Happy Christmas in July! Welcome to the 11th blog in this Christmas in July Reader Giveaway, which runs July 12-23, 2021. At the bottom of each author’s blog post, you will find the secret word(s). Write them all down and provide the entire answer on this Google form.
Note: You must grab all the secret words from every author in the Christmas in July Reader Giveaway to enter the contest to wina $400 Amazon gift card. At the end of this blog post is a link to the next blog, and so on, to the final blog post (18 in all). At each blog stop, the author will also give away a copy or copies of the featured Christmas book.
You fool! You can shuffle your money and build better retirement homes, but one day your life will be required of you. Then who will benefit from what you prepared for yourself?
The Christmas season’s come, and O. L. (Ollie) Feuille has dispatched all his obligatory gifts to clients and employees, but his thoughts are far from festive.
His chief competitor in the world of retirement homes, Hank Cochran of Swanky Seniors, is eyeing Ollie’s flagship home, the Queen Anne in Manassas.
Ollie would sooner die than let Cochran get his slimy hands on the pink Victorian lady. Although a tad run down, she still outclasses Swanky Seniors homes with their trendy colors and skylights. Ollie vows to save her at all costs.
Enter Art Dink, a down-and-outer turned fisher of men. Dink battles for Ollie’s heart, dancing in and out of his life—and dreams—right up to Christmas Eve.
Will Ollie take Dink’s bait or play the fool?
Do you have a favorite Christmas story hero or vilain? If you’d like to win one of three copies of The Old Fool, please comment below.
Now, it’s time for the secret words: Love your
Save the secret words, and when you reach the final blog, enter all the secret words on this form for a chance to win one of # Amazon gift cards!
Thank you so much for visiting! The next author on the tour is Izzy James and her Christmas book is Garrett. You can find it at this link. Remember, this Christmas in July Reader Giveaway will end on July 23 at 8 PM EST!
Do you have a love/hate relationship with time? I sure do! In the past, I’ve vacillated between boredom and wondering how to “kill” time, or stress and wondering how to “find” more time. When I was growing up, my mother set an excellent example for me. Even when she relaxed, it seemed that she was doing something constructive. She watched TV and ripped wrong stiches out of a dress she was making. She reserved a minuscule amount of time for reading just before going to bed. (I still think reading is more fun when I should be doing something else!) As a teen, I underlined multiple proverbs in my Bible, urging me to be diligent and imitate the busy ant. Mother’s message had reached my brain, although not always to my hands and feet.
By now you’ve probably guessed this post isn’t about having company over for dinner. But it’s not about time management, either. I started to write it in my head during the early months of the pandemic. At first time weighed heavy. With everything moving online, familiar activities such as church, Bible studies, and writers’ groups took less time.
Soon, though, I saw new needs around me and they filled much of that time. That was fine–up to a point. Sometimes they sucked me dry. Why did needs crop up when I felt the most tired?
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t always follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings to respond to needs, although I usually tried.
A couple months ago, though, I just put my feet up and reclined with one basically frivolous mystery after another. For several days. I don’t binge watch TV, but I can binge read with the best of them. “I can do this. I’m retired,” I told myself.
I’m not retired from Kingdom service. I’m never “off the clock.”
Paul knew the struggle and challenged Timothy, “Never lose your sense of urgency, in season or out of season.” (2 Timothy 4:2, Phillips)
I’m no Paul–not even a Timothy–but their mission is my mission, so I’d often taken the challenge as my own. Now God had given me the chance to experience it on a new level.
I’m never “off the clock.” It’s always “company time.”
I accept the challenge. Lord, may I never lose my sense of urgency!
What about the “sucked dry” part, you ask? Don’t set yourself up for burnout!
Thankfully, the Kingdom works differently from our world. Jesus reminds us to work under his power, not ours, for real results. Paul had a thorn in his flesh to teach him to rely on Christ’s strength. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ( 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)
2 Corinthians 9:8 highlights this sufficiency so well: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” ( NIV 1984; emphasis mine)
Don’t forget that the Kingdom provides for rest, as well. We serve the God who rested after He created. He cares for sparrows and offers us an easy yoke.
This rest is grace–a provision–not an entitlement. (Preaching to myself!)
I accept the “company time.” challenge! I’m not punching a time clock. How about you?
The Battle for Independence is probably tied with the Battle of Loopy Lie Valley in deadliness. As mentioned earlier, we actually need to lose the Battle for Independence. All our other spiritual battles must be won. The great news is, we are guaranteed ultimate victory–we are more than conquerors! (Romans 8:31-39).
Generals in the Pentagon name their “operations,” probably before they start. Some of the operations have cryptic names for obvious reasons. Others have names that hint at their purpose.
But what is Loopy Lie Valley, and why did I name this battle in the first place?
In a study on spiritual warfare, our pastor recommended naming our spiritual battles. I don’t recall that he explained why, but it didn’t take long for me to see the wisdom in this idea.
–The enemy (Satan) isn’t terribly creative and original. He tends to use the same deceptive tactics over and over.
–If something has a name, it’s been identified and it’s easier to fight.
(The pastor probably didn’t anticipate the fun I’d have making my different battle names sound like cheesy westerns. Here too, the more memorable the better.)
The action in Loopy Lie Valley has the potential to last for days, and often did, when I didn’t know it was happening!
So what are “loopy lies” anyway? They are those sudden negative, condemning thoughts that won’t let go–things you thought you’d dealt with long ago. Suddenly, there they are haunting and taunting you! Know them and call them out for the lies they are!
They thrive on endless loops. Don’t bother trying to analyze your way out. Applying logic to squelch them won’t work either, because another random lie will jump in and keep the loop going. The enemy will use anything in a pinch, and I’ve found he resorts to the same loopy lies or slight variations thereof.
The loop usually starts when I recall a past sin for which I’ve repented and received forgiveness. If I attempt to deal with this in my own strength (my flesh), I will get sidetracked by attempting some sort of cleanup operation (legalism)–trying again to do what I never could do outside of God’s grace–make myself acceptable to Him again. I will feel like an imposter and wnt to hide from other believers. (After all, they have it all together and I’m the only unworthy one, right?)
This lie sounds so spiritual. Don’t let the enemy fool you–it’s anything but! Remember how he quoted scripture when he tempted Jesus?
The specific weapons I use against this loopy lie are Romans 8:1 and I John 1:9. Shout them aloud if necessary and take that thought captive to the control of Christ. If legalism has crept in and I need to remind myself that I am free in Jesus, I wield Galatians 5:1.
Another lie I fight is the lack of assurance of salvation. It used to be way too easy for Satan to get me to question and worry about the fact that I was saved at age four after hearing a talk about hell in children’s church. What more vital weapon for the enemy to steal than my helmet of salvation? What better way to halt the progress of the gospel than to make a disciple apologetic about her own salvation experience?
Mentally, I put on that helmet of salvation every morning–thanking God aloud that he authored my faith (Hebrews 12:2) when I was four and had held onto me (John 10:27-29) through my ups, downs, rebellion, and repentance ever since. Lest I dare worry about the future, I often remind myself that my salvation is a done deal (Romans 8:29-30) and that God will keep me firm to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Rehearsing the truth every morning as I don my “helmet” has made this loopy lie rare and almost laughable. If I need to use the weapon at other times, it’s close at hand. Although I’m not as outspoken a witness as I’d like to be, I am working on boldly sharing my faith journey with believers and unbelievers.
Don’t panic if the loopy lies hit!
–Know the most common ones the enemy uses on you.
–Counter them with the antidote–truth from God’s Word.
–Don’t become self-absorbed and indulge the lies–take them captive.
–If the loop doesn’t evaporate, don’t hide from fellow believers. Enlist their support through prayer.
“I REFUSE TO BE DEPENDENT,” proclaims an inspirational poster in the physical therapist’s office.
Amen. Why else would I be torturing myself twice a week and committing (more or less)to exercise at home?
Americans have always had a reputation for being fiercely independent. We celebrate the anniversary of our War for Independence from Great Britain every July. Much of our youth revolves around “growing up” and milestones such as getting our first job and our first car, then moving away from home.
That’s normal, right? Even preferable to being dependent on someone else.
We even let this attitude infect our spiritual lives: God helps those who help themselves. If you’re up for following a short rabbit trail, check out the discussion of this saying in Wikipedia. The final section, which covers how many people think this statement is in the Bible, and whether this idea is actually biblical, is fascinating!
In my life, the “War for Independence” is one of my primary spiritual battles. Winning this battle means I must lose my independence. Just as I rely on the Lord for salvation, I must learn to rely on Him for my other needs. Unfortunately, when my sin nature flares, I find that I don’t really like to be dependent on God. I want Him to be there when I need Him, yes, but I’m not wild about needing to need Him!
Does that make sense?
Adam and Eve apparently felt the same way. They opted for trying to become as wise as God. Abraham got tired to waiting for God to make Him the father of a great nation and took matters into his own hands. Satan may have been counting on Jesus to cease being dependent and submitting to His Father’s will when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.
But it’s the Potter’s job to make sure I learn to rely on Him and remember the good results when I do. Despite their Ebenezer stones, various festivals, and scriptural records, the Israelites struggled to remember and rely on God’s faithfulness. I journal and rely on scripture to remind me that God is always faithful and utterly reliable. As I review these and listen to fellow believers recount their own stories, the Holy Spirit strengthens me in my battle to depend on God.
Remember that old saw, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”?
Chances are, you’ve been tempted to think that from time to time about a teacher, but probably not often enough to justify the saying. Cassie Franklin, the main character of The Substitute, deserves a bumper sticker on her car proclaiming, “Those who can, teach.”
I’m proud to introduce Cassie and have you share in her professional and spiritual journey. Here’s a sneak peek at the back cover copy of my latest release, The Substitute.
She has a foolproof recipe for success and even shares it with others.
When her family moves, seasoned home economics teacher Cassie Franklin never dreams she won’t land a job in a school district known for hiring the crème de la crème. But when the first day of school rolls around without an interview, she begins to worry.
A call to substitute at Sully High School just might be her lucky break.
Or not. Sour staff members and a butchered budget sabotage her every move.
Under increasing pressure, Cassie fights to prove she’s still a professional. Can she tweak her cherished formula for success before becoming a total flop?
The Substitute is Book Two in the Sully Parkway series and is best enjoyed after reading Book One, The Jesus Car.
No, not “dings,” I wrote, “sing.” I started writing this post in my head, and when I hit the keyboard, auto-correct dictated my first line for me! But it couldn’t have been more appropriate…
I won’t start with the ding, though.
It’s been months since our Sunday service was snowed out and our pastor issued the #phil4challenge in his Facebook Live sermon. We had 21 days of devotions reminding us to: choose to be joyful, pray with thanksgiving, think on noble things, and repeat daily. Of course, the “repeat daily” meant the Lord would be assigning plenty of homework! “Anybody can grow in grace”–even me. Even you.
But first, we make mistakes–dings.
Last Sunday morning I had a lot on my plate and left Angie at the sitter’s house before going to church. After church, I wasn’t hungry, so I thought this might be a great time to strip the kitchen floor. Enough with the waxed-on dirt! It couldn’t take more than an hour, could it?
For inspiration, I started playing the long-time AWOL Young Messiah tape I found. Great beat and immortal words. I opened the front, back, and deck doors and moved most of the stuff out of the kitchen and into the hall. I re-read the directions to the stripping product. Chemical-resistant shoes? Who knows? I ran upstairs and put on a pair of rubber-soled shoes I didn’t like. Mindy the cat was safely ensconced on my pillow. Goggles? I had some downstairs but didn’t want to bother. I needed my reading glasses, and they have big lenses. Good to go! Ding!
Apply generously. I used dollar store mops suggested by the clerk at Home Depot.
Ding! Don’t allow to dry before mopping up. Or something like that. I minced over the floor and worked from windows to doorway, hoping I wasn’t leaving tracks with my Bigfoot shoes.
Whew! That smell is strong. Better turn on both ceiling fans. Upstairs, Mindy had left the pillow. Under the bed. Would the fumes be less toxic for her closer to the ground? Not sure.
Ding! Ding! Do not allow to dry before mopping up. The stuff sure was tacky. And the fumes were strong.
One of God’s growth lessons for me has been asking for help. Little 9-pound Mindy needed help even more than I did. I should get her out of the house asap. Remembering the time I’d mixed cleaning products when I cleaned the bathtub and felt mega-woozy, I realized I needed help too. I mopped a few more inches and caved in to the Lord.
I called three people and struck out. Mopped some more. Still tacky.
Call three, my RN friend with the chemistry teacher husband, finally called back. As they had done many times before, they changed the agenda for their day and came to my rescue. While I waited or their arrival, I called poison control. They could only help if something were wrong with me. Thank You, Lord, not yet.
What a relief to have someone else to help me. My nurse friend insisted that we work on opening the windows I was convinced were painted shut. Success. Much better for Mindy upstairs.
It turned out this speed reader had misread the directions! Do not allow to dry before rinsing two times with warm water. Weheaded out to Home Depot for advice. The flooring salesman, despite the fact we weren’t going to buy anything, listened to our tale patiently and that was about it. Nice guy, though.
My friends encouraged me to eat lunch. We stocked up on dollar store mops and rubber gloves. I sent them home. What amazing friends. Thank You, Lord! I hope I can return the favor someday.
Mopped some more.
Seeing the front door propped open and kitchen furnishings sitting in the foyer, a passing friend inquired if I was okay–or was I moving? Thank You, Lord, for surrounding me with concerned friends.
At least the stuff dries quickly, even if the yellow stains on my floor were still there! With just enough energy to put everything back in place and stumble to the car, I texted the long-suffering dog sitter again. “On my way. Finally.” Yet another friend. We’d shared about more than dogs. Thank You, Lord.
Thank You that I survived the fumes. Thank You that I have such great friends. Thank You that even I can learn to reach out.
I don’t think I walked Angie that afternoon, but I definitely sang in the car. Songs of thanksgiving. I’d been protected, and I’d learned to reach out for help.
Don’t wait as long as I often do to reach out for help! The results are worth singing about!
Thanks to an unfortunate mishap last week, Angie has been on a new medication that’s been tough on both of us. Her tummy has been upset and her appetite has been poor. We will soon rate a brass plaque on our exam room at the animal hospital. What a week!
Because I had an early orthodontist appointment this morning, I had to skimp on some of my usual morning routine. Angie had slept with her crate door open overnight so she wouldn’t be trapped if she had GI “issues.” I found her on the gold chair when I came downstairs. The crate was in good shape. She rolled over a bit for a tummy rub but wasn’t overly perky. I carried her into the back yard for a quick potty break, but she came right back inside and plodded upstairs. Reluctantly, I crated her with the door shut and left for my appointment.
I’m grateful that I’d seen an email devotion while I scarfed down a banana and yogurt. Susie Larson urged me to “scoot a little closer to Jesus.” I tried to do that on the way to my appointment. The germ of a plan began to form regarding Angie.
At the orthodontist, they took multitudes of pictures and scans in arcane positions. I have about a month wearing my current aligner only at night, and now I’m celebrating that freedom. At the time, I was in a rotten mood. I think I stopped short of being rude, but I was far from cheerful. I ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompt to compliment the receptionist on her necklace, but at least we exchanged the obligatory wishes for a nice day before I left.
I’ve had to make a dogged attempt to choose joy over the last two or three days. With the exception of Angie’s situation, nothing about my life circumstances has changed. I am well aware that the enemy would be delighted if he could get me to procrastinate on my writing, start dreading my role helping with the new Freedom Group, not invite any of my favorite couples to the Love and Laughter Date Night (they’d be on their own, of course), and panic about Angie. Sometimes choosing joy is counter-intuitive and just a dogged act of obedience. Feelings (may) come later. The enemy wants me to think that depression, which troubled me as a young adult, will come back to stay–that God hasn’t freed me from it. That’s not true–he is guarding my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.
After eating a Panera breakfast (plus my lunch baguette!) in the car on the way home and washing it down with real iced tea (not herbal), I felt better. I decided it was worth the risk to discontinue the medication. I told the doctor when she checked on Angie later today. We worked out a compromise I’m happy with.
The sun came out while Angie and I took a nice walk. It was a great opportunity to sing as much of “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as I know. It really is true that praise is a powerful spiritual weapon. This time, the feelings of joy came along with the spontaneous (not dogged) praise.
The Prince of Darkness grim– We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
What do you think is the “one little word” that will fell the enemy?