Thursday, February 28, 2013

TITLE: A Life of Gratitude: Free Kindle Book & Giveaway POST HTML:

By Shelley Hitz

About the Book:

A Life of Gratitude: How to Overcome Self-Pity and Negativity During a season of transition in my life, I found myself overwhelmed with negative emotions like self-pity and a complaining spirit. It was as if a dark cloud had descended over me. I prayed and asked God for wisdom on how to overcome these negative emotions. As I did, I sensed Him leading me to do a 21 day gratitude challenge. Over the course of the 21 days, God began to change me as I spent intentional time being grateful for all I had been given. I did this through writing in my journal each day and also sending a hand-written thank you note to someone different each day. This also led me to writing out 21 prayers of gratitude and compiling 21 stories of gratitude. I want to share what I learned with you in the pages of this book which includes:
  • 21 Days of Gratitude Challenge
  • 21 Prayers of Gratitude
  • 21 Stories of Gratitude
What to Expect On Each Day:
  • Read my personal stories, struggles and reflections.
  • Read one scripture and one quote about gratitude.
  • Apply one personal application step from the challenge.
  • Read one prayer of gratitude
  • Read one story of gratitude
Get Accountability and Encouragement Along with the 21 day challenge, I also started a private Facebook group to provide accountability and encouragement for myself but also for others who decide to join me in the challenge. You will get access to this group as well. It has been amazing to see God at work in each of our lives. Will you join me on this journey to gratitude?  

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FREE on Kindle 2/27/13 & 2/28/13)

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  Shelley Hitz Shelley HItzShelley Hitz is an award-winning and international best-selling author. Her openness and vulnerability as she shares her own story of hope and healing through her books will inspire and encourage you. Shelley has been ministering alongside her husband, CJ, since 1998. They currently travel and speak to teens and adults around the country. Shelley's main passion is to share God's truth and the freedom in Christ she has found with others. She does this through her books, websites and speaking engagements.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Thing Called Grog by Marcia Lee Laycock

Photo credit: J. Star / / CC BY-NC-SA 

Some people seem to have an underlying belief that writing about what is painful and ugly in life is somehow denying the goodness of God.

I disagree. We do not write about the ugly, the dark things of despair, in order to glorify them, nor to question God, but in order to put them in their place and to recognize that there is something more, there is redemption of all that is ugly and evil in this world, because of what happened on a cross at the base of a hill in a tiny country then called Palestine.

Psalm 12:6 (KJV) says – “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. “Tried in a furnace of earth.” That doesn’t sound pleasant to me. “Purified seven times.” That sounds like struggle and anguish and pain that has been forged into what is pure and wholesome.

As a pottery student many years ago I learned that you can’t use just any old clay to make pottery. It has to be the right consistency, the right combination of elements. Some clay is too fine. When it’s thrown on a wheel it won’t stand up, won’t keep its shape, won’t survive the heat of the kiln, so a substance called grog is added. Grog is clay that has been previously fired in the kiln, then ground into fine particles. Grog sometimes hurts. As you throw a pot on the wheel you can feel it scraping your hands. Sometimes it even makes them bleed.

Our writing needs grog – that stuff that has been ground up inside us as we struggle. We must put the stuff of real life into it, or it won’t hold up. It won’t do what it is intended to do.

I wrote this short devotional for a local paper some time ago. I called it Hard Questions:

It seemed fitting that the sky hung heavy and low. It seemed right that the wind was bitter, howling with the fierce shriek of winter around a tiny country cemetery. There was a very small hole in the ground and a very tiny casket to be put into it. It seemed appropriate that we all stood numbed by the cold of that day.

A friend of mine once wrote a poem about Adam, Eve and God in the Garden of Eden. It was a good poem, well constructed with a strong rhythm and powerful images. One of those images often comes to mind when bad things happen to good people. It’s an image of God curled into a fetal position, and the wailing sound of His weeping.

Sometimes we ask hard questions. Why did that baby have to die, God? Why is my friend suffering with a painful cancer? Why are those people in Africa starving? We don’t usually get a good answer to those questions. They leave us numb and they leave us wondering if God is there.

But then there is that image and that sound. In my friend’s poem God mourned the first disobedience, the first break in His relationship with the creatures He put on the earth.
The picture my friend painted with his words was of a God who cares, a God who feels our pain, a God who mourns with us, especially at the graves of tiny babies.

He is also a God who will answer. He is a God who acted to redeem all that was broken in our world. He is a God who continues to do so. The redemption was accomplished on the cross of Calvary, but it is not yet complete. As the writer of the book of Hebrews said, God “… waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:13).

The process is sometimes painful, but the world will one day be made entirely new, entirely redeemed. The scriptures talk about creation groaning as we wait for that day. The groans do not fall on deaf ears, nor will they remain unanswered forever. One day that tiny baby will rise, whole and perfect as God intended him to be.

God’s plan is unfolding. What then, should we do in those times when we groan and feel there is no answer? Again, scripture tells us  – “To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Humility before God bows the knee and continues to believe. Humility before God acknowledges His sovereignty and calls Him good. Even when babies die and the pain of this world overwhelms, humility before God says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

The Sunday after that piece appeared in print, the father of that baby approached me in the lobby of our church. He said he was in a local restaurant when he read Hard Questions. He said it wasn’t long before tears were streaming down his face. I held my breath as he described what he was feeling. Many things flew through my mind. Was he angry with me? Should I have written and published that piece when it exposed not only my pain, but his?

Then, with tears brimming in his eyes he said, “Thank you. It was part of the healing. Thank you for writing it.”

Madeleine L’Engle has said -  “The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort toward wholeness.” 

This is our responsibility – to struggle toward that wholeness in our lives and in our work; to take our work deeper, to make sure it has enough grog in it to stand, and perhaps even to heal.

All to the Glory of God, because that is His plan for us, His plan for our work. 
Visit Marcia's Website for more information about her speaking/writing ministry.
Download her devotional ebook for authors, Abundant Rain on Smashwords or buy it on Amazon

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Rape of Truth

My dad and I were watching a documentary about the Second World War. They often came on T.V. on Sunday afternoons when I was young. That afternoon it was a program about a military campaign by the allies which emphasized the role of the United States. My dad became very angry. He turned the T.V. off and said, "They weren't even there!"

I was quite young but remember being shocked. How could they make a documentary about an event and not get the facts straight? I was too naive to realize the errors had been intentional. It was my first encounter with the reality that often entertainment trumps truth.

We've just seen another example of it. Last night Argo won the Academy Award for best picture. After reading this article  I was once again shocked and angered at what had been done to re-invent history.

Some will say it's just a movie. Some will say it's just entertainment, so who cares? I do and I think others should too. This film was purported to be a "true story." It was not. I'm a big fan of movies and of books. I love story. But when story is purported to be truth its creators have a responsibility to make sure it is. It's obvious the creators of Argo didn't care about truth. The inaccuracies weren't innocent mistakes. They twisted the truth to satisfy their own needs. They knew the truth but chose to ignore it.

It's a type of rape - the bully inserts himself into history and leaves it distorted and tainted. Truth is ravaged. So are those whose lives were affected by the real story. When creative people choose to use a real event to create art, they have a responsibility to those who lived it and to those who will be the audience. The creators of Argo failed those people and they failed us, their audience.

I'm glad Ken Taylor, ambassador to Iran at the time of this incident, spoke out about the film. The American's own past president, Jimmy Carter also did, to his credit. The film's star, director and co-producer, Ben Affleck allowed Mr. Taylor to change the postscript to the film, (after an outcry when it was aired at the Toronto film festival), and he acknowledged the Canadians in his acceptance speech, but that does not change the fact that the film is inaccurate.

That Oscar is tarnished. Those involved in the production of Argo should be ashamed. So should we, for supporting it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Silent Voice in a Small Box

In his article, Rock in the Rain, published in Servant Magazine, Philip Yancey mentions the elections in Ukraine after the Soviet Union fell apart. He details how Victor Yushchenko opposed the standing regime, was poisoned and almost killed for his efforts. Undaunted, he recovered and stayed in the race for the presidency. On election day he had a clear lead but through “outright fraud” the government reversed the results and declared him defeated. 

But they had forgotten about a small detail on their national television broadcast – a small screen that appeared in the corner, providing translation for the hearing impaired. The translator, the woman who appeared in that small box, signed a very different message than the one the government wanted heard. Her communication, the truth that Mr. Yushchenko was indeed their new president, launched the “Orange Revolution” that eventually toppled the government and established him as leader of the country.
Mr. Yancey likens that small box in the corner of the big screen to the church. I liken it to communicators of faith, including writers like you and me.

In the midst of the barrage of lies that scream at us all continually, we are small, we are barely audible at times; yet, because we are speaking truth we are working for God’s kingdom and eventually it will prevail. All it took in that time of deceit and tragedy in the Ukraine, was for one person to have the courage to do what she could to get the truth out there. God did the rest.

We may be small. We may be almost unheard. But God will use our voices to accomplish His purposes. Keep signing from your small box. You never know who might see, who might hear, who might respond.

"Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. " Zech. 4:10

Visit Marcia's website to learn more about her writing/speaking ministry

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Leg Up

The horse standing before me turned its head as I gathered the reins in my hand. Perhaps it was my imagination, but the look in his eye seemed to say, "For Pete's sake, get in the saddle and let's go!" The large Paint had been saddled and ready for some time. There was only one problem. He had very long legs. I have very short legs. I looked for a bit of a slope to give me an advantage, but the ground was flat and there was nothing to stand on.

At that moment I remembered the first time I tried to get on a horse. It was a tall one too. (When you are barely over five feet tall, any horse looks big). I remember standing with the reins in my hand, wondering how I was going do it. A friend noticed and came along side. "Let me give you a leg up," she said.

"I can manage," I said, not wanting to appear a total novice. But after I made a couple of failed attempts, my friend offered to give me a "leg up" once more and I had to swallow my pride and accept her help. She explained how to do it and when I did what she instructed I was in the saddle in a flash.

As I stood staring up at that big Paint I realized I was at that place again and looked around for someone to give me a "leg up."

I've found myself in that place many times as a writer. I've often been discouraged and need a bit of help to get going again. We all know that writing is a solitary endeavor. No one can write that novel but you and it will take many hours alone with only your keyboard and monitor to keep you company. But there are many aspects of the writing life that can and should include team work. We can find a partner who will encourage and keep us accountable. We can seek out a critique group to help with the editing process and ask for help when we hit that wall called writers' block. We can illicit the help of friends to spread the word about our latest published work, and offer to reciprocate with theirs. "Help" is a word we should all become familiar with. God has given us a network of friends so that we may enter into the give and take that makes writing, and living, a joy.

He has also given us a spiritual family to help us along the way. He cautions us not to "forsake the fellowship" of one another. He knows we need one another more desperately than we like to admit. Most of us want to believe we can "manage" on our own but God knows we can't. Without the help of friends and family and spiritual leaders we would remain on the ground, unable to mount up and do what he requires of us. And He has also given us Himself, the greatest resource of all. He wants to help us do the work he has planned for us to do because it's all meant to glorify Him.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1-2).

Is it time you looked around for someone to give you a "leg up?"