Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Clean House

I walked into the kitchen and immediately knew something wasn’t right. An odor lingered from the chicken carcass we’d thrown away. Time to take the garbage out!

Last weekend our church hosted an Encounter weekend. We listened to teaching on the forgiveness of God, on the cross of Christ and the hope of being free from our past sins. God visited us and moved powerfully. I’m so thankful He does that.

I think He was smelling some garbage. He pointed out things in my heart that were ungodly, unholy before Him. Subtle things. So, I could repent. It’s His mercy and grace to do that in our lives as we seek His face, get into His presence, take time out of our busy schedules. He wants to show us His will, if we will listen and quiet ourselves.

Life sneaks in. Darkness creeps in. If we’re not constantly pressing forward to knowing God, we will drift back. Before we know it, we’ll be cold or distant or deceived. He wants us close. Close enough to feel His heart beating with love for us and for others. Close enough for us to feel His breath on us. Close and free, serving Him by serving others. That’s His will.

He wants us free from the odor of sin, selfishness, pride, rebellion. Clean and with empty hands He can fill with good things. Pure hearts so His prayer can be fulfilled:

"Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:21, NKJV)

Matthew 5:7 tells us the pure in heart will see God.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NKJV)

I also want my life to be a pure fragrance before Him.

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)

Like the household chore of regularly taking out the garbage, we’ve gotta check our hearts and make sure we keep short accounts with God. (Bring our sin before Him and repent.)

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NKJV)

Then we will remain clean on the inside.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Guest Author: Megan DiMaria

Megan DiMaria's debut novel is fantastic!! I finished it quickly, devouring every yummy word. I highly recommend it. I loved her voice, that she wrote in first person, and her topic. But just when you think this book is about simple things, you dive headfirst into life's deeper issues. Great job, Megan!

On Monday night, I'll have a drawing for a free copy of the book. Leave a message and your name will be entered! Check back on Tuesday morning for the winner's name.

I've chosen the winner's name---check the comments to learn who won!!

Tell us a little about your book.

Searching for Spice, my debut novel, tells the story of Linda Revere, a married woman who wants to have an affair—with her husband of nearly 25 years. Of course life isn’t scripted, and nothing goes according to plan.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

Searching for Spice was written as a response to a running joke I had with some girlfriends. You know, despite being long married, women still want romance in their lives. God hard wired us to crave closeness and a special connection with the men we love. Unfortunately, some times we need to remind them of that. - grin -

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

Life is hard, and that’s a reality that must be accepted. We shouldn’t be caught off guard when we hit a bump in the road. The message I hope readers gain from Searching for Spice is to know you can trust God despite what your circumstances look like. That was a lesson I had to learn during a difficult valley I walked through. At the time it looked like nothing good could come of that situation, but now I see the hand of God guided me. Equally important to me is the message that marriage is valuable and precious and should not be lightly regarded. Another message I hope readers grasp is that friendship is priceless, and we should cherish the people in our lives.

How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

My observations influenced my characters more than my own experiences. However, as far as the setting of Searching for Spice, anyone familiar with suburban Denver will recognize certain areas and establishments. My favorite local restaurant is in the book, but it’s called the Gray Pony Inn. I’ve worked in two different photo studios and trained in a handful more. Dream Photography is 100% a figment of my imagination, and the references within the studio are industry-generic. In some ways I think we’re all a little like my character Linda. In our hearts we truly want to trust the Lord, but when difficulties arise we sometimes run ahead of our faith and try to “fix” things on our own. I’ve been told by some close friends that they believe my internal dialogue is similar to some of the things Linda thinks, although I’ve been told by many women my age that Linda’s internal dialogue is similar to the way they think as well.

What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

I think the hardest parts to write were the ones that traveled toward deep emotions. I am too sympathetic toward the pain of others, and even though my characters are fictional, I felt sorry for the pain and trials they faced. My favorite parts of the story to write were the moments when Linda and Jerry really connected with one another.

What one bit of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write regularly, read regularly, join a writers group or two, hang out with writers, have your work critiqued and attend conferences if you can. I confess, many times in my writing journey I was tempted to throw in the towel. But the moral of the story is, don’t give up. Hold on to your dreams. Press on. Trust God.

Where do you write?

I write on a laptop, so I can pretty much go wherever I want. If the weather’s nice, 90% of the time I’m sitting outside on my shady patio. Inside, I bounce between the kitchen, living room, dining room and my bed. I’ve been known to write in a local tea cafĂ©, Panera Bread and my all-time favorite quirky place, Grease Monkey.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

I wish I would have joined the community of writers sooner. I wrote for a few years before I even met another author. I think part of the problem was that I was timid about publicly acknowledging that I was a writer. I was afraid people would laugh or ask, “Who do you think you are?” It almost seemed too lofty a goal for me. But after I started hanging out with other aspiring writers, I began to believe that I could reach my goal of being a published author. I think it really helps your career to spend time with other writers. They are a tremendous source of encouragement, education and support.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

My next book, Out of Her Hands, is scheduled to release this October. Out of Her Hands has the same characters as Searching for Spice, but the focus is more on the relationships Linda and Jerry have with their children. Like many parents of young adults, the Reveres want their children to be careful about making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. As usual, there is always more than one situation clamouring for Linda’s attention. They’re helping Jerry’s father get on with life after he’s widowed, Linda’s best friend is moving out of state, and then their son decides he’s falling in love, but the object of his affection doesn’t share his Christian values.

Ooh, I'm looking forward to reading your next book! Readers, just an FYI--Megan's name is pronounced with a long "e" sound.

Here's a bit more about her:

Megan DiMaria received her B.A. degree in Communications, with a specialization in Mass Media from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. She has been a radio and television reporter, a Web content editor, a contributing writer for local newspapers and has worked for a weekly newspaper. Megan has sold magazine articles locally and nationally. She has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since January 2001, is a member of HIS Writers (Denver branch of ACFW) and is assistant director of Words for the Journey Rocky Mountain Region, a Denver-area writers group. She is an alumnus of the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference and the Glen Eyrie Writers Conference.

In her day job, she works in the marketing department of an upscale Denver portrait photography studio. She is also a freelance writer, crafting magazine articles and advertising copy. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, will release from Tyndale in October 2008.

Megan and her husband Carl currently live in suburban Denver near their three adult children. They often travel back to their roots in Long Island, NY to visit family and get their fill of delicious Italian food.

To learn more about Megan and her books, visit her website at www.megandimaria.com or for more interactive information, stop by her blog at www.megandimaria.blogspot.com.

Thank you, Megan, for visiting today! It's been a pleasure hosting you.

Readers, don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Searching for Spice her wonderful new book.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Striving

Ever approached a door to a library or restaurant, and someone opens it for you? or the last person exiting or entering, holds it open for you? Maybe the host or hostess sees you coming and pulls back the door just as you’re arriving. She or he smiles at you, glad you’ve arrived.

Last Sunday morning in church the Lord showed me once again that He is my Father who opens doors for me. I’m not talking about physical, three-dimensional doors. I’m speaking of opportunities.

When Jesus walked the earth, He didn’t strive. You never read of Him scurrying anywhere. He knew His Father’s will (through communion with Him), and He followed it. He lived out His calling in God’s perfect timing, without worrying or trying to force events to happen in His life.

God has called me. In His timing He will open doors for me. He’s going before me and making a way, paving the pathway. My job is to pray for direction and keep moving forward. I can almost see Him, giddy with anticipation as I approach the next opportunity. And at just the right moment, He’ll open the door and beckon me inside, welcoming me with a smile and gentle honor. A humbling picture. Or maybe we’ll bypass a few doors. I can’t force my way in. I don’t want that. God doesn’t want that. I only want to enter through a door by God’s grace.

And I don’t have to put pressure on myself to get there. I just have to trust Him and His timing. As my heavenly Father, He knows the right door and the right time.

Has God called you to kingdom work? Just remember you do not have to strive to make something happen before it’s time. Steadily work in that direction, growing, learning. Don’t stress or be anxious about the possibilities you see which could come along, or worry about the success of others. (or worse, begrudge their success.) Be faithful in the small things and watch God bring the greater things. Be a person of integrity. Be honest and generous. Be Christlike.

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Php 1:6 NKJV)

Wait. Don’t run ahead. He’ll get the door for you. He’s your Father who opens doors for you.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


We've touched on Jesus' compassion.

When Jesus walked the earth, in the flesh, He saw what you and I see. Homeless people. Hurting people. Disfigured and diseased. Hopeless. He had the power to do something about it. But what made Him move?


The Greek word translated as compassion oftentimes in the New Testament (splagchnizomai) literally refers to the bowels (because they were believed to be the seat of pity and love). The idea is a deep-down ache to help someone. That’s what Jesus felt—a deep ache to help. In the instant He saw them (and likely before), He immediately knew their past, their pain, their despair. He was their only hope. And He was moved.

In today’s vernacular, I’d define this concept of compassion as a gut-wrenching reaction to seeing someone in pain paired with a powerful motivation to help them. Then, mercy follows. Mercy is the act that completes compassion's desire.

Jesus did what He saw the Father doing. He did as His Father directed Him. The Father’s heart is full of mercy. Hundreds or perhaps thousands of healings. Limbs restored, blind eyes restored, hearing restored. Life restored. Mercy abounding as The Healer moved through the various cities of the land of His mission. And mercy’s starting place? A gut-wrenching response in the center of the Savior’s being. His heart ached for the hurting. His mind knew they could be made whole. His feet moved as the Father led. His hands healed.

I’m so thankful that the God of hope, the One who is hope for the hopeless, is also the God of mercy. He is moved and he moves to help.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


There are a million things I could do today.

It’s spring break and there are errands to run, kids to play with, crafts or projects we could make. We could clean the house from top to bottom, gut closets or wash the van (well, if it stops raining). I could write a new chapter for my work in progress, or blog, or straighten my office. All of those things are worthwhile. But we can’t do them all at once. So, what’s the best thing? What’s the best use of our time?

Jesus went about His life very purposefully. He stayed focused on His life’s work, even when others around Him might have had a different agenda.

Remember when He “needed” to go through Samaria (read John 4) and the disciples went off to find food, but Jesus remained in one place because God had an assignment for Him there. He finished his assignment in that place (witnessing the Gospel message to a woman who would then evangelize her entire city) before moving on. This was His “food,” to do the work of Him who sent Him. He stayed focused.

There are good things to do in our lives, but what’s the best thing? Ask yourself this question the next time a new opportunity comes your way. What’s the best thing? Just because something’s right, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing. Just because something noble, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you to do in that moment.

A life of purpose is a life focused on God’s call specifically. Not getting sidetracked or distracted. A focused life will be a successful life. We keep God first. We seek His kingdom, turning over our agendas to Him. We stay in the Word, under authority and we discern what to say “yes” to. Just like Jesus.

The people wanted to make Him king during their day (see John 6:15). He wasn’t meant to reign at that time. He walked on knowing God’s purpose and following Him closely.

I heard an author once explain that as her ministry grew, she was getting offers to get involved in speaking or writing projects which were noble and good, but weren’t within her mission guidelines. She had to turn things down. They would have been a distraction. We’ve got to discover God’s call (or clarify it’s boundaries), commit and then root out all distractions as we go in pursuit of His best in our lives.

All His best in your life,