upper chest.“You’ve been strong in tough times. You’ve lived in the wilds and did your best to be helping others. Now, I am wanting to help you. I know you believe in God, but it’s important to believe that God sent His Son Jesus to save us. Your time on earth might be coming to an end. I’m gonna pray, and I’m wanting you to pray with me.”

            Ernest motioned for Minerva to join them. They made a hand circle. He closed his eyes and prayed a simple prayer. When he opened his eyes and looked at Granny, she had released Minerva’s hand. The wrinkled worn weathered hand was raised in the air like Granny was reaching for someone.

The Melody of the Mulberries

We are living in unusual times.

If we are not careful, we can easily become entangled along the bank, get stuck, and become immobile.  Granny lifted her hand reaching for God. We can also lift our hands reaching out for hope and the love of a Savior.

Published Works (Available on Amazon)

Tonya Jewel Blessing writes and speaks in many types of venues in America, Africa, and Asia
https://www.tonyajewelblessing.com/
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breath of joy, featured, inspirational, Kathy Joy, op-ed, Pennsylvania author, poetic

RAIN-WASHED AIR

By Award-winning Author, Kathy Joy

Don’t you just love the smell of rain?

Rain when it’s being held in the air – that pungent whiff of earth and sky mingled.

Rain after it has drenched the ground and started laughing rivulets in drain pipes, streams and driveways.

Rain as it pulls itself upward, trailing the skies to the next cloudburst party.

Rain in all its delirious, delightful forms: sprinkles, dribbles, droplets, exclamation points, sloppy blobs of hydration on our faces, our skin, our grateful noggins.

Rain.

Simply Summer Breath of Joy


After a pretty nice stretch of sunny days, we got some rain this week.

I did a Google search on the smell of rain, and it turns out the scent that fills the air before a rainfall is called “petrichor”.

This distinct smell, petrichor, is described as earthy, musky and fresh, and tends to be stronger after a lengthy period of no rainfall.

The storm’s downdrafts carry the smell from high altitudes to nose level.

Isn’t that great?!

Rain-washed air is delivered from the heights,

down
down
down

to your nose – a fresh and fragrant party for your olfactory nerves.



“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”

(Ashley Smith)
Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books

This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com/shop/gifts, timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see my seasonal books, the “Breath of Joy! series. Breath of Joy! Simply Summer is a favorite lounge & browse this time of year.

Book her! KATHY JOY’s topics and presentation style invoke deeply human responses and life-changing behaviors.

Book Blurbs, boys and men, Kathy Joy, labor day, op-ed, uncertainty

Everything is Muted

By Kathy Joy

Voices push through paper or cloth and emerge muffled.
Smiles are imagined, not seen.

Wither Baseball? 2020

Playgrounds are eerily quiet. There should be dust and laughter; airborne shrieks and the proper “thunk” of a glove-caught baseball.

In our town, the 4th of July was an oddly packaged holiday of caution – an empty parade with echoes of marching bands past. The hollow day was punctuated later with endless fireworks, a continuous loop of virtually EVERY summer night in our town. So, with Labor Day? Who can tell?

Simply Summer: Breath of Joy

Malls have fiber-boards for windows, and parking lots are nearly empty.

Stores that are open are not letting us zig-zag willy-nilly through the aisles; we have to watch for arrows and other masked shoppers, stepping up to the cashier only when we are told.

Shopping is exhausting. Many are opting for curbside pickup or Instacart.

Everything
is
muted.

While walking and longing for something cheerful to cut through life’s masks, I heard the sound of a baby’s laughter.

What is it about a child’s laugher? It’s a wonderful mystery, that unhindered joy that jiggles up from the belly and fills the air with ripples of watery music.

That baby in her new swing.

The baby stretched her bare feet into the sky and giggled clear up to the full moon.

Her experience of flying for the very first time sent trills of laughter into the evening air.

I looked around at the grownups and I swear we all looked a good deal younger. A trick of twilight softened our features and made us all wood nymphs for one moment.

Pine trees hovered over us, benevolent silhouettes bending into our joy.
Fireflies came out to light up the party.

This, I thought… this moment, this child, these loved ones gathered – will cut through our masked passages and give us wings for the journey ahead.

A page from Ah, Autumn – Breath of Joy
Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books

Kathy Joy writes for her company’s Lunchtime Jabs, and for Coffee With Kathy, her personal blog, and for Books for Bonding Hearts. She is the author of the greeting card coffee table series, Breath of Joy: Simply Summer, Ah, Autumn, Winter Whispers and Singing Spring (All available on Amazon).\

http://www.booksforbondinghearts.com


Author tools and hacks, captive audiences, kingdom ethics, musicians, op-ed

A Kingdom Perspective on Treating Your Musicians, Writers, and Artists

By Laura Bartnick

Maybe I’m exposing a dirty little secret known only to musicians, writers, and artists, and those who use them, but here it is. The artistic segment of the population has historically struggled with penury, personal poverty which subsequently makes them financially unstable enough to support a spouse, let alone a family. Out of this turbulence, a variety of perversions and imbalances in lives may occur.

There was a time when the law forbade marriage, even for a well-respected musician, when a musician could not account for the funds he would need to keep a wife and a family. In 1814, Schubert, an Austrian composer, met a young soprano named Therese Grob, daughter of a local silk manufacturer, and wrote several of his liturgical works (including a “Salve Regina” and a “Tantum Ergo”) for her; she was also a soloist in the premiere of his Mass No. 1 (D. 105) in September 1814. Schubert wanted to marry her but was hindered by the harsh marriage-consent law of 1815 requiring an aspiring bridegroom to show he had the means to support a family. Although this year for Schubert was most prolific in his compositions, it proved disastrous to his health because he began to womanize with a variety of women. In November 1816, after failing to gain a musical post in Laibach (now Ljubljana, Slovenia), Schubert sent Grob’s brother Heinrich a collection of songs retained by the family into the twentieth century.

You can also learn about the inability of Haydn, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, and even Wagner to be allowed to marry.

A contemporary list of articles on the subject of the risks of marrying a musician appears in Google. Perhaps, this is why, in 1998, Rita Steblin published her research promoting the general underwriting of arts scholarships, “In Defense of Scholarship and Archival Research: Why Schubert’s Brothers Were Allowed to Marry”. Current Musicology. 62: 7–17.

Maybe it was derived from one or more of the ten commandments, i.e., the seventh commandment, “You shall not steal”, or the 5/6th commandment, “Don’t commit murder (Exodus 20:13), the Psalmist, King David believed, “Don’t make your living by oppression, extortion, or put your hope in stealing,” (Psalm 62:10a). In fact, both King David and King Solomon instituted and adhered to a sacred law whereby the priests, musicians, and gatekeepers were to be paid “in produce, firstfruits, contributions, and tithes” in Israel and Judah. This fact is encoded by connotation or application of the culture and kingdom’s commands according to the records of Nehemiah 12:44-47.

For the musicians, the reason for coding their support into law was because, “there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.”

David gave his musicians duties, recorded in 1 Chronicles, chapter 25.

Following, David, and honoring his father’s intentions and walk with the Lord, King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived also provided God’s people professional musicians. “According to music historian Abraham Schwadron, ‘probably the most important musical contribution of the ancient Hebrews was the elevation of the status of liturgical music in union with ritual ceremonies.’ He notes the “high degree of musico-liturgical organization” from the descriptive accounts of King Solomon’s Temple, such as the 24 choral groups consisting of 288 musicians which took part in 21 weekly services.

There is a rich Biblical history of musicians and creatives in service to God’s people. Even musical instruments were carved and professionally designed.

Do you have a director of music in you place of worship who leads a choir or a band? Do you believe that great music takes skill, training, and practice to achieve a high result of quality praise music and songs of thanksgiving? Let’s talk about this, then.

Statistically, artists and musicians, the creatives in your church left to their creative means, are probably among the poorest of the poor, and yet it is they who provide you the highest experience of your faith connection with God? Most likely, the pastors and maintenance keepers of your church facility are paid a living.

When inventoried, it becomes clear, many musicians are asked to offer their music as a gift to the church, rather than offering them a living for the work they do for the benefit of the church’s spiritual well-being.

Often, this arrangement seems to work because:

a) the church may be a startup, and no-one is fully paid;

b) musicians feel it is an honor and are happy to use their free time to practice worship songs, after all, practicing benefits their own spiritual depth and musical skill. Practicing music can also be a bit like practicing romance. It just feels rewarding;

c) music with which to familiarize an audience is readily available on national Christian broadcasting and radio to copy making it easy to copy by ear.

Let’s Break this Down.

a) When the pastor begins to be paid in a startup, is there a leadership view to budget also for a music director, and then for the select musicians themselves? Why or why not?
b) is it an inequality or abuse of the person filling a needed job in a church body to require a highly talented and skilled musician to volunteer for ministry while the pastor and the maintenance keepers are paid?
c) because popular Christian musicians must tour to earn a living, when they can no longer tour or they lose a contract due to a crises or lack of new stylistic music, the best musicians often experience financial crises themselves. They must be sidelined in favor of the next upcoming styles, and the old is passed over.

Equipping These Saints

I’d like to delve a bit deeper into the extensive problems of passing over spiritually skilled and gifted musicians according to fads rather than choosing to equip these saints:

1) if the national church is sidelining nationally touring ministers of the gospel without providing for a retirement as anyone else is provided for in any other occupation in society. How are they supposed to survive? Do they get bitter at the church? Are they able to teach or train others after their popularity has waned? Are they able to play their songs in smaller venues or in missions or camps? Do they get jobs in circuses and entertainment establishments or bars? (You would be surprised at which of your heroic troubadours have ended their ministry careers this way).

2) if local churches have local cultures and local musical styles and local spiritual needs, these may be wasted or obviated in favor of nationally acclaimed styles and songs. But, nationally acclaimed stylistic musicians do not always meet these needs. Local churches may want to keep hymns, or psalm singing, eventide and morning song, and chants as part of their worship services. Others prefer city jazz, hard rock, early singspiration songs, cowboy songs, soul or rap singing in their worship experience. Some churches seek out lyrics for lament and others for complementing the sermons which the pastor or elder team deem particularly in need for their congregation’s benefit. There are those who also pick music based on what will build an audience most efficiently.

3) if there is a talented and skilled local musician who loves the Lord who writes lyrics like a nationally acclaimed musician, does he or she have to go to Nashville or California to become famous before a church will take them seriously? Maybe there is a musician locally who can notate cantata arrangements, even a new wave of Haydn, Scarlotti, Rossi oratorios, or new classics such as the roles Handel played as the director of music to the Duke of Chandosor, or Bach played in their local societies. Please pardon my escape into actual local phenomenons in musical history below for examples.

Bach “wrote many church cantatas and some of his best compositions for the organ while working for the Duke Johann Ernst III in Weimar. During his time at Weimar, Bach wrote ‘Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,’ one of his most popular pieces for the organ. He also composed the cantata “Herz und Mund und Tat,” or Heart and Mouth and Deed.”

I am reminded of the 2nd Chapter of Acts sibling trio, Annie Herring, Nelly Greisen, and Matthew Ward, in this statement about Johann Sabastian Bach. After being orphaned at age 10, Bach lived for five years with his eldest brother Johann Christoph.

Bach was appointed court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst III in Weimar. His role there is unclear, but it probably also included menial, non-musical duties. During his seven-month tenure at Weimar, his reputation as a keyboardist spread so much that he was invited to inspect the new organ and give the inaugural recital at the New Church (now Bach Church) in Arnstadt, located about 30 kilometres (19 mi) southwest of Weimar.[25] In August 1703, he became the organist at the New Church,[26] with light duties, a relatively generous salary, and a new organ tuned in a temperament that allowed music written in a wider range of keys to be played.”
From 1723 Bach was employed as Thomaskantor (cantor at St. Thomas) in Leipzig. He composed music for the principal Lutheran churches of the city, and for its university’s student ensemble Collegium Musicum. From 1726 he published some of his keyboard and organ music. In Leipzig, as had happened during some of his earlier positions, he had difficult relations with his employer, a situation that was little remedied when he was granted the title of court composer by his sovereign, Augustus, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, in 1736.

4) Teamwork, as the members of the 2nd Chapter of Acts in the Jesus Music era also discovered, is worth the value in developing for ongoing ministerial success. Wikipedia records that Handel’s Messiah was a phenomenon rooted in teamwork, that,

In 1735 Handel received the text for a new oratorio named Saul from its (vocal musician and lyricist) librettist Charles Jennens, a wealthy landowner with musical and literary interests.” The text also came in part from the English Book of Common Prayer taken from the Psalms. “Because Handel’s main creative concern was still with opera, he did not write the music for Saul until 1738, in preparation for his 1738–39 theatrical season. […] “Handel’s reputation in England, where he had lived since 1712, had been established through his compositions of Italian opera. He turned to English oratorio in the 1730s in response to changes in public taste; Messiah was his sixth work in this genre. Although its structure resembles that of opera, it is not in dramatic (theatrical) form; there are no impersonations of characters and no direct speech. Instead, Jennens’s text is an extended reflection on Jesus as the Messiah called Christ. The text begins in Part I with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only “scene” taken from the Gospels. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus. In Part III he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven. […] In July 1741 Jennens sent him a new libretto for an oratorio; in a letter dated 10 July to his friend Edward Holdsworth, Jennens wrote: “I hope [Handel] will lay out his whole Genius & Skill upon it, that the Composition may excell all his former Compositions, as the Subject excells every other subject. The Subject is Messiah“.”

Composition

Did you know, “the music for Messiah was completed in 24 days of swift composition?

Having received Jennens’s text some time after 10 July 1741, Handel began work on it on 22 August. His records show that he had completed Part I in outline by 28 August, Part II by 6 September and Part III by 12 September, followed by two days of “filling up” to produce the finished work on 14 September. This rapid pace was seen by Jennens not as a sign of ecstatic energy but rather as “careless neglicence”, and the relations between the two men would remain strained, since Jennens “urged Handel to make improvements” while the composer stubbornly refused.[25] The autograph score’s 259 pages show some signs of haste such as blots, scratchings-out, unfilled bars and other uncorrected errors, but according to the music scholar Richard Luckett the number of errors is remarkably small in a document of this length.[26] The original manuscript for Messiah is now held in the British Library’s music collection.[27] It is scored for 2 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, and basso continuo.

At the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters “SDG”—Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory”. This inscription, taken with the speed of composition, has encouraged belief in the apocryphal story that Handel wrote the music in a fervour of divine inspiration in which, as he wrote the “Hallelujah” chorus, “he saw all heaven before him”.

5) The Bible asks for the equipping of the saints in the course of Church ministry.

While in Lüneburg, Bach had access to St. John’s Church and possibly used the church’s famous organ from 1553, since it was played by his organ teacher Georg Böhm.[20] Because of his musical talent, Bach had significant contact with Böhm while a student in Lüneburg, and he also took trips to nearby Hamburg where he observed “the great North German organist Johann Adam Reincken”.[20][21] Stauffer reports the discovery in 2005 of the organ tablatures that Bach wrote, while still in his teens, of works by Reincken and Dieterich Buxtehude, showing “a disciplined, methodical, well-trained teenager deeply committed to learning his craft”.

Actionable Questions

Does knowing this change your perspective on how your own church musicians or nationally acclaimed musicians should be provided for? What particularly became real for you reading this article? Will you share it or assert an opinion on this where it might matter?

Continue reading more about this subject in the book, Welcome to the Shivoo: Creatives Mimicking the Creator by Laura Bartnick (Amazon Prime).

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Author tools and hacks, book excerpt, featured, improvisation, Laura Bartnick, op-ed

EMBRACING IMPERFECTIONS IN OUR STORY

By Laura Bartnick

“Improvisation. That’s why we call creativity art, isn’t it?

I’m an author and also an author coach. Part of what I do is help an author grow personally in order to deepen the author’s storyline or character drawn inside the pages of their manuscript.

We writers embrace imperfections in our written characters’ thought patterns or behaviors so that the story can twist and turn just as much as real life does.

Like jazz, the development of a good story means the endings are kept strategically hidden in misunderstandings, physical barriers, or something in the past. I’ve discovered a group, Teaching Tolerance, which has developed a test for discovering anyone’s own historical or cultural bias, implicit bias. You can see here how you might use a character’s natural bias to direct his or her communications or meditation or self-talk.

Proverbs 20:5 alludes that the purposes of a heart run like deep waters, but someone with insight can draw them out. What is your character’s point of view?

Can a writer love the antagonist?A writer should learn to love the enemy of the protagonist. Did Jesus love Judas Iscariot? How could He?

Learning about your antagonist’s unique place of belonging or setting helps you shape his or her believable thoughts, recognizable appearances or dialogue with the accompanying accents and activities that would be true to the character.

From an unlikely source or through an accident that turns out well, insight emerges. Imperfections make your characters relatable. They string you along. When you love them through their story, you emulate God’s love for our imperfect selves born into an imperfect world.

Even settings can wrestle for hope.

Developing a setting can help hide or reveal your plot or your characters. The light we cast onto the flaws of our story characters is an act of kindness, though sometimes it is severe mercy.

Did Hagar run to the desert to escape, only to be visited by the God of her hated mistress, Sarah? “I see you,” God said. “Eat. Drink,” and, “Go back to your hated mistress. I have a plan for you. Your own son will make a great nation because I have ordained it.” “Me?” Hagar said. “Yes, Hagar, I see your need and your mistreatment. Yes, you,” God said. So, Hagar dragged herself back to Abraham and Sarah. In faith. And, God blessed her walk of faith.

When you draw on your own experience with fear or temptations, or from experiences of those close to you, you will understand that it is not impossible for the antagonist to be redeemed. If you determine to defeat the antagonist when thwarting the antagonist’s purposes, you must feel that grief. It was written that Jesus loved the rich, young ruler who turned away.

Imagine a master chef who creates a gourmet menu for a special entourage. She selects the best cuts of meat, the freshest organic grains to grind, the salad and herbs from her garden, and the cream from her cow. Someone sells her a tropical fruit, unknown to her, promising it will provide the hit. She shreds the fruit and tops the salad with it, only to discover that the fruit is poison.

“But everything I used was of the finest quality,” she argues to the police.

“Everything except that shred of poison you added.”

Use a shock point to hook the reader into how or why the poison was added, and by whom.

Empathetically draw the audience into the truth but do not dilute consequences. Make them meaningful.

A writer can find the image of God originally shaped in the arch-type enemy. This, a starting point for where a character departs, helps the writer make choices for the character. A writer can have the character diverge from her image of origin and from her calling by refusing to be rescued. When you know your bad character’s history and psyche, you will draw her story accurately.”

This excerpt is from Chapter 3, pages 65-67, Welcome to the Shivoo! (Bartnick)

Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of Welcome to the Shivoo! a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s great party.
Author tools and hacks, featured, How To, Mystery Writing, op-ed

HOW I WRITE A MYSTERY NOVEL

By Author Judy Moore

There’s nothing like a good mystery to give some excitement to your day, make you forget your troubles, and stimulate your brain cells.

I like a mystery that will keep you reading into the night.

When I write a mystery, I want to be sure that it’s entertaining, that it doesn’t waste the reader’s time, and that it doesn’t cheat the reader. I want the people who read my books to go away feeling satisfied, the way you feel when you’ve placed that last piece into a jigsaw puzzle or filled in the last clue in a crossword. Learning that I’d disappointed a reader would be the worst feeling I could experience as a writer.

When I write a mystery, I first visualize a plotline that I think will hold high interest to a great many mystery fans. I want the story to take place in a world that most people can identify with, or that they have a curiosity about:

• A young woman moves into her murdered aunt’s house and begins to suspect her neighbors

• Ungrateful children learn their mother is donating her wealth to charity
• A teenage girl is found dead at an exclusive country club
• A tourist is killed after a famous author’s book signing
• A new bride must live with an intimidating mother-in-law

I’m sure every mystery author approaches writing differently, but I know from the start who the victim is, who the killer is, and the all-important “why.” I don’t outline as many writers do. I just start writing and let the characters develop their own personalities, and then guide the plot through twists and turns as the storyline evolves. Along the way, I like to have six or seven suspects, each with a plausible motive for why they might want the victim dead. I try to hide the real motive of the actual killer but drop a few subtle clues along the way that a close reader might pick up on.

Having read and watched so many mysteries during my life—my favorite way to relax—I’ve determined there are about a half-dozen reasons someone might decide to commit murder. Greed. Jealousy. Anger. Revenge. Hatred. Or, often, to keep an indiscretion or criminal act from coming to light. Accidental death is also a possibility. I’ve used most of these as a motive in my mysteries and others as red herrings for potential motivations of other suspects.

The first key to writing a good mystery is to have a good beginning, to grab the reader’s attention immediately and then hold on to it. How many books are put down because the first page isn’t interesting? Being a former journalist, I’ve always gone by the mantra that the lead is everything. If not the first sentence, then at least the first page. My favorite beginning to one of my mysteries is from Murder in Vail: “It was Christmas, so Sally had to see her children. And worse, their dreadful spouses.”

Personally, I like to build up to the murder, to really get into the relationships and motivations of the characters before the actual death occurs. I think it makes the reader care more about the victim, as well as the potential suspects. Nowadays, though, some readers can be so antsy. They want that murder right away. So, sometimes, at or near the beginning, mystery writers will make some kind of allusion to or foreshadowing of the havoc to come to keep impatient readers reading as the story is developed.

It’s best to stay focused on the mystery plotline to keep that attention you grabbed hold of on your first page. Not everyone agrees, but I like to end each chapter with a question or a little mystery of its own to keep the reader from putting the book down. It’s tempting to veer off at times into too much description of settings or landscapes, but today’s reader doesn’t have a whole lot of patience for long-winded descriptions that bog down the plot. Another maxim I learned in journalism school that I follow, though some don’t agree, is “Write for the reader, not for yourself.” To me, that means not trying to impress readers with the depth of your vocabulary or the lilt of your phrasing. Big words and too many adjectives have lost many a reader.

Most of my books are set in Florida, where I’ve always lived.

Sometimes, I just can’t resist writing about the beauty of the ocean, the texture of the sand, or the loggerhead turtles, manatees, egrets, and other wildlife in the state. While creating a world for the reader to picture is essential, it can be done as part of the plotline, while moving characters from place to place, rather than paragraph after paragraph of description.

Each character should have definite personality characteristics that aren’t stereotyped. They each should be realistic individuals with some positive and some negative traits. You don’t want characters who are all good or all bad—even the killer might have a good trait or two. Quirky characters are always fun, and I try to include at least one in every book I write. They can be a good source of humor to balance darker content.

When characters speak, it’s essential that what they say reflect their individual personalities. What they say has to be completely natural. I put myself in the character’s head and ask, “What would this person really say?” Quotes shouldn’t be used only to advance the plot, though, of course, some quotes do. There’s nothing worse than long paragraphs of quoted material that could be spoken by anyone and are obviously just pushing along the plot. Another journalistic truism, “Only use quotes if you can’t say it better yourself.” Quotes should be succinct and interesting. What each person says should bounce off what another character says. Conversations need to snap. Boring conversation is a major yawn and will quickly sink a book.

In a mystery, the key to moving the plot forward is to maneuver the reader away from the actual villain by placing suspicion on other characters and throwing in a red herring or two. This is the most challenging part of writing a mystery, and it has to be handled delicately. You don’t want someone who’s not guilty to look too guilty early on, or a seasoned mystery fan will immediately throw that suspect out of contention. You also don’t want to cheat the reader. The murder and the murderer have to make sense when all is said and done. The killer can’t just be pulled out of thin air.

To keep interest high as the sleuth or the police work to solve the crime, it’s not a bad idea to have another murder or attempted murder. Near the end, another possibility is to start heaping suspicion on one likely suspect and then to pull the rug out from under the reader to reveal the real killer.

I like to have a big climactic scene in my mysteries with the killer chasing or attacking the protagonist. I like my stories to end with a bang, not a fizzle, so my readers won’t feel let down. The killer doesn’t always have to be caught, and the leading characters don’t always have to survive. I have to admit, though, in one of my books I really wanted the evil-doer to get away with it and the innocent protagonist to go to jail. But I changed the ending when a picture entered my mind of an angry reader throwing the book against the wall. I think there would have been a lot of book throwing had I gone with that ending.

And, although many writers wouldn’t agree, I like to end my stories with a nice bow on top, wrapping up each of the characters’ storylines. Some of that wrapping might be black and funereal, but I like to answer all the unanswered questions a reader might have about the future of the characters.

I really do want the people who read my books to be happy and satisfied. But first and foremost, I want them to be challenged—and hopefully fooled.

Judy Moore’s new cozy mystery is A Book Signing to Die For. To read another of Judy Moore’s mysteries, pick out one here.

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featured, justice, marketplace, op-ed, scales, Tonya Jewel Blessing

Sacred Scales

By Appalachian Novelist, Tonya Jewel Blessing

Has the opinion of someone else unbalanced your properly scaled life? Have you read something untrue or viewed an article or post on the internet that unbalanced your scale?

In my early thirties, I had a part-time clerical job at a science lab in Lakewood, Colorado. During an extremely busy time at the lab, my job position was reassigned to include weighing extremely thin, white, circular filters on a scale.

The filters were about an inch in diameter. They were to be weighed by me, distributed to a specific client, used in some type of filtration system, and then re-weighed to determine pollutants.

After every tenth calculation, the scale was recalibrated to insure accuracy continued. Accuracy was extremely important. The samples and recorded weights were also spot-checked by another employee.

Scales have been used in market trade for ages.

Although scales were documented as useful as early as 500 B.C. in Rome, unjust weight was considered a means of cheating a customer in all countries, and it still is. But an unjust weight can work in the reverse to harm the seller as well if the weight slides out of balance in the other direction. There are numerous references to these types of scales in the biblical book of Proverbs.

Traditionally scales (specifically a two-pan, beam balance) are a symbol of justice. The equipment presents a metaphor about the issues of life being “held in balance.”

IMBALANCED OPINIONS AND FALSE INFORMATION

In an election year, my thoughts and personal opinions, if not submitted to fact checks and used for appropriate purposes, can be an issue as much as any other’s false news. I don’t want to skew the truth. Allowing an imbalance of any kind can have far-reaching effects.

During my devotions recently, I was thinking about how scales become unbalanced. Only God is truly just, and only He can keep our lives in balance. My life scale becomes inaccurate when I allow the opinions of others to overshadow the truth of God. It also loses accuracy when other outside influences are valued by me more than they should be permitted.

It is important to God that scales are balanced. When things are weighed, the standards and scales must be accurate for all.

BALANCING PERSONAL TIME

Personal time is an area of struggle for me. How do I balance time spent in different ways in my life?

How do you spend your time? Have you ever written down the things you do during the day, like a timekeeper must do to invoice clients for personal time clocked on their behalf? Listing your day’s activities for a time is a good way to inventory how you are really spending your minutes and hours. Here is an online timer you can easily use.

Are you being pressured by others, or feel that your life is becoming unfamiliar? Or is it in balance with what the Lord has asked of you personally?

How about your own thoughts? Is there anything that you have embraced or welcomed into your life that has diminished the truth of God? Maybe someone or something is pushing extra weight onto your scale to produce a false reading.

The LORD hates false scales, but he delights in accurate weights.

Proverbs 11:1 ISV

Tonya Jewel Blessing writes about redeeming injustice not only in her Appalachian historical series, Big Creek, but she also writes devotional pieces for groups of leaders who mentor others. Her book, Soothing Rain, is a 52-week devotional resource for women, especially, seeking to offer food for thought and conversation starters for groups. Book Tonya now for your next speaker event.

@Tonya_Jewel
Soothing Rain is a devotional written by Tonya Blessing and Sue Summers
Conversation starter. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/828380925202409883/
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Coronavirus, featured, op-ed, Speak Wonder, Welcome to the Shivoo

Primal Scream Therapy

By Breath of Joy author, Kathy Joy

According to CNN, “A theme park in Fujiyoshida, Japan, is banning screaming on its roller coasters to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and instead is urging customers to “scream in their hearts.”

The reasoning behind this is because research indicates droplets are released during screaming.

They have also launched a social media campaign called “Keep a Serious Face” to try to get people to play along. So I guess a lot of this is tongue-in-cheek humor — literally.

Not sure how you would handle this new rule, but I’m 100% sure I could not ride a roller coaster and not scream. Imagine reading a sign like this at Waldameer:

WHILE RIDING THE RAVINE FLYER II, IT IS REQUIRED THAT YOU NOT SCREAM OUT LOUD. INSTEAD WE ASK THAT YOU SCREAM ONLY IN YOUR HEART. VIOLATORS WILL BE REMOVED FROM THE PARK IN THE INTEREST OF KEEPING OUR PATRONS SAFE FROM POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS WATER DROPLETS.

Thank you, Japan, for the warnings.

Screaming is the human go-to in times of pure terror. I’m pretty sure that’s why God installed the screaming mechanism in the Body Human. I found through the Washington Post, the dynamics of being flung into hysteria by a roller coaster.

Why We Scream

  1. The G-force pulls your cheeks toward your ears and pushes you back in your seat; your face feels like it is sliding backward.
  2. Being upside down at a ridiculous acceleration…is scream-worthy.
  3. Your spleen is in your throat: As you crest a hill and the car starts to plummet, you feel as if your stomach and spleen might fly out of your seat.
  4. Coaster designers love to upend your innards.
  5. Fear + Adrenaline = SCREAMING OUT LOUD. (see more)

I was newly a widow when a close-knit cluster of friends insisted I go with them for a day of adventure.

a page from Breath of Joy: Simply Summer

Of course, I didn’t want to go. They had to drag me – and my attitude – to a scenic park where much-needed therapy awaited.

Among the many things that the group did for me that day, I think my favorite was the moment the car stopped at the edge of a thickly wooded area.

We got out of the car and the pack leader announced, “We are all going to scream. Scream as loud as you can! This is Primal Scream Therapy!”

I let out a primal scream; it erupted, lava and fury, from the depths of my stomach.
It wasn’t weird.

Surrounded by caring souls, I released my raggedy-edged grief into the generous arms of hemlocks and sugar maples, pines and oaks. The old-growth forest, called “Heart’s Content”, absorbed our combined screams and told no one.
In that moment, it was the safest place on earth.

Screams are for:
Death and delight
Anger and amazement
Warnings and homecomings
Plummeting down and rising back up, victorious and brave.

Aren’t you glad that here in the good old USA, you are not required to “scream in your heart” at amusement parks? Muffled, maybe by masks, but otherwise, we’re living!

We truly hope America keeps screaming on the way down. After all, it’s therapeutic.

Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books


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boys and men, captive audiences, Faith, featured, G.K. Johnson, history, Israel, mikvah, op-ed, The Zealots

What’s a Whitewashed Tomb?

By Historic Novelist, GK Johnson

There’s a tree outside my office window that is currently blooming, tufts of life springing from the branches, evidence of spring approaching. Last summer a friend of ours, a landscaper, was at our house and pointed to this same tree.
“That tree’s dying,” he said matter-of-factly.

I was so bummed out! I love trees, especially living in the climate in which we do, where their shade shields us from the hot summer sun. Looking at the tree right now it seems healthy, but on a deeper level, it’s dying from the inside out. It took a warning from our friend, a professional, to know what’s coming.

It is recorded in Matthew 23, that Jesus talks about behavior that looks great from the outside but is filthy inside.

STRONG LANGUAGE

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look immaculate on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything decaying and unclean. In the same way, on the outside, you appear to people as good and helpful but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Pretty strong language! The Pharisees were well-respected by the Jewish people and were considered to be examples of righteousness. Jesus himself was a Pharisee, but he was far different from them. While most Pharisees enforced and created additional laws for the people to follow, Jesus demonstrated grace toward the people and removed the crushing burden of the law from their backs. The people loved him for this, while the other Pharisees hated him for shining a light on their hypocrisy. So it’s easy to see why the verses above would anger them even more.

If you’re like me, you may wonder at the significance of whitewashed tombs.

We’ve recently experienced mandatory times of quarantine because of a deadly virus, so we understand what it would mean for one person to have to sequester himself or herself away from the normal goings-on around town and home. No fun! What a shame to miss out, right? And, what a bigger shame to know that because you were involved with friends and family after being contaminated, you may be the cause of their illness or death, right?

Arena-death-scene Sketch by James Dawson

Because it is natural that people do not want to be left out of parties and normal gatherings, the law is required to step in and make demands on individual behaviors.

According to Jewish law, any person who came in contact with a dead body, whether it be actually touching the deceased person or simply the grave with a dead body sealed inside, this brush with death and contagion made the person involved “unclean” for a time and required him or her to undergo a period of separation and cleansing for seven days. This was the law commanded by God thousands of years prior for the Hebrew’s protection from disease.

In order to mitigate this risk, the Pharisees had come up with a plan.

Prior to Jewish festivals that drew thousands of Jews to Jerusalem, the Pharisees commissioned the whitewashing of all tombs. This way no one would accidentally touch a tomb and miss out on the festival due to the cleansing period of seven days. Jesus was saying that the Pharisees looked great on the outside, but inside they were unclean and those who followed them were touching death without even knowing it.

Yeshua heals the Leper in GK Johnson’s The Zealots,
by James Dawson, artist

Jesus’ intense words challenge me to look at the condition of my heart. Jesus has the power of life over death. He arose from His own tomb and offers this same life-transforming power to our own grave actions and attitudes. No-one else has that power, not even doctors, researchers, or nurses. Their skills too, rely on the Creator-Savior for a cure.

How do my outer actions compare to my inner motives?

I am helpless without the mercy and power of Jesus to forgive me for the times I focus my attention on looking good on the outside, rather than bringing my broken and sinful heart into His presence in honesty so that He can heal me.

GK Johnson’s debut historic novel featuring the lives of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot is scheduled to appear on or about January 1, 2021. Watch for it.

The Zealots cover sketch by James Dawson

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captive audiences, Charmayne Hafen, Cyndi Kay, featured, Friendship, op-ed

Friends, Young and Old

By Cyndi Kay

“Thank you for being a friend” plays out as the hit TV show Golden Girls rolls the cast in the opening scenes of every episode. As we know, a friendship of the sticking kind, the deep-understanding-about-life-events kind, is not always an easy achievement. These four ladies give us hope that even in old age, we can have a best friend.

TOUGHEST FEAT OF CHILDHOOD

Book cover Return to Twilight
Sam teaches Lorna what a friend looks like.

Finding and making friends as a child has always been one of the toughest feats that we face in our lifetime. We try at an early age to find someone who we can connect to and spend time with as we go through a time when we are only concerned with what fun can we have today.

Little do we know that when we finish school, these friends will change. Honestly, it’s a rare treat if you make friends in grade school and continue that friendship into the awkward junior high years and throughout high school. We change so much as we go through puberty.

Becoming young adults together is to create a trail of breadcrumbs: into the house of post-graduation, careers, and new ties we go, building new tribes.

TWILIGHT is a modern-Celtic story where a bicycle challenge transfers children into the Land of Twilight. For third-grade — sixth-grade kids.
Big Problem, by Brianna Osaseri, illustrator

It is the trail in which we individually answer life’s choices and dilemmas, those choices will form our futures and often depreciate our past relationships, innocence, and values. So, it’s only natural that our friends change; yet there are instances when some of us maintain that first friendship from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation and beyond. Such as that of Monica and Rachel who end up living life together and being there for each other through thick and thin.

Do you have one friend whom you’ve held onto for years?

Although they were fictional characters, Lucy and Ethel always showed us how friendships should navigate life. Always getting each other into a compromising position, these two remained friends regardless of what they went through. I remember a time when a good friend had encouraged me to go with her to a gathering at a mutual friend’s house. As neither of us wanted to drive, we grabbed a ride with our friend and set out to have a great evening. However, that is not how the night turned out. Our mutual friend received a call and left, stating he would be back in about 20 minutes. Well, 2 hours later, we were walking home as I was trying to contact someone to come and get us. Thankfully, one of my other close friends was available and came to get us so we didn’t have to walk 12 miles. I learned then that friends sometimes do not have the best advice.

A DEEPER PURPOSE FOR FRIENDSHIP

Friendship and loyalty aren’t always about the fun; most of the time, the courage gained from our friends’ opinions or stature is what helps us face the hard times. When a person feels as though they have no one else to help them navigate hurt and pain, a friend is the one person they count on.

There can come a time when we lose the closeness of our friend. Because as humans, we change. When our lives change, so do the people we see daily. Things that were once important to us as friends are no longer the things that connect us as best buddies. So, there we are, doing life without the one person we thought would never leave our side.

On a good note, there will be a day we meet a new person, and soon find that person is our person. The only who truly gets us and what we have been through. We identify with our new friend because both of us have experienced many of the same things in life or because we have developed a relationship due to work. Much like Meredith Gray and Cristina Yang. They have portrayed the classic adult scenario of best friends, there for each other regardless of what they are dealing with individually. These two women taught us what it meant to be someone’s person.

What if the reason we truly understand the way our new friend feels is because the loss or pain we each feel individually is related? What if the very thing that caused one of us pain is also the reason the other one has pain.

This is exactly what happens in the latest book that I have read and highly recommend for summer reading. Indebted. This great read is a tale of a young girl seeking to find her mother. Wanting answers to questions no one will ask. Longing to know why she is blamed for something that she doesn’t even understand. Wren, the fierce young girl who leads the story, becomes entangled in deceit in hopes of finding the answers to questions she has held in her heart for so many years. Not only does her life take twists and turns, but the decisions she makes also leads her through pain and love. This is a classic story of life, friends, and love. This is a definite add to any young girl’s summer reading list as it will take them to a different place and time to find that friends are sometimes the only people, we have to push us to be better.

FIGHTING LIFE’S BEASTS

While reading the book Indebted, I realized that we all have our “beasts” we must defeat during our lifespan.

Each of us have a different “beast” that keeps us in turmoil. It isn’t always something we can easily confront. The thought of facing it alone is overwhelming, yet we do not want to place our people in harm’s way. There are times it is hidden within the depths of our soul and the only way we can overcome the hurt is to lay it at the feet of Jesus. We have to find our strength in the Word and pierce the heart of the beast with our “sword” in order to be free of the grasp of the “beast”. Once we have faced our beast and we are worn from battle, we realize, our person never left us to face it alone.

Friendships change and grow as we mature and develop different priorities. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t have anyone to do battle with you when you need them most. It simply means that each battle may have different friends standing with you to achieve victory.

Cyndi Kay, Freelance Writer
Cyndi Kay, Freelance Writer

Cyndi Kay is a freelance writer and a content writer for Christian Women Living magazine and Books for Bonding Hearts.
www.cyndikay.net

adaption, analysis, breath of joy, featured, groundhog day, Kathy Joy, op-ed, repetition, Replete

Repeating Life

By Wordsmith, Kathy Joy

I don’t know why I get this in my inbox, the “wacky, bizarre and unique holidays” calendar. I don’t know from whence it come, touting some mundane calendrical events, most days, comical.

For instance, in June there is a – “Repeat Day”. Repeat Day? The idea of it reminds me of the movie, Groundhog Day. Have you seen it?

I wonder if the calendrical messages are phishing, selling, or spying on my latest horse racing bets, but I enjoy these prompts for writing, and so I don’t complain. I’m somewhat of a human calendarist myself. I’ve been given the task of writing calendaric inspirations for my associates at work now sequestered at home.

A financial coach, Lauren Rilling, enjoys a synesthetic experience with calendars. Synesthesia is where your brain mixes two senses together. You’re seeing music and hearing something visual. There are lots of types of synesthesia. She says, “For me, I see time in my mind’s eye–almost like having a calendar in my head of how the days of the week, months of the year, even years and decades are arranged.” I’m sure that helps her tremendously with her client coaching goals.

For the rest of us, any day, including the June Repeat Day, is a good day to remember the importance of repeating life-giving phrases to each other, and to ourselves too.

Like washing your hands and face, brightening your mind to the unique purpose of why you have landed on this day in this place will start out a seemingly repetitive day better.

WHAT YOU TELL YOURSELF

Repeating your purpose for being where you are can make all the difference in the color, texture, and music of your day. See your hands? They are working through the everyday stitches of life as though they are stitching a warm sweater, a scarf, or a wall tapestry. See your feet repeating the same steps in similar spirals around work? As you look down at your feet, what you tell yourself can be more important than the feedback you receive from others.

If you believe you add value to your world, you will be happier – and it’s more likely that after all, you will do amazing things.

Doing good things bolsters your belief in purpose and the spiral of life will turn upward.

However, if you spend most of your time being an Eeyore, you won’t feel fulfilled. It’s as simple as that, and the repetition will become less synthesized with purpose and more and more of a puzzle of missing pieces to you and to everyone around you.

REMIND YOURSELF ALOUD

“Wash your hands” is society’s repetitive mantra these days. Who knew that would become a thing? Yes, go to the bathroom sink, wash your hands, but, also look in the mirror. I think we might take this idea of repetitive cleansing to a new level.

Today may not be one of those days in which you feel either necessary or essential. Want to wash those feelings away? In the routine, you may feel silly — depending on who is in the room – but saying these personal phrases aloud really helps to center yourself in how and why you are needed:

If You Don’t Like The Story You Are Telling Yourself, Tell Yourself a Different Story – Matthew Kent
  • in what you do,
  • how you think,
  • how you relate,
  • why you were hired
  • how your priorities are needed,
  • the things you offer to others in your way

Making the effort to say these things aloud can lather up and rinse away the doubt. It’s almost like you need to hear these reminders, but you are no longer a child. No-one wants to wash your hands for you. You can’t rely on anyone else to say these things consistently to you.

This is true whether you live alone, work alone, live with a crowd, and work in a factory.

REMEMBER THE WONDER OF THOSE WHO LOVE YOU

It can help to remind yourself–out loud–that you have people who care about you. Pick a person each day to say a mental thank you to for being “your person” when you needed one.

It also helps to think back to a time when you really leaned on friends and family or felt strongly connected to a community. Isn’t it happening again, sometimes under-the radar during our New Normal? Certain relationships are being given priority to lift each other up as “necessary”, “essential”.

Yes, in the repeat of the ordinary and mundane, it’s up to you to synthesize your life.

Be your own best repetition coach. Try repeating these statements out loud each day; tape them to your bathroom mirror, if necessary.

1. “My time is important.”

Let’s be real: managing our time off-site is challenging and comes with unique situations depending on the day. Your contribution to the agency is unique and important. Honor your own needs to match the day by planning your list and prioritizing it. Reward yourself along the way. Small rewards can boost your energy for all the challenges you face today; things like taking a walk, calling a friend, honoring your breaks and lunch, and keeping a stash of really good chocolate nearby.

2. “I’m uniquely gifted for this set of tasks.”

You are valued and you were hired because of your skillset. You have your own brand of approaching the tasks at hand. No one else has quite your blend of personality, education, training, problem-solving or perseverance. Avoid the trap of thinking you duplicate what someone else is doing. Remind yourself on a daily basis how your influence matters because it can only come from you.

3. “I’m not alone.”

You have a team around you, even now – when your team may not be gathered in one physical space. It’s easy to feel like the walls of isolation are closing in. They’re not.

Remember: Repetition and structures have purposes in your life and are for your good. Lather, Rinse, REPEAT. Observing the habits of cleaning your hands, face, and mind for each calendar day will launch you upward and onward in your own special way!

Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books

Kathy Joy Hoffner writes these Lunch Jabs for her co-workers at the bequest of her superiors. She is an author at Capture Books and is considered a wordsmith for life.

journal, learning, op-ed, Questions, Replete, Sequestered at home, Summer, Tonya Jewel Blessing

Standard Questions from Strangers

By Novelist, Tonya Jewel Blessing

I recently read an internet article from “The California Globetrotter” written by an American expat, Lady Lola, living in Germany.

“No matter where I go and who I meet, there are always the standard questions everyone wants to know about America, and they ask me because I’m an American.

https://www.caliglobetrotter.com/15-questions-im-asked-as-an-american-living-abroad/

“Sometimes I feel like a monkey behind a cage, everyone looking inside wanting to look at it and ask questions about why it’s doing what it’s doing. But I remind myself, everyone is just curious about the American culture and people, and they want to hear it straight from the source.”

Some of the common questions Lady Lola receives as are follows: Did you vote for President Trump? Is there really so much gun violence in America? Is racism still a problem? Do you really drive everywhere? Why are Americans so loud? Have you actually met a famous person? Why do Americans smile all the time? And, Why do Americans put bacon on everything?

Questions often present an opportunity for growth

Recently, I feel plagued by questions where the answers are not readily available.  In some cases, I have kept concerns to myself. I am worried about being judged for my personal beliefs or even misunderstood in what I am saying or refrain from saying. Questions often present an opportunity for growth.

There is an interesting question-filled story in the Bible in the Book of Judges chapter 13. There, a woman, who is unable to have children, experiences an angelic visitation. The messenger tells her that she is going to have a son and gives instructions about how to parent this unusual boy. The woman then tells her husband, Manoah. The Bible says in verse 8 that Manoah prays to the Lord asking for answers to specific questions. God is not offended by Manoah’s inquiry and, in fact, responds with the needed information.

Have you been asking heartfelt questions lately? Maybe you have voiced some of those questions, or maybe you have felt intimidated to make inquiries. Rest assured that God wants to hear your concerns. He wants to help you and to bring clarification to your queries.

Manoah and his barren wife sacrifice a ram to the angel of the Lord (above); Manoah’s wife wears a wimple in Eustache Le Sueur‘s The Sacrifice of Manoah, 1640-1650.
Tonya Jewel Blessing

Tonya Jewel Blessing and her husband, Chris, manage their ministry in South Africa, Strong Cross Ministries. They have been hunkered down with a variety of hospitable family members through the Covid-19 world-wide crises, and separated from those they long to be helping. Tonya, having grown up partially in West Virginia, the Appalachian hills and hollers, is the author of unique fables: The Whispering of the Willows, and sequel, The Melody of the Mulberries. Those who have read the first two installments are hounding Tonya for her third book in the series.

Readers' Favorite Novel ISBN-13: 978-0997162547
This is Capture Books’ best-selling American-gothic novel by a Golden Writer.

A sequel is coming soon!

Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Emie Ashby has been raised by an angry and repressed father since the end of WWI. Her mother cannot take the risk of defending her children. Instead, she turns a blind eye. In this way, she becomes part and parcel of the abuse of her daughters. Emie enters into trouble times as Aunt Grace provides a way to possibly survive it. How does Emie navigate the road that lies before her with so many threats nipping at her heels?

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analysis, Big Creek Appalachia, Faith, featured, leadership, op-ed, rethink, scrutinize, Summertime, Tonya Jewel Blessing

LEADING THE WAY

By Tonya Jewel Blessing

I am a leader. As a woman in leadership, some days I feel great about leadership and other days. . . not so much.

Leadership is the ability to influence others into following your lead. It comes in a variety of forms and is defined in numerous ways. Making presentations, forming a company, bookmaking, posting articles, publishing blog posts, teaching and coaching, and other expressions are readily available to peruse principles for leading others.  
 
I train leaders. I am a partner in ministry. I teach, inspire, and preach in a variety of settings. I also write books. For me, one of the key ways I measure leadership is through effective communication. Am I communicating biblical principles in what I do and what I say?

In a time when there is great fear… LEADERS are more necessary than at any other time. (anonymous)

In order to communicate biblical principles, I need to experience daily intimacy with God. I want to use tactical, God-inspired, insights in my communication.
 
Another way is to gauge whether others are able to hear my words. Lately, I’ve been testing whether I communicate in ways others can hear, not merely the way I voice my vowels and consonants but also hear me in a way that they are able to live out those words in their own world. It isn’t just once that my husband has told me I have talked around issues of importance so that when I am done speaking, I may have left people wondering about the heart of what I have said.

T-Junction

I’m working on direct and healthy communication by a method of asking some questions. Have I presented my point? Have I given applicable examples? Have I given too little information, or have I rambled and overwhelmed the audience with too much?
 
It is likewise vital to me that others can emulate my leadership. I want my strides along the paths we walk as leaders to be in a clear direction not just speak about guiding lights as principles. Combining my words and actions, is my model of leadership effective? Can others put Jesus-living into practice?
 
As women in leadership, my prayer is that each of us becomes great communicators through words and deeds. I hope that those who view our lives and listen to our words are personally moved forward and are able to move those around them in a good and wise direction.

Tonya Jewel Blessing
Tonya Jewel

Tonya Jewel Blessing is a sought-after teacher and speaker. She is the author of The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries. Her writing leads the way for Christian authors to write difficult scenes of gender and sexuality in fiction.

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Allegheny Mountains, featured, Fireflies, meme, op-ed, Pennsylvania author, Speak Wonder

Fireflies

By Wordsmith Kathy Joy

Photo by Sabine Berzina on Unsplash and Instagram

Every summer, the woods and fields of Pennsylvania light up in a symphony of fireflies.
From the summer solstice into the second week of July, the twinkly wonders commandeer the forest for mating.

Our very own Allegheny National Forest is one of only a few places in the US where you can view the Synchronous Firefly; the other regions are the forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and Congaree National Park in South Carolina.
“Synchronous” refers to a rare phenomenon: the tiny bugs flash patterns in sync with each other. It’s like a string of Christmas lights hanging in the forest.

During normal summers, you grab a lawn chair and a cooler and head to the Tionesta Creek for Nature’s Light Display. You’ll need a jacket for the cool of the evening, and some marshmallows for toasting.
But not this year …

This year, because of COVID-19, the activities are restricted. You can watch the 8th Annual PA Firefly Festival on a virtual stay-at-home online link here:

http://pafireflyfestival.blogspot.com/

Andrew Bui@andrewbui on Unsplash

Despite regulations, the lightning bugs will show up in wild, spectacular abandon.
Their light show is a whimsical mystery — and we can all use a little whimsy sometimes.

Recently I wrote a piece remembering a stand-up guy who died suddenly, 2 years ago.
I hesitated to publish it, protesting to another that I only knew Ron for a short time. 
“But you’ve known Grief for a long time,” came the reply.
With that authority, I wrote the piece.

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once described friendship as “a sheltering tree.” What a fitting description of camaraderie at work: the shelter of a tree suggests the ease and familiarity of being around a person who provides leafy green wonderment. Ron Klonicki was just such an individual in our midst.

Today marks the second year since he was so suddenly and unexpectedly silenced by a faltering heart. We lost him on June 2, 2018. Ron died on a Saturday. That following Monday, we came into work and felt a jolt of shock and unbelief. It was hard to fathom, as Ron was something of a fixture on the 4th Floor, his office a friendly landmark as you passed through on the way to the conference room. Many in the MH/ID Department carry fond memories of Ron, a good-hearted, dependable, solid person. You could count on Ron to lend his expertise, tell a story, share his culinary skills and readily identify all kinds of flowers.

Ron was a Program Director for 30 years in MH/ID. His unflagging advocacy for persons with special needs, is still sending ripples into the community. Without fanfare, Ron showed us all how it’s done – he was fully immersed in meaningful work, while at the same time remaining engaging, relatable and terribly funny.

Ron’s legacy is his laughter – he was particularly good at recalling whimsical stories of his many travelling adventures with Carol, his wife. One of my favorite memories of Ron is the day he showed me how to download and use the phone app, “My Talking Pet”. When he showed me videos of his dog, “Jasmine,” talking in Ron’s own sped-up voice, it was hilarious.

For a quick minute I almost forgot he was a high-ranking administrator; we were just two people laughing at a video of a talking Chihuahua. Whimsically, Ron was never much for hierarchy or status. He made you feel welcomed in and valued your input. Just like a tree in the robust month of June has deep roots, wide branches, and full leaves, Ron provided lots and lots of shade for anyone in his realm of influence.

In the sparks of light emanating from Ron’s openness and curiosity, one can’t help but wonder what he’d think of the strange world we find ourselves in these days: re-emerging from “The Covid Spring” and stepping backward into an echo of civil unrest. Knowing Ron, he’d probably just roll up his sleeves and see to the next individual in need of housing or mental health services. He’d bring flowers to the office, and vegetables from the garden. In the shade of his big-hearted friendship, we’d share a moment of light and peace.

Fireflies are everywhere in June, in certain regions of the country. Not everyone gets this blessing, I am reminded by my jealous editor. Not everyone knew Ron either. Maybe this is why June’s unexpected symphonies of light are synchronous with heartfelt memories of special times and special people. I’m enjoying the unexpected and so grateful for a whimsical favor of these things offered to me right now.

Kathy Joy is making her co-workers happy with daily lunch jabs. She is also a favored speaker, editor and author with Capture Books. Find her seasonal Breath of Joy coffee table books on Amazon. But, don’t buy a knock off, cheaper version. Get the quality original.



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Bridges, captive audiences, featureed, ingenuity, op-ed, poetic, Replete, Tonya Jewel Blessing

The Metaphor Bridge

By Tonya Jewel Blessing


A bridge is a meeting place, a possibility, a metaphor

Jeanette Winterson

Last Sunday, Chris and I, along with my sister and brother-in-law, toured the covered bridges in Ashtabula County in northeast Ohio. The region borders Pennsylvania. We viewed approximately ten bridges located almost exclusively on hard-to-find backcountry roads. The weather was delightful, and the homemade fried pies we found at a roadside stand delicious.

The quote by Jeannette Winterson is a new favorite of mine. As an author, I am also looking for a meeting place with other authors and readers; a possibility of sharing my books on numerous platforms; and direction, even in the form of a metaphor, about how to engage people with my writing.

Most of the bridges we viewed were old and worn, yet sturdy in form and function. Since my novels are set in the late 1920s, I understand the old and worn. I enjoy writing about legends, history, folklore, and people of the past. As an author, with the help of wonderful editors, I stick with writing form and function as much as possible. I do, however, lack form and function when it comes to marketing. I am constantly and consistently looking for new platforms to promote my books. Capture Books, a publishing house, has been extremely instrumental in helping me and has thankfully spurred me onward. Laura Bartnick is my representative. Her innovative ideas keep me on my toes.

This month, I am pleased to say that some new bridges have been crossed. An organization that promotes books that feature minority characters, Diversity Between the Pages, wrote an amazing blog about my latest novel. I have a podcast interview set up for next week. I am in the processing of writing an article for a Christian magazine, and I am excited about an virtual book tour with Prism Book Tours, on June 22-26.

Whether you are a writer, singer, teacher, leader, or dreamer remember to engage in bridge meetings, entertain possibilities, and examine metaphors.

Tonya Jewel Blessing

Tonya Blessing is an international speaker and author. You can plan to book her today through her agent, https://booksforbondinghearts.com/contact/.




analysis, better together, breath of joy, Chick-fil-A, Faith, featureed, rest and work, sabbath, Sunday Lunch, trust

The Honor of Rest: CHICK-FIL-A® Model

By Laura Bartnick

As a teenager, I remember rambling with my mom through her favorite shopping mall and getting the treat of the best chicken sandwich with pickles and mayonnaise whenever we arrived at Chick-fil-A’s wait line.  It was perhaps the first “addictive” food experience I ever encountered. I asked, “Why wouldn’t they want to have a free-standing piece of real estate near our neighborhood like the burger joints had?” — And soon the pizza parlors?

My mom didn’t know the answer, but it was the first realization I had that Chick-fil-A® chose to do its own thing while the world was doing something else.

The Chick-fil-A® company history website touts, “We change the world, and ourselves, by our response to unexpected opportunities.”  S.Truett Cathy 1921 — 2014

Atlanta Georgians wondered the same thing. And, somehow, they were first in line when free-standing Chick-fil-As were built.

Shortly after opening the first free-standing Chick-fil-A in 1986, founder Truett Cathy created a new restaurant that replicated his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill. Beginning in the late 1980s and through the early 1990s, Cathy oversaw the construction of multiple Dwarf House restaurants located around the metro Atlanta area. Designed to honor the history of the Chick-fil-A franchise, these restaurants offer sit down, counter and drive-thru service.

Truett’s Grill was originally opened in 1996 to commemorate Truett Cathy’s 50th anniversary as a restauranteur. There are now three locations in Georgia, and the restaurant has the look and feel of a 1950s diner. Truett’s Grill offers sit down, counter and drive-thru service, and features the full Chick-fil-A menu alongside Southern dishes including Fried Okra and Collard Greens.

Many people consider Chick-fil-a a household name, as restaurants and fast food joint go.  But not many people know the name of the man S. Truett Cathy, who founded the chain, or what his aim was. We may assume that to make bushels of money, a CEO must take the tact, the sky is the limit, right? Isn’t making more and more money every business owner’s aim?

Not necessarily. Not at the expense of 1) quality and 2) rest for a dab of weekly humility. So thought a wealthy man named S. Truett Cathy.

Quality

“S. Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist; his religious beliefs had a major impact on the company. The company’s official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”

“Founder Truett Cathy wanted the company’s name to reflect the top-quality customers should expect each time they visited a restaurant. That’s why he chose Chick-fil-A: “Chick” to represent our signature menu item, and “fil-A” as a play on the word “filet,” with a small twist. He replaced “et” with “A” to represent the “Grade-A” quality of our chicken.

“And while some aspects of our restaurants have changed over the years, that commitment to “Grade-A” top quality has never wavered. From the big things, like rigorous safety standards, to all the little things, like the “my pleasures,” we want customers to know – no matter which restaurant they visit – they will receive the high-quality food, service and hospitality that they’ve come to expect from Chick-fil-A.” Snagged from the landing page, “Where Does the “A” In Chick-Fil-A Come From?”

Safety and cleanliness is as popular inside Chick-fil-A, as the “my pleasure” responses of the kids and crew catering to my meal.

The Human Need for Rest

I’ve been following Chick-fil-A for almost a lifetime now. Through it all, I admit I’ve yearned for a bite of chicken sandwich after church at times, but I’ve never found a Chick-fil-A to be open on a Sunday. 

In the past few years, it has caused me to pause and reconsider Moses’ commandment to honor the Sabbath, but I’ve wrestled with that language since Sabbaths just do not make sense in a nation where commerce remains open seven days a week and sometimes all through the night as well.  And, is Sunday the new Sabbath?, I’ve wondered.

My socio-religious existence is bathed in guilt whether it be for lack of rest on a Saturday or lack of rest on a Sunday because I have found it unpleasant and difficult to buck the cultural swing and groove which makes our own work ethics and playtimes. In my culture, after an hour or two of Sunday teaching and worship, we all go out to eat and “fellowship” causing staff to wait and work for us and money to change hands. Beyond that, there are the gardens to tend and home afterward and projects to build every weekend. 

God can’t still be serious about this day-of-rest thing, can He?

Why Then, Closed Sundays?

“It’s no secret that the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, was a devout Christian, and the ‘corporate purpose’ on the company’s website even reads, ‘To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.’ It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that Cathy’s ‘closed on Sunday’ policy originally stemmed from his religious beliefs.

According to a Chick-fil-A press release from 2009, “Cathy’s practice of closing his restaurants on Sunday is unique to the restaurant business and a testament to his faith in God. Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the ‘Lord’s Day.’ … Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life; and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people. Cathy believes that by giving employees Sunday off as a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, the company attracts quality people…”

Tremendous Growth Under New CEO, Dan Cathy

A committment to rest on one full day of each week has not stopped Cathy’s son, Dan Cathy, from being innovative and successful. He has taken an unconventional, yet personal and professionally rewarding approach to Chick-fil-A leadership.

“Dan Cathy literally grew up in his father’s restaurant – he jokingly says he’s been in the restaurant business since “roughly nine months before I was born.” When he and his siblings (younger brother, Donald “Bubba” Cathy, and sister, Trudy Cathy White) were very young, their father would take them to his Dwarf Grill restaurant where they would entertain guests and perform odd jobs. Dan remembers, “Dad would give us each a butter knife so we could scrape the chewing gum (and other things) from the bottoms of each table. We would do that almost every day. It was all very glamorous,” he smiles.” – from the Chick-fil-A website’s board of director’s landing page for Dan.

The leadership at Chick-fil-A keeps a good sense of humor and human warmth, as most experience in their encounters with the organization.

Yet the Chick-fil-A description continues, “under Dan’s leadership, Chick-fil-A has experienced tremendous growth — not just in numbers of restaurants and sales, but also geographically. With recent restaurants going up in cities like Los Angeles and downtown Chicago, Chick-fil-A opened its first restaurant in the Big Apple in 2015, where the Manhattan location enjoys nearly constant out-the-door lines.

In addition to his focus on physical growth, Cathy is also a key figure in championing digital expansion through development of the Chick-fil-A One app, which held a notable reign as the most downloaded app on iTunes with more than 4 million downloads in its first three days.” 

A Servant-Leader

“Over the years, Cathy has become known as a respected leader, speaker, and influencer in the business community. He regularly shares his life lessons, business practices, trade secrets, and unrelenting spirit of generosity as it relates to leading others well. “Selfless, servant leadership is about action,” he says, “and the bottom line is that what we say and what we believe will only be as effective as what we are also willing to do.”

“To Cathy, service is not just something he does; it’s something he lives. Service is helping. Service is smiling. Service is a handshake. It’s the Golden Rule. From helping mothers with children to their tables, to refreshing a guest’s beverage, to a very simple, but meaningful “my pleasure,” Dan believes that every moment of every day is another opportunity to encourage and bring happiness to others by serving them well.”

A Renaissance Man

“At home, Cathy is first and foremost a family man. He and his wife Rhonda live on a farm south of Atlanta, where they regularly host gatherings with their two sons, Andrew and Ross and enjoy time with their three grandchildren. There Cathy spreads his time developing a myriad of interests. “Believe it or not, Chick-fil-A does not define me,” he says. “It’s a huge part of my life, but there are a lot of other meaningful things that make up who I am.” 

“A musician known to pull out his trumpet inside and out of the office, Cathy also enjoys the quieter hobby of gardening and landscaping. He’s a former competitive wrestler and lifelong athlete who’s completed multiple marathons.  A member of the “Moo Cow Bikers,” he hits the open roads on his motorcycle with friends, and he is also known to take to the skies piloting small jets. On Sundays he teaches Bible study to high schoolers.”

A Community Influencer

“Cathy’s passion for his community can be felt through his involvement in numerous organizations, including the Eagle Ranch, the Carter Center, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia Aquarium. He is also a member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and in 2015 was awarded the Four Pillar Tribute by the Atlanta Council for Quality Growth. 

He serves on multiple boards and remains actively involved in various ministries, philanthropies, and nonprofits, including: City of Refuge, Passion City Church, The Rock Ranch, and outreach ministries that make up the WinShape Foundation, an organization created by his parents in 1984.”

A Lot of Lost Revenue

A September 27, 2016 article in Mashed by Karen Miner claims, “But Chick-fil-A doesn’t care about your desire for instant gratification — at least not on Sundays. The chicken sandwich purveyors are famously closed on the seventh day of the week, and not even a big-time food delivery service can hack that schedule.

“When a restaurant is as popular as CFA, why in the world would they close 52 days a year? It turns out the answer is a little more complicated that you probably thought.

“…The Los Angeles Times reported in 2012 that the amount of lost revenue due to the company’s Sunday closures hovered around $47.5 million. Given how much CFA has grown in the years since then, we can only assume that number has gotten bigger and bigger. Any way you slice it, whether it’s $50 million or $100 million, it’s a whole lot of money to leave on the table.

In 2019, Super Bowl LIII was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where CFA happens to have a location. But fans hoping to grab one of their iconic sandwiches were in for a whole lot of disappointment when instead of a delicious deep-fried chicken patty, all they could score were some french fries. That’s because Chick-fil-A didn’t budge on their policy, and Fries Up took over their space for the day, selling only french fries with toppings aplenty, which might normally be fine if you weren’t craving “mor chikin.”

“Restaurant Business says Chick-fil-A’s once-a-week closure helps in giving a “perception of limited supply,” but there are other important ways that the policy works to the company’s advantage. For one, it’s “respectable.” RB explains that it shows that the company is willing to miss out on some revenue to give franchisees and employees a guaranteed day off each week, and in turn allows the franchisees to use it as a perk in recruiting. Happier employees mean better business, right? All in all, it’s a win for the company, even if their bottom line suffers a bit.

In a brilliant move, franchise owner Carmenza Moreno decided that rather than barricade her restaurant’s parking lot every Sunday, she’d open it up to allow fans to park (and pay). “Barricading the parking lot seemed a little unfriendly and anti-community in spirit,” she explained to The Chicken Wire. But the money doesn’t pad Moreno’s pocketbook — it all goes to the groups who man the lot each Sunday. In four years, the parking lot fundraiser has generated more than $62,000 to local organizations, and if Chick-fil-A was open seven days a week, there’s no way that would be possible.”

Read More: https://www.mashed.com/25923/real-reason-chick-fil-closed-sundays/?utm_campaign=clip

Blessings Stand at Federal Law

The Atlantic covered the 2014 Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby v. Obamacare case related to the company’s religious prerogative in national forced insurance contraception here, citing also Chick-fil-A’s lawsuit regarding the company’s Amendment One prerogative regarding gay marriage.

“Chick-fil-A ‘forgoes significant profit by closing every Sunday for religious reasons, for example,’ said Chairman Amy Ridenour.  ‘If it were not possible for a corporation to exercise religious beliefs, Chik-Fil-A would be open on Sundays.’

“Chick-fil-A’s principal founder is a devout Southern Baptist, and the restaurant became the darling of the conservative movement — and drew ire from the Left — after its CEO spoke out against legalized gay marriage.

“The restaurant reference came among a chorus of conservative reactions to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which exempts certain closely held companies from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: Today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear. Obamacare is the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years, and I was glad to see the Supreme Court agree that this particular Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”- Matt VasilogambrosNational Journal June 30, 2014.

Then, with the Pandemic of Covid-19. Restaurants, bars, and grills closed temporarily, and then permanently. Not Chick-fil-A.  

Every day, the lines at Chick-fil-A remain a consecutive, then multiple line for mor chikin. Except Sunday.

Seeing this on a regular basis, and experiencing the efficiency of these lines myself, praise bubbles up thanking God for His blessing over this faithful group. At the same time, I wonder how my own blessings would change should I copy this model of one full day of rest from work, with more trust in God for enough.

Today, passing by the early brunch line of cars driving through our local Chick-fil-A, I experienced another breath of joy and prayed my usual prayer of blessing over the company and employees.

Admitedly, it’s a wondering praise of a prayer for God’s faithfulness to those who consistently practice His day of rest from work, the standard of trusting a magnificent God Who’s miracles defy natural disasters, and Who obviates nationally enacted laws to bless His own.

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