A Prayer at Christmas for the Disconnected

Christmas hits the newcomer hard when roots are shallow and short, and the new community we’ve been plopped down in, is cold. If only my family was here, you say to yourself, then I could enter into the holidays with joy.

I remember the sadness when my husband and I lived in Wheaton, Illinois. My husband was unemployed and we had been trying for months to sell our house. Our four children were spread out over many states: North Carolina, Colorado, and California. Four children and no one, not  parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, or in-laws to drop in for the festivities. Why not just have hamburgers for Christmas dinner? Why even put up a tree. Who cares?

God must have heard my sadness because he sent my daughter and her new fiancé up from North Carolina. In addition, my husband’s niece and her husband made the huge trek from Tulsa, Oklahoma to bring us a bit of Christmas cheer.

The Only Voice – 9/11 Anniversary 2017

What can you say about the cruelest tragedy ever to overtake this great country? Who can a person even begin to make sense of the aeronautic bomb rammed into the Twin Towers, workers fleeing Manhattan like third world refugees, family and friends begging the media to post a photo of their loved ones, the president near tears and the Pentagon in flames? People are stunned and yet want to talk about what happened. There’s a deep yearning to make sense of this as the media sort it all out as leaders offer a clarion call for patriotism. We fasten flags to our cars, houses, bikes, and clothing and light candles for unity. We stand in line to donate blood. We write checks to help the victims while we ourselves feel like victims.

And even as we work hard to resurrect the life we knew only two weeks ago, there is a quiet little voice asking us if there is not another voice we have not heard.

New York City store owners hand out sensible shoes to high-heeled women hiking the pavement. Restaurant owners pass out sandwiches and bottled water. A firefighter is rescued and receives an IV only to go back to work after consuming a peanut butter sandwich. Life doesn’t get any nobler. Heroes are created hourly as so many respond to the grimmest life has to offer.

So what is happening to the human heart as the work continues? I see a collective softening of our national and individual souls as the drama plays out.

Spiritual values once buried as deep as the basement of the World Trade Center itself, are now being resurrected like the proverbial phoenix.

Like never before we plead God’s mercy on our country as we turn back to our Christian roots. We know if we are honest with ourselves, just how far we have walked away from our operating beliefs. We now need to come clean and be honest about it. The sorrow we feel is a drop in the ocean of God’s own agony as he views this atrocity.

But His joy has no bounds when we turn on our heels and head back home.

Just as thousands of workers streamed out of Manhattan, headed for home, so we all need to turn back. As one radio commentator said a few days ago, “The only voice now is prayer.”

Carol Stratton

Wednesday Sept. 26, 2001

The Zionsville Times Sentinel

A Heart Set Free – by Janet Grunst

I am so excited to have Janet on my blog today. She is a remarkable person who never gave up her writing dream, even after 31 year. I met Janet at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and found out that even though she lives in Virginia and I live in North Carolina, we grew up just miles from each other. The world is a small place. Be inspired by her story.

A Long Journey
In 1979 I stopped working in the banking industry to be a stay at home mom. I had two regular human interest columns in local newspapers which was a terrific learning experience about the craft of writing. But there was a story germinating in my mind and I began to wonder, could I write fiction?

So I asked the Lord if this desire was a call from Him and a way to share my faith. My husband was supportive, but with two very active preschool sons at home was it the right time? I knew it would only come about if it was the Lord’s will.

His confirmation came through loud and strong and over the next year He provided the time for me to study fiction writing and research the era I wanted to write about. I even believe He helped me weave the tale. After completing the story I studied how to market a manuscript to Christian publishers in an era when one didn’t need an agent. I submitted it unsuccessfully for two years.

The submission process and the sequel I was writing had to be put aside when life necessitated my getting full time employment to raise my sons on my own.

Many years passed, my children were grown, and my circumstances changed, including re-marriage. Was it time to submit that story again and pursue that long dormant dream of writing fiction? I still had a desire to share stories that communicate the truths of the Christian faith that would entertain, as well as bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader. But so much had changed in the writing and publishing world in the intervening years. The advent of e-books, the need to have a platform, an online presence via blogging, websites, and social media required a lot of research, studying and developing a multitude of new skills. I also needed an agent who saw promise in the story and wanted to represent me. With the closure of so many bookstores, including Christian bookstores and diminished opportunities in the Christian fiction market meant it was going to be even more challenging for a non-published writer to get that first book out. As a result of all I was learning I also realized the story needed a lot of editing.

I had always held my writing with an open hand. If I did my part and it was the Lord’s will, the story would find its way out into the world. Listening to and learning from others far more experienced than me was essential and so helpful. I found a wonderful agent, Linda Glaz, who patiently taught and encouraged me and continued to try to find a home for my story. And when the time was right, she found a publishing house, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas that was willing to take a chance on my thirty-one year old story. My millennial, A Heart Set Free, finally made its way out of the proverbial basement and into the world on December 2nd, 2016. It was a surprise and thrill that it was chosen to receive the 2017 Selah Award for Historical fiction.

Janet Grunst Contact Info:

Represented By Linda S. Glaz
Hartline Literary Agency

Get A Heart Set Free now on!

Drain The Swamp

I pray for a clean heart, God.

“Drain the swamp,” is a national cry that was directed towards the corrupt politicians in Washington D.C. during our last national election. Both parties seem to be up to a lot of mischief as they freely spend taxpayer money and write laws that go against our consciences. It’s becoming murkier by the day.

But how about our own personal swamp-of-a-heart? Do we need a cleanup?

I thought about this as I strolled around a walking track in our neighborhood. In the middle of the long oval walking path, the development company had dug a drainage pond. It’s not the most scenic but it does attract ducks, frogs and other wildlife. But right now the man-made pond oozes slimy red clay. And that clay stains. Now if you’ve ever had red clay smeared across the bottom of a new pair of white pants, you know the pigment can be permanent. Even the best cleaners in town might not be able to remove it.

And the trash. Wow, who would have guessed the swamp was a graveyard for dozens of water bottles, candy wrappers and beer cans? The water covered up a lot of garbage until a couple of powerful pumps sucked out the water. What a nasty mess.

Our insides are a lot like that pond. If we are honest with ourselves we all have a boggy area in our hearts. Maybe they aren’t full of burglary, adultery or murder. But in God’s eyes we still have peccadillos like gossip, jealousy and anger that we collect and turn into hobbies. Sin is sin and any sin (which means separation from God) alienates us from God’s presence in our lives.

I’ve met anyone on this earth who has avoided sin, large or small. For that reason we need someone to clean up the mess. A savior.

The Gossip needs a savior
The Hothead needs a savior
The Thief needs a savior
The Smug Religious need a savior
The Murderer needs a savior
The Fearful need a savior
The Proud need a savior
The Selfish need a savior
The Materialist needs a savior

I’ve had times in my life when I might have ─ with the exception of murderer ─ qualified for any of the above labels. I’m not perfect. I can still be lazy, fearful (meaning I don’t trust God) or a hothead. I’m certainly not a completed work ready for display, or for others to point and exclaim, “Now there’s a Christian.” I know my weaknesses. But being forgiven takes the pressure off.

Draining the swamp isn’t scary. Actually it’s refreshing. We learn what’s been hiding and that we need a savior, Jesus.

Yes, He’s the original swamp drainer.

The Golden Egg

Some weeks a guy just needs that golden egg.

My grandson, one of the three Musketeers, had that kind of a week and on Easter he found that shiny metallic object while on an egg hunt with his cousins and siblings. It gleamed with all it’s glitter glory in the sunlight, a specimen to behold.

He proudly popped open the egg and showed me the contents, three neatly folded one dollar bills. His eyes shined with pride as he knew he’d be able to talk his mother into a trip to the Dollar General store.
I eyed one of the dollars. “Say, since you have three of them, would you like to give me one.” I expected him to snap the top back on and flee my presence for fear of having to give up his coveted money.
Instead, the boy with the twinkly eyes paused a moment. I could see the deliberation on his face.
“Sure,” he answered.
I smiled at him. He passed the generosity test, not even hesitating to share his treasure.
“Grandma’s teasing you. I want you to have all of your prize.”

He looked at me, relieved. I knew he was torn… he loves his grandma but when one is a preschooler, those greenbacks rarely show up in one’s daily life.

God sometimes test us to see how tightly we grip hold onto our possessions; Hebrews 13:16 says “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

Even young children can learn early how to give to others. And in this culture where children collect too many gifts and treats, it becomes increasingly harder to teach generosity. But what a blessing for those parents who teach their families to hold their possessions with a light grip.

Some weeks we need that golden egg.
And some weeks we need to lay it down.

Dead Calm, Bone Dry

I’m so happy to spotlight the latest adventure book by Eddie Jones. Jones is the publisher of Lighthouse Publishing and a fantastic YA and middle grade author in his own right. He has a passion to reach boys and help them become readers. I know his newest book, Dead Calm, Bone Dry will excite the imagination of many young readers. Below is a blurb about this new book:

Shiver Me Timbers! The much-anticipated release day of Eddie Jones’ latest YA Pirate novel, Dead Calm, Bone Dry is here. Read on to learn more about the book and find out where to grab an e-copy or paperback. This book is perfect for lads (especially young teens) but even us adults can find something to love within its pages.

Just as Ricky is about to be tried for piracy, an ill wind blows a wretched soul into the ship’s brig. A mysterious seaman, William Shakespeare, tells of fleeing the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship sailed by the dead, demons and worse. Before Ricky can learn more about this outlandish tale, he’s sentenced to hang. As the hangman is about to tighten the noose around Ricky’s neck, the young man bolts from the gallows and dives head-long into the sea.

Now, with the lives of a crew of misfit orphans in peril and the heart of the governor’s daughter on the line, Ricky faces a battle with pirates – both dead and alive – where the destiny of the living and those yet-to-be born hang in the balance.

Will he reach his deceased father before it’s too late? Or will both father and son face eternal damnation due to Ricky’s bitter heart?

Here is the link to purchase the book:

Writing is not glamorous except in the movies.

I recently talked to a doctor who was intrigued that I had written a couple of books.

“Where do you write,” he asked? He told me he’s fascinating with where a novel is created. He cited one famous author who writes on trains and another who types manuscripts with a complete white room- nothing on the walls. I’m sure he imagined my writing room to have a desk that looks out onto a lovely courtyard, classical music in the background and a wall lined with books.

I hated to tell him my office is in the spare bedroom. Now I’m not complaining, it works well There’s a single bed where grandkids stay and the bedspread has already been spotted with a black marker. It’s also where I fold clothes straight out of the dryer. My desk is a long folding table with a bit of a warp in it where something hot was set down on the plastic. Nothing exotic.

Then there’s my chair. It looks like a reject from Goodwill.

One of the first pieces of advice you’ll receive as a new writer is this: to be successful as an author you need one major thing, BIC.


Yes, Butt In Chair.

Well, if a chair’s worn condition is any indication of success, I should qualify  Just take a look. Unfortunately I haven’t heard from the editor of the New York Times bestsellers list yet. But if my ripped vinyl chair is any proof, I’ll be getting that call soon.

I can hope.

Does God Sing To Us?

I was half asleep when I heard the music.

In my semi-awake state, I lay in bed, tried to recognize if it was a chorus of people singing or an ensemble of low pitched brass instruments. As someone who has had experience singing in choirs and playing in orchestras, I can pinpoint kinds of instruments. This one, though, had me at a loss.

And where was it coming from? I flew downstairs and opened the front door where I heard only the beeping, groaning, and grinding of construction vehicles as crews continued to work on the new apartments going up around us.

 No music there. 

Cupping my ear to the shared living room wall, I listened for a neighbor possibly playing the radio or Spotify.

 No music there.

What my ears picked up had a simple melody, it went up a second (one note) and then came back down. It continued with the pattern: up one note, down one note until it resolved the tune, going down a third to end it.  Three weeks later I can still sing the haunting pitch and tune.

What was it?

I may never know. But I do know this:

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah chapter 3, verse 17.

Could I have heard heavenly music? I’ll never know but I’d like to think so.

Have any of you had such an experience?  Do you have the nerve to share it? I’d like to hear from you.

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