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Coronavirus, dying well, Faith, featureed, L.L. Larkins, op-ed, Psalm 4, Psalm Hymns, Replete

Raise Up the Scientists & Raise Up the Faithful!

By L. L. Larkins, author of the Psalm Hymns

Have you been thoroughly confused by tuning in and hearing paradoxes like this in the news?

  • “Rest and be good to yourself.”
    • “Keep busy. Excercise. Be productive.”
  • “Post cartoons on social media for the depressed. Laughter helps people cope.”
    • “We’ll go down in history as the nation who died laughing, singing, and eating-with rolls of toilet paper stored in our shower stalls.”
  • “Together, we will get through this.”
    • “The only way to get through this is to shut our borders and take care of ourselves.”
  • “The President let the wrong people go. Losing these valuable assets put us in jeopardy of personnel, policies, and programs”
    • “No-one could possibly be prepared for a once in a generation pandemic of unknown origins.”

If you are like me (and I know I am) these soundbites provide me an inspiration to humble myself, to pray, and to research. When I find a line on an answer, I like to enter the fray with the new understanding.  There are others who have history, many facts, and a great understanding who prefer to keep their own counsel.

Yet, a Great Leveling Factor is Occurring

A leveling factor is occurring in our midst and among the nations of the world. Can we consider a few of these?

  • The smart ones are deprived of answers bringing them low. 
  • The defenseless and poor are watching their organic gardens and farms and ranches provide feasts to eat in safety.
  • The military cannot see the enemy.
  • The wealth of the rich does not help them survive.

The real question is, while world administrators gain access to humanity by following and listening in, and as they start to implement long-lasting laws and social regulations, will believers offer the hand of their Creator-Sustainer to others who need to know or will they capitulate to empty soundbites and dead-end platitudes?

Science has now shown that Covid-19 is a protein, rather than a virus. Thus, vinegar does not kill it. Hand-washing and other cleaners are still the best defense. Also, do not shake out plastic bags, paper bags, or clothing because the proteins can enter and live in the air for up to three hours.

We can only Give what we Know. 

Here’s the funnel. People can only give what we possess and know to be true. We can only know what we have submitted to learn.  We can only learn what we’ve been taught.  We can only be taught if we have teachers.

But, even scientists disagree.

  • “The mystery protein properties of the virus DNA is bad news.”
  • “There’s a patent on the virus.  Only man-made things can be patented.”
  • “There could be a resurgence.”
  • “Don’t take the anti-virus vaccine.”
  • “We’ve got to follow the science.”
  • “Alcohol is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Peroxide is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Bleach is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Bleach was invented to kill American troops in WWII.”
  • “Vinegar and lavender are the best sanitizers.”
  • “The virus is the Evangelical’s fault because they don’t believe in science.” 
  • “It’s China’s fault.”

Sometimes in our home, we pray for those we love.  Sometimes we pray for just ourselves. Sometimes we pray for the world.  Today, we prayed that the research would increase and scientific answers would be found. We also prayed for faith to increase. And, yet we continue to hear about wild ends of the spectrum.

  • “They should open every political meeting with prayer.”
  • “A third of the world could perish.”
  • “My loved one went to heaven this morning.”
  •  “Those who praise the Lord will be spared.”
  • “Christians have a greater rate of illness because they run to help and they aren’t afraid of death.”
  •  “Isolate and protect your elderly.”
  • “Anyone over 80 will not get standard medical care.”

So, we know that life will change soon.  It has already changed. Look around. Make a list. It is changing moment by moment like it did on 9/11. Like it did with the Spanish Flu (sic) and the Black Plague and is doing in Africa with the plague of locusts. How could a global pandemic not change the world as we know it? 

We are being humbled.  But, as we are being humbled, why do only a few look up from our shoes and stand in confidence?

An expert criticized the current administration in America today: We are not looking into the distance. We are only looking at the two feet in front of us in the headlights.

Maybe we are only looking at our own wallets and our own stockpiles.

But, how about this form of modern Palm Sunday church service announced on the news?

“A church provided their community paper bags of stuffed Easter eggs for the children with no human interaction.” Some say, “Resurrection Day is not Easter. Easter is a celebration of the goddess of fertility.” Others ask, “What harm is there in sugary treats and celebrating Easter egg hunts?” It is easy to throw up your hands!

There is no-one good like God.  We can only hope to be faithful in a time of trouble because of the faithfulness shown to us by someone gone before. Has someone offered compassion and wisdom to you? Practice it. Offer these gifts to someone else who needs them.

Have you only known bad examples and poor models of nurture in your life? Do the opposite. Do what your heart is wooing you to do. Maybe it isn’t even about serving others first.

The Biggest Answer to this Life has Been-Always Will Be-Walking with God.

There is a fountain of living water from which you can drink. The water originates from the Source of Life!

When we accept the age-old story that there is a Power in the highest heaven, seated on His throne Who searched throughout the world for righteousness, and seeing none, He sent kindness and healing for us by His Son’s death to take upon Himself our lawful punishment of death. After the crucifixion, Christ descended into hell and freed the captives there, and then He ascended into heaven to mediate for us and offer continuing salvation and eternal life for anyone who believes in this substitution for the forgiveness of their sins. 

When the Judge Himself provides a Substitute for a Convicted Man’s Sentence

Yes, we should sit up and listen, but we should also be humbled when the judge allows for an innocent substitute to receive the forty lashes we deserve. Why would we care? Because the substitute-volunteer of the judge’s own son.  I personally, cannot imagine any judge or father allowing such a thing unless the judge had made the law, underscored the punishment, and had the power over life and death in order to raise up his son from the grave.

Psalm 4 Try singing to the tune: DAY BY DAY and with Each Passing Moment 

Yes, the Lord has set apart the faithful,
For Himself, the Lord will hear my call.    

Oh my soul, you tremble, but be careful;

Chill your anger, be direct and still.
On your bed, reflect on your condition;        

Offer up your righteous sacrifice!
Trust the Lord, entrust to Him the outcome,

Trust the journey for He holds your life.

Many doubt and savor speculation:

“Who can show us any lasting good?”
Now, look on with favor, Lord, and save us,

Evidence of this residing joy.

My own heart knows deep resilient laughter,

Introduced by Your creative play.
This is joy much better than their feasting,

That their grain and harvest wines convey.

I will rest and I will dream reclining,

Peacefully, in sleep, I am restored;
For I know that You alone are faithful,

You’re without exception, Lord of Lords.

This sweet safety isn’t circumstantial,

For Your care is night and day supreme;

Making me, Your servant, live in safety,

You renew my life, increasing peace.

(David’s lament for evening worship with strings, verses 2-4)

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adaption, Book Blurbs, Coronavirus, Faith, family caregiving, featureed, G.K. Johnson, Replete, spring season, The Zealots

Unclean?

By G.K. Johnson

Unclean. The opposite of being clean. In our current times, people are doing everything they can to avoid this descriptor. We wash our hands. When we leave our homes, we wear gloves and masks and try to keep at least six feet between ourselves and others.

There are those for whom the word is an unavoidable description of their current condition. They are sequestered in their homes or other isolated places to wait out the virus, their bodies fighting their invisible attackers as best they can. The sickness has spread through their body, out of their control…they are unclean.

Mankind is no stranger to disease and sickness.

Thousands of years ago those with life-altering illnesses and disease had even less hope for healing. Medical knowledge was extremely limited in comparison to what it is now. Those who found themselves with incurable diseases were often sequestered in isolated places with others suffering the same fate. One of these terrible diseases was leprosy. Not only were there terrible physical ramifications from the disease, but it was also believed that those infected with leprosy earned the condition through their sin.

Imagine the heaviness of this diagnosis: the shame, fear, and loneliness that the inflicted person would feel.

“Unclean!”

“Get away!”

“Don’t infect us, scum!”

Shim’on pushed into the crowd trying to see the subject of the disruption.

People backed up and parted to reveal a man swathed head to toe in dirty white linens. The only uncovered parts of his body were his fingertips and a gap in the head covering where his eyes peered out.

Looking at his hands, Shim’on flinched. Instead of healthy pink skin, he saw white deformed stubs. The man had leprosy. Instinctively, Shim’on, Andreas, and the other two disciples stepped back.

Instead of moving away from the leper, however, Shim’on watched the rabbi walk toward him! What was the man doing? Leprosy was extremely contagious. Lepers were not permitted in populated towns; but only in leper colonies outside the village.

The disease attacked the nerve functioning of those it infected and caused sores to develop all over the body. If ever a leper were to come in proximity to a ‘clean’ person, one not tainted by the disease, he was required to shout “unclean!” to warn others of his condition. The life of a leper was lonely and filled with shame.

This rabbi was taking a gamble by approaching the leper, and Shim’on couldn’t decide if he were completely crazy or extremely brave.

Jesus continued walking toward the man until he stood directly in front of him, only a foot or so away. The crowd, which had grown increasingly large, quieted, holding their breath to see what the rabbi was going to do.

Suddenly Jesus reached out his hand and set it on the man’s shoulder. Gasps and whispers crossed over the crowd.

“Be healed,” Jesus spoke quietly, looking into the man’s eyes.

The man began to cry, tears wetting the dirty cloths wrapped around his face. He reached up a hand, and it was then that Shim’on saw that what had been decaying tissue was now healthy skin. The man continued staring at his fingers and then began unwrapping the cloth, revealing a hand, then an arm. The flesh was perfectly healthy; the leprosy completely gone!

Murmurs spread, growing in volume, through the crowd. Everyone was amazed.

“Who is this man?”

“He healed the leper with a word!”

Jesus spoke to the man quietly.

Tears poured down the man’s face and he knelt before Jesus. “Thank you, Rabbi!”

He stood in amazement and Jesus clapped him on the shoulder, grinning. The man laughed in gulps of wonder and then, he departed.*

The Zealots, author G.K. Johnson. publishing September 2020, by Capture Books.

Our Lord touches even those whom the authorities in this world say are untouchable, unclean.

Our God enters into the dirtiest, most shame-filled places of our lives and speaks life!

And it brings Him joy to do it.

The book of Mark, chapter 2, records a dinner where Jesus attends to a tax collector’s needs at the tax collector’s home. The Hebrews despised tax collectors.

These tax collectors were Hebrews who had turned on their people and accepted Roman jobs because of the financial benefits. They extorted their own people and helped to support the Roman occupation at the same time. So when Jesus invites a tax collector to follow him, imagine the outrage many of the Hebrews would feel. Can’t Jesus identify the scum in our community? Is Jesus intentionally circumventing our social bias and the rules we use to keep this kind of traitor down? The disciple, Mark, reflects that some religious Pharisees grumbled to the disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

Jesus replies, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Isn’t this beautiful? It’s the very core of the gospel. I am unclean. You are unclean. We are all physically, socially, and spiritually sick with sin. And it’s only when we can acknowledge that truth to Jesus, the Great Physician, in a seed of faith for His help, that He can administer His miracles of life and spiritual birth. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times it’s a healing of our hearts.

Let’s be careful and wash our hands and follow other medical wisdom to not spread sickness. Yes, let’s also be mindful of the unclean around us…the obviously sick and those who may not show physical symptoms.

But, let’s also ask, How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus? Perhaps it’s letting His word soak into our own hearts while resting so that we have some good news to spread in a fresh way. Perhaps, it is sending a card or letter, singing hope to our neighbors from our backyard, offering to help with shopping or giving out medical gloves for commercial transactions, or maybe simply making a phone call.

Most of all, remember, dear unclean one…Jesus came to help you.

References: Matthew 8 (New Living Translation of the Bible)

To pre-order your copy of The Zealots, contact us today.

adaption, analysis, Author tools and hacks, Back Covers, Book Blurbs, Laura Bartnick, Tonya Jewel Blessing

When My Book Blurb Bustled and Bounced

Click to discover more about Tonya Blessing’s books

A Conversation with Tonya Jewel Blessing and Laura Bartnick

Tonya Jewel Blessing

Tonya Jewel Blessing: I recently learned in two quick minutes how a blurb on the back of a book cover can sell books or dissuade potential readers from choosing a book.

We all know how important spelling and punctuation are in a book. But, I don’t think I realized that English basics are just the beginning of what matters in a book blurb until two media professionals picked up my novels. Each of my books have a professionally written, third-person description on the back cover. I realize this is paramount to converting book browsers to buyers.

At a recent media convention, a man connected with a film production company selected my first historic Appalachian novel, The Whispering of the Willows based on the book blurb on the back cover. The verbiage ‘similar to modern sex trafficking issues’ also sparked a conversation about the plot of the book. He promised to buy it for consideration.

Another reader-influencer looking for compelling stories at this media convention passed over my second novel The Melody of the Mulberries based on its book blurb. The reactions of both people, who visited the author booth, initially surprised me. Then, as I perused the  other author stations, I found myself doing the same – picking up a book, reading the back cover, and making a purchase decision based on a couple of paragraphs about the story.

Laura Bartnick

Laura Bartnick: Capture Books began to market The Whispering of the Willows in earnest to the Amish/Mennonite sector and to the West Virginia readership when the publisher could show that:

a) women’s issues were creatively handled, and

b) significant community involvement absolutely changes the course of a girl’s life after she is a victim of rape.

c) timing matters. Reverberating southerners became passionate readers of The Whispering of the Willows after National Public Radio broke the news about the West Virginia opioid crises. After the report featuring the opioid documentary by filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, produced in part by the Center for Investigative Reporting, where a female judge, a church social worker, and a policewoman joined forces to creatively alleviate the crisis in the hardest-hit county, Capture Books decided to offer BLESSING’s novel to this community.

d) the women in the novel did not wear pants.

While BLESSING’s exquisitely clever sequel, released in the fall of 2019, is marketable to a lover of Americana and to a Christian romance-loving readership, the acquisitions gentleman seeking a modern hook with a correlation to a “cause” failed to find that kind of subject matter on the sequel’s cover.

The lesson learned is that listing a cause as a keyword or subject-matter can reach potential cross-over markets.

Book blurbs are also written for librarians, advertisements, flyers, and online bookstore platforms. Each of these has a variety of required words, suggested keywords and phrases, and are written specifically to hook certain types of readers.

I spoke with a very frustrated author last week who reported that she wasn’t earning royalties from her publisher on her book and wanted my opinion. I looked up her title and discovered there was not a single word of book description, and her book was only listed in one category. It simply wasn’t selling because there were no keywords alerting people to the existence of her book. Even if potential readers looked up the exact title, there was no book description to explain what it was about.

Tonya Jewel Blessing: My first novel was picked up by Tantor Audio Books because of its record sales in late 2018 after we marketed directly to the opioid epidemic on Amazon. Subsequently, my sequel has been steadily picking up new readers and finding its own voice with historical romance and Americana lovers. Since I didn’t know I could write a sequel in the beginning, my publisher did not market to sequel readers. Consequently, many who read the first book think it is a stand-alone novel.

I agree with E.A. Bucchianerif in that, “There is much to discover that’s not on the back cover!” YET, if the book cover doesn’t spark interest, the book won’t be read. Listed below are some tips for writing a book blurb. 

10 Tips to Write a Book Blurb That Sells

Laura Bartnick: Yes, and here are some more clues to what works and what doesn’t on the back cover:

  1. “I wrote this because…” or “My character is based on…” is better placed inside the book as a prologue or author’s note.
  2. Larger fonts with less copy will catch a reader’s attention.
  3. Aim for a description of keywords written to the interests of a reading group.
  4. Getting an editorial endorsement printed on the cover will garner immediate interest and give the author borrowed authority.
  5. You may also want to put the name of the publisher, the logo, the subject matter or genre, and the price of the book onto the back cover.
Book Poster for Christian Colleges, Theology of Creativity, Academia
Book Cover by Tracy Fagan. Read the Book Description by clicking on the title.
Book Cover by Tracy Fagan. Read the Book Description by clicking on the title.

Book Cover with Readers’ Favorite award and marketing blurb to romance readers.
Book Cover by Chloe Belle Arts for The Melody of the Mulberries by Tonya Jewel Blessing
breath of joy, Coronavirus, featureed, Kathy Joy, spring books, spring season

Spring Tiptoes Into March 20, 2020

By Kathy Joy, Author, Breath of Joy: Singing Spring

Photo by Kathy Joy #SpringhasSprung

The first mild morning–that particular morning when you trade in the heavy coat for a mere sweater–is cause for celebration.

Most years in wintery climes, spring’s official arrival gets top coverage in media outlets everywhere. The first glimpse of a crocus is a metaphor for hope.

But this year it’s different. This year, we are self-isolating; hunkering down, finding new ways to fix canned beans.

While coronavirus dominates the news, spring tiptoes in: Hesitantly, on cat-like feet, it slinks in sideways, taking a seat in the shadows.

Nobody notices a shift in the breeze, a heady buoyant quality that tousles pigtails and tugs playfully on sequestered souls.

Robins, oblivious to the crisis, are leaning in for earthworms, pausing only to trill their signature birdsong.

Living things are stretching their roots beneath our feet, wriggling and rejoicing at the approach of the resurrection.

#SpringBooks

It’s all happening, all around us, despite the looming dread of COVID-19.

Tight-fisted rhododendrons are ready to unfurl in bursts of pink, purple, red and white; forsythia hedges will soon be trumpeting their yellow splendor; daffodils not far behind in their marching brigades of buttery magnificence.

If we could just part the curtains on spring’s arrival and take a peek, we might be astonished. We might be gladdened; we might be reminded who’s got this whole weary world in His hands.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows cheap, sold two for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:28-20, Study Bible).

#Sing #Spring #SingingSpring #BreathofJoy
#Activity #Booksites #ReadaBook #Coronavirus
#ManRerollingTP #SalvagingToiletPaper #ToiletPaperHumor

analysis, breath of joy, family caregiving, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, ingenuity, rethink

I PREDICT GREAT THINGS FROM SOCIAL QUARANTINE

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

Yesterday my husband and I made a concerted effort to not go anywhere. 

We have enough food, enough toilet paper, enough entertainment. By the end of the day though, we were tired of lounging in our jammies saying to each other, “Isn’t this great?” The roast and potatoes and carrots tasted like Sunday dinner without the guests.  Hmm. Maybe a shower and getting dressed would have helped the humor after twelve hours of forced leisure.  Even our dog seemed lowly, dumped out on the carpet. I looked at his water bowl and realized that in the change of routine, we’d neglected him.

Still, I predict great things to come of this social quarantine, don’t you?

Boredom births games, boredom births conversations, and silliness, and sex.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’d already seen several programs on the T.V. and just wanted to click off the power button. It felt like the reruns after 9/11. I decided to clean a room, and I found some forgotten treasures! In that little corner of heaven and for a couple of hours, I saw why cleanliness might prove to be next to godliness.

Explorations in the bookshelf, the stored software-to-learn list, webinars held on the back burner, homeschooling and getting to know one’s kids will all take shape.

All that attention kids need and crave from their parents will feel a little awkward at first. Arguments and fights will break out. They’ll look each other in the eye after a few hours and think, is this really happening?  Do I even know this person in my house?!  Then, the serious discussions will start to take place.  Values, politics, meaning, personal strengths and weaknesses, the I-never and what-if discussions.

Things you never wanted to do, you’ll do, and discover you’re pretty good at it given some time.

After we slap our foreheads, remembering to feed our pets out of routine, we’ll tire of the couch and go out to weed the garden. Who weeds the garden anymore? Lawn services are the closest thing to beautifying the landscape we see around our neighborhood.

  • So, we’ll go outside there, and find some twigs to tie into wreaths and furniture. 
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • We’ll decide to whittle a piece of wood into shape. We’ll find some glue or caulk or paint and start playing around. Our faces will relax. Smiles will be found.
  • Families will tell stories about grandparents and ancestry and wonder whether they should plan to visit their past in another state, another country entirely.  Budgets for historical discovery will be made.
  • Designers will remember that they enjoyed drawing at one time, and they will begin to design upgrades to their houses. Negotiators, desperate for an income, will negotiate prices for work.  The economy will plunge and adjust and perhaps prices will take a turn for the more reasonable.
  • Inventors will grow industrious.  I remember we had installed a gas fireplace with a self-lighting pilot light in our old home because, at the time, rolling electrical black-outs were an issue in winter.  In this particular crisis, I’m not sure how helpful the self-lighting pilot would be to eradicate COVID-19, but I am sure that industrious minds will begin to invent heath systems, tools, and hacks for hospitals, homestays, working from home, and bartering.
  • Would-be authors who have always wanted to write their masterpiece will begin an outline, a first page, a rewrite.
  • People who fear big brother’s orchestration of society and privacy will invent new protections and products and ideas.
  • Lawsuits will be settled outside of courtrooms. Fences mended.
  • We will face our inconsistencies as human beings and personal failures won’t spiral into martyrdom into, “Yes, I’m the trash heap of humanity.” We’ll have the time to talk through specifics, and analyze behaviors, and practice improvement.
  • Stress factors will release their vice-grip on life, and when we take a long look at what our parent or child is capable of, we will want to form a production line in the family to make the best ideas flourish.
  • The wiggle worms will get in their cars and drive around to discover what is going on around them, what spring looks like, what birds congregating in gangly trees sound like in chorus.
  • Adult kids will remember their neighborly shut-ins, their elderly parents and grandparents, and try to do whatever they can to assist them out of loneliness and fear. Concerted efforts to meet these needs will be met with surprising rewards.
  • Those who enjoy singing will sing again, privately or from their balconies, together in their families, in devotion to their God and to each other.  Songs will be written. Pictures painted.
  • Family meals prepared and eaten around a dining room table. And, someone will say, “Thank you!” “Um, this is good.  Is there more?” And, someone else will decide to eat together on the sunny patio and say, “What did you learn today from this strange isolation? Did you invent something wonderful?”
  • And, a kid will say, “I found the sewing machine and decided to hem my pants, but then I tried to make something else, and guess what?  I can sew!”

All of these things will happen because we are not toting each other to hockey, basketball, concerts, the gym, school, our places of worship, and work.  Deadlines will not rise up and press against our very bodies for closet space. Instead, Leisure will introduce herself as the new skeleton in our closets.

In your leisure, accept our free gift to read Mister B: Living with a 98-Year-Old Rocket Scientist.