Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pressing in to the New Year in Christ!

Forgetting those things which are behind
and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 3:13-14, NKJV).

I can scarcely believe that this is our last weekly devotional and prayer/praise list of 2010. I know: Time flies when you’re having fun—and, at my age, even when you aren’t! But that’s all right. We’ve read the end of the Book and we know how it all turns out. What we don’t know is what lies ahead for us between this moment in time and the twinkling of an eye when we step into eternity to be with our Lord and Savior.
With economic downturns, personal health and relational issues, rising unemployment numbers, and various other challenges of living in this broken world, that not knowing can leave us more than slightly apprehensive at times, can’t it? I’m a German-raised, firstborn Type-A personality who likes my ducks in order before sticking my toe in the water. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.
Facing a new year can evoke a lot of emotions: excitement, joy, anticipation—or fear, dread, depression. Much of where we land in that mix depends on whether or not we’ve made peace with the past by asking for and receiving God’s forgiveness for our sins and failures so we can effectively forget “those things which are behind” and, by faith in the One who bought our forgiveness and promises a glorious, never-ending future with Him, “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Regardless of whether this past year brought good times or bad (or more than likely, a combination of the two), God’s purpose for us is to reach ever higher, to aspire to a nobler, more honorable life this year than last. And we can do that only by resting in His promises to live in us as we rest in Him.
Leave the past—the good, the bad, and the ugly—under the Blood where it belongs, and anticipate the future with joy, for that same Blood that forgives and covers yesterday will be there for us tomorrow. Happy New Year, beloved ones!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas from Mom and Me!

So many of you have been praying about the situation with my mom, and I thought you might like to see a picture of the two of us, taken on Christmas. Blessings and many thanks to you all!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

People of the Book...coming in April!

Read what Tyndale author Jeanette Windle says about my next release, People of the Book, the fourth and final offering in the Extreme Devotion series from New Hope Publishers and now available at Amazon, CBD, and Barnes and Noble for pre-order:

Young women developing a friendship through an on-line chat room shouldn't be trouble—unless one or more of them is from Saudi Arabia and the topic of discussion is Isa Masih--Jesus Christ. People of the Book is a tale of searching and finding, of love, courage, and sacrifice. And if the inevitable clash of a young girl's faith and Muslim family honor is painted with deadly and heart-wrenching realism, interwoven throughout is the comforting reminder that cradling the smallest falling sparrow are the everlasting arms of a loving heavenly Father. A story that will challenge hearts and minds.--Jeanette Windle, author Veiled Freedom, Freedom's Stand

Friday, December 24, 2010

On the Road to Bethlehem...

The wind was stronger this afternoon, Mary thought. Colder, too. Though wrapped tightly in her own cloak and Joseph’s as well, the young woman shivered, as much from the implications of what lay ahead as from the weather itself.
It had been the most amazing year of her brief life, and yet she sensed it would quickly pale in comparison to what was to come. Shifting her weight as much as possible on the back of the little donkey that transported her down the bumpy road, she thought back over the previous months, even as she fixed her eyes on the broad shoulders and strong back of Joseph, who faithfully led the way. How she had grown to love this good and gentle man since first they had pledged themselves to be married! And how she had once trembled at the thought of telling him of the baby who grew inside her….
It had all started with the angel, of course, who had come to her on an otherwise ordinary day, as she went about her common tasks. The appearance of the angel had so frightened her that she had scarcely been able to breathe…and yet a peace from above had accompanied the epiphany, assuring her that God had ordained it so. As a result, she had listened…and believed.
She believed when the angel told her that she was blessed among women and had found favor with God.
She believed that she would conceive and bring forth a Son, who would be called Jesus.
She believed that Jesus would be great and would be called the Son of the Most High.
She believed that the Lord God would give Jesus the throne of his father David.
She believed He would reign over the house of Jacob forever and there would be no end to His Kingdom.
And she believed all this despite the fact that she didn’t understand it.
“How can this be,” she had asked the angel, “since I do not know a man?”
In other words, she was a virgin and would remain so until her marriage to Joseph, so how could she conceive a child? She didn’t doubt the angel’s proclamation; she simply wanted to know how it would happen.
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Even now, as the long and difficult journey continued, Mary practiced what she so often did with the words and memories hidden in her heart: she treasured and pondered them, considering in awe how some of the prophesy had already come true, and wondering how the rest would yet unfold. For here she was, some nine months after the angel’s appearance, nearly ready to deliver the baby so miraculously conceived and about whom were written so many promises. And perhaps for the thousandth time she wondered, Why me, Lord?
The question brought another, more recent memory to mind, and Mary blushed at the reminder. When she’d heard that she and Joseph, along with everyone else “of the house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:1) would have to make the trip to Bethlehem to accommodate the decree of Caesar Augustus that “all the world should be registered,” Mary found herself asking, “Why now, Lord?” Though Mary was a godly, devout woman, she was also young and inexperienced…and understandably frightened at the prospect of giving birth under less-than-desirable circumstances. How much better to be at home with family and friends when the time came! Instead, here she was, jostling along behind Joseph as he trudged toward Bethlehem.
Despite her discomfort and apprehensions, Mary smiled as she continued to hold tight to the donkey with one hand and laid the other across her swollen abdomen. The baby wasn’t kicking tonight, as He usually did. The realization brought an initial stab of fear, followed quickly by the thought that perhaps the Holy Child was preparing for His entrance into the world. Mary’s mother had told her that babies sometimes rested just before beginning the birthing process.
Oh, no, not here, she begged silently. Please, Lord, not on the road! At least let us arrive safely in Bethlehem first. Surely someone there will take pity on us and grant us a safe, warm place to sleep, or… She pressed her eyes shut, breathing deeply to summon the courage to complete the thought. Or to bear this Child.
And then the angel’s final words from that life-changing encounter floated to her on the wind: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). The heaviness and concern in Mary’s heart lifted, and she smiled again, repeating aloud the words she had spoken before the angel left her: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
The donkey stopped in its tracks, and Mary opened her eyes to find Joseph gazing back at her, a look of love and wonder on his face. “Yes,” he agreed, nodding. “Let it be to us according to His word.”
Mary answered him only with a smile, and her beloved Joseph turned his eyes back to Bethlehem and resumed the journey. For a long distance, neither of them spoke…not even when Mary felt the first twinges of pain dart across the front of her stomach and into her back. Her eyes widened and she caught her breath each time they occurred, but she continued to focus on the angel’s promise: “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Somehow she sensed, even as the sun began its descent and the air cooled with the coming night shadows, that they would make it to Bethlehem in time. What would happen then, or even in the years to come, she had no idea. But she was at peace now, as the knowledge that the God of the impossible was leading them, going ahead of them, providing for them…and, indeed, ordering their steps to accomplish His purpose.
“Thank You,” Mary whispered, even as the pains increased in intensity and frequency and Joseph finally announced that he could see Bethlehem in the distance. “Thank You, Lord God, Maker of heaven and earth, for the blessing of this Life within me, ready to be born and bless the world…according to Your word.”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Learning from the Children...

“Unless you are converted and become as little children,
you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven”
(Matthew 18:3, NKJV).

My husband and I broke away for a quick trip to the mall a few days ago, and it was every bit as crowded and hectic as we’d expected. We were cruising the second floor when we spotted an empty bench and decided to rest for a few minutes.
No sooner had we settled ourselves in than we glanced down from our lofty perch and realized we were positioned just above the Santa line. Children and parents waited expectantly (some patiently, most not so much) for their chance to talk with the jolly old man. Though I prefer to use this season to focus on the celebration of Christ’s birth, rather than the giving and receiving of material gifts, I learned a lot during our observation of this event.
Babies were predictable. Anxious parents would lovingly place their little ones in Santa’s arms and then hope and pray for a decent photo while the baby screamed for rescue. The older children seemed reluctant or even embarrassed at visiting Santa and posing for a picture, but they made sure to present their wish list and take advantage of the bowl of candy canes on the nearby table. But it was the little ones who were old enough not to be frightened by the white-bearded stranger yet still young enough to believe what they’d heard about this benevolent gift-giver that touched us the most.
One little girl, who couldn’t have been more than three or four, approached Santa’s “throne” in seeming awe, her eyes wide as he pulled her up on his lap. We couldn’t hear what was said, but we assumed he asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Rather than answer, she impulsively threw her arms around his neck and clung to him. Santa appeared pleasantly surprised. When she finally drew back, he spoke to her again, and again she responded with a hug. When he put her down and she started to walk away so the next child could have a chance, she suddenly stopped and turned back, then ran to him and threw her arms around him one more time. Santa’s “ho ho ho” was the most joyous I’ve ever heard!
I couldn’t help but compare what I saw to our own approach to God. Before we have personal knowledge of who He is, we are terrified of His presence and want to escape, just as those babies did with Santa. When we’re older and have known him for some time, to the point that coming into His presence no longer strikes awe into our hearts, we are in danger of approaching Him only to present Him with our wish list, as if He Himself were our own personal Santa. How I pray that as we use this Christmas season to reflect on the greatest Gift ever given we will be like that little girl, coming into God’s presence, humbly and wide-eyed, wanting nothing more than to sit on His lap and throw our arms around Him in love and gratitude.
Shalom and Merry Christmas, dear ones!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free Kindle download of Valeria's Cross!

Looking for the perfect FREE Christmas gift? My publisher has just put the Kindle version of Valeria's Cross up for free on Amazon for one week. You don't even need a Kindle to get it! Just get the free Kindle for your PC and download the book. Check it out ASAP!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kindle prize awarded--just in time for Christmas!

Congratulations to Shirley Cochran Strait for winning the Kindle in our most recent Red Ink promotional contest. Merry Christmas, Shirley!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Who is the strength of your heart?

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

The older I get, the more I become aware of my own frailties. When we’re young, particularly if we’ve been blessed with good health and strength, we fall into the trap of thinking we’re invincible: someone else may step into the street and get mowed down by a truck; someone else might get cancer and die before their thirtieth birthday; someone else may drop dead of a heart attack in the middle of shooting hoops with friends. But not us.
If the One who numbers our days also grants us a long life on earth, all that faulty thinking and phony bravado will change. At some stage in our aging process, we come face to face with the fact that we most definitely are not invincible after all. The Scriptures make that perfectly clear in Hebrews 9:27, declaring that each of us has an appointment with death—and after that, the judgment. Of course, for those of us who have received Jesus as Savior, we don’t have to fear that judgment because Jesus has already paid the price for our sins and washed away our much deserved guilty verdict. As a result, when the appointed time comes that our flesh and heart fail, we need not fear, for “God is the strength of [our] heart and [our] portion forever.” What an encouraging and eternal promise!
A bonus to that promise is that we don’t have to wait until the moment of our death to rely on God’s strength; it is ours for the taking now, today, moment by moment, as we continue our homeward pilgrimage on earth. When we are physically weak or sick, we can depend on God to hold us in the palm of His nail-scarred hand as we rest in Him. When we are challenged beyond our physical or mental or emotional endurance, He stands ready to step in the moment we call on His Name.
Whether you’re facing challenges in your finances, your relationships, your health, or anything else, let the promise that “God is the strength of [your] heart” carry you through today…and always…until at last we pass from this life into His glorious, sweet presence.

Friday, December 10, 2010

From Dust and Ashes...

People often ask me, as an author, what I'm reading. Here's my answer.

I just finished reading From Dust and Ashes by Tricia Goyer (one of my favorite authors, I might add), and it was even better than I'd expected. If you don't already own this book, you need to treat yourself to one. If you already have it, get one for someone else for Christmas. They'll thank you for it. Here's a teaser about the book, plus ordering info at the bottom:

St. Georgen had a secret...

In a small village in northern Austria, white flakes fell from the sky. The month was July. It wasn't snow that tumbled down, but ash.

For those familiar with World War II history, concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen are well discussed. But there are also many lesser-known camps. One of them is Gusen.

Gusen was a sub-camp of the larger Mauthausen complex. The average survival period of inmates was several weeks. In some cases, it was only a few days.

As early as 1940, prisoners started arriving at the small train station in the town center. A full two years before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the citizens of St. Georgen were already experiencing the horrors of war. And by January 1941, the Mauthausen-Gusen camps became the only 'Category I' camps in Third Reich history, meaning "camp of no return."

The camps expanded and by February 1945, 25,000 people were incarcerated inside Gusen. It was then that Himmler and Pohl decided the horror could not be discovered. Their plan was to blow up Gusen's armament tunnels (Bergkristall) with the inmates and the local population of St. Georgen inside. The Nazis' goal was to destroy potential witnesses.

Hearing this, Mr. Louis Haefliger (delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross) risked his life on May 5, 1945 to lead in US troops to St. Gerogen, preventing this final catastrophe. The first US GIs at the camp were the 41st Recon Squadron, 11th Armored Division, Patton's 3rd Army.

Order From Dust and Ashes at

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Choosing Our Words...

“For by your words you will be justified,
and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).

Okay, let me preface this by reminding you that I didn’t say this, Jesus did. And that puts the statement in serious perspective, doesn’t it?
When we were kids we often heard/proclaimed the singsong taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But it wasn’t true, was it? Our words do hurt. They sting, they wound, they injure. And Jesus said we would be held accountable for them.
“I just tell it like it is” is a common excuse for blasting someone with both barrels, but would we be so quick to fire away if we first remembered that those very words would be brought into account when we stand before God one day? And why bring this subject up at Christmas, anyway?
For the very reason that it is Christmas, that’s why. The One who spoke those words while He walked this earth first came as a Baby, humble yet royal, to show us how to live—and then to die in our place. Though the majority of people will ultimately reject that priceless gift, those of us who accept it have no excuse for cutting people down with our words. Ephesians 4:15 admonishes us to speak the truth “in love” so that we “may grow up in all things into Him.” Mature believers seek God’s help to restrain their lips from speaking hurt and injury to others just to satisfy their own selfishness, and instead to speak truth in love, with the purpose being to bring life and healing and reconciliation.
As we go about our many busy activities this Christmas season, may we remember the words of the One whose birthday we celebrate and weigh our words before we speak them. There is enough negativity being proclaimed by those who don’t know Christ; let’s counter that by speaking love and life and joy to ears and hearts that so desperately need to hear them.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Valeria's Cross Featured in Romantic Times

Please check out this "behind the scenes" feature on Valeria's Cross in Romantic Times!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Chance to Support Red Ink!

If you are an ACFW Book Club member and enjoyed reading Red Ink, please go to the following link and vote for it for the April 2011 contemporary choice of the month:

Thank you all so much!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where is your heart?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”
(Matthew 6:21, NKJV).

Jesus’ words about treasure ring especially true and relevant in this pre-Christmas season, don’t they? It is a time when we who claim to worship and follow the King of Kings, whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas Day, are often put to the test during these weeks of frenzied shopping and spending. That test is summed up in this question: Where is our treasure? As Jesus said, the answer to that question reveals where our heart is.
I once attended a church service where the pastor was teaching on this verse, and early on in his sermon he asked a lady in the front row if he could borrow her purse. She hesitated a moment before agreeing. The pastor then set her purse on the pulpit and proceeded with his teaching. Throughout the remainder of the service, we in the congregation couldn’t help but notice that the woman’s eyes never left the pulpit, even when the pastor walked around the stage as he spoke. It was a powerful illustration of his message.
And not one that didn’t speak loudly and clearly to my heart, I might add. I certainly couldn’t think ill of the woman for wanting to keep her purse in sight, as we women don’t like being separated from our purses, do we? We keep not only our checkbooks, cash, and credit cards in there, but so much else that seemingly identifies us, such as family pictures and other mementoes. But ultimately, what does that say about our hearts? Is it possible that as believers we still have a lot of growing and maturing to do when it comes to understanding our true treasures?
In the two verses preceding Jesus’ statement that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” He cautioned us against focusing on amassing temporal treasures here on earth rather than eternal ones in heaven. Then, in verse 33, He summed it up like this: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Jesus wanted us to understand that the Father knows our needs, and we can trust Him to meet them. What the Father desires from us is a heart that truly seeks Him, first and always. May we actively do so today, throughout the Christmas season, and all year long, as we add to our treasures in heaven and experience the joys of a caring and faithful Father who faithfully meets all our needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Another Red Ink Blog Tour!

The third and final Red Ink blog tour launches on Monday, December 6, just in time for Christmas gift-giving. Be sure to watch for posts here and on Facebook/Twitter about tour stops, as there will be lots of chances to win free books.

Breaking Chains Ministry responds to Red Ink

Breaking Chains Ministry exists to rescue children from sex-trafficking and prostitution in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. Here is what their prayer coordinator, Christine Nicolayeff, has to say about Red Ink:

"Red Ink is the story of Yang Zhen-Li, a young Chinese woman imprisoned and persecuted for her Christian faith. It is a work of fiction, but could as well be nonfiction, for similar stories are lived out every day in China and elsewhere. As the persecution intensifies, two women far across the world are moved to pray for an unknown individual. As they follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, God strengthens and encourages Yang Zhen Li. The results of her faithful perserverance are life-transforming for her and for others. Another story within the story concerns a young girl who is nearly sold to traffickers and of how God uses prayer as a channel for His mercy. I recommend this book. It is well-written and deeply moved my heart."

Please consider learning more about this wonderful ministry, will you? Here is their contact information:

Breaking Chains Ministry: (619) 752-6325
PO Box 27524
San Diego, Ca 92198

Writers Conference in Beautiful San Diego!

It's time to plan NOW to attend the National Christian Writers' Conference at the convention center in San Diego on Saturday, March 26. In addition to an array of professional speakers and tons of prizes, there will be one grand prize awarded consisting of a complete publishing and marketing package, so check it out at Hope to see you there!