Sunday, June 28, 2009

Announcing the Launch of Seriously Write

My good friend Dawn Kinzer and I have just launched a new blog entitled: Seriously Write.

Our mission is to help writers succeed in spreading the message God has given them through their writing.

Each day will be dedicated to a different topic. Take a peek:

Manuscript Mondays -- focus on the craft of writing
Net's Notation Tuesdays -- I will offer thoughts on writing
Writer's Journey Wednesdays -- we'll highlight writing organizations and helpful blogs, post articles offering advice, and generally cover stops along the writing journey
Dawn's Devotional Thursdays -- Dawn will share her devotional writing thoughts
Fortifying Friday -- we'll encourage writers as they jump into the weekend by posting guest authors' encouragements, success stories, inspirational pieces, etc.

Click over and check it out! Seriously Write.

If you're a writer and would like to offer pieces to coincide with the topics listed for Monday/Wednesday/Friday above, please leave a message in the comments or email me at annette [at] annetteirby [dot] com. We're actively seeking submissions as we schedule through the summer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What Kind of Impact?

Recently, with the high profile deaths of a few celebrities, I've been watching the news coverage and wondering about the impact people have and the legacy they leave behind when they die. Have you ever considered the kind of legacy you hope to leave behind? Are you actively seeking to do so? You don't have to be a celebrity to make an impact. Every day, ordinary people leave powerful legacies--even if only in the lives of those directly around them. Their children and grandchildren, coworkers, friends.

I'm challenged because we don't know the kind of impact we have, but we can influence it. Do we treat people with respect? Do we walk in hope and share that hope with those around us? Do we approach life with persistence and a positive outlook? Do we care for and help others around us, seeing beyond ourselves to their needs?

One of the best ways to know that you will leave a lasting, positive legacy, is by pursuing your calling from God while you live. Notice I didn't say "fulfilling." I say that because God calls us to a specific role, but He is pleased even as we pursue that fulfillment. And along the way, we make an impact. Your Creator knows His purpose for you. He will use your influence in the lives of those He wills to touch them, bless them, help them.

Do you know what your calling is? Ask Him. He will show you. He wants to work with you to chase that dream. His dream for you. His purpose in your life. So you can leave a positive, lasting legacy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Black Clouds in the Rear View Mirror

Last night as I headed out for worship practice at church, dark gray clouds covered our neighborhood. We live on a hill and anywhere you go, you drive downhill to get there. As I headed west, I saw where the edge of the band of clouds gave way ahead to a very bright sky. Verifying my shades were in my purse on the seat beside me, I drove on. Four minutes from leaving my house, sunlight and puffy clouds covered the sky. Gorgeous. I snatched up my sunglasses, squinting. So nice to have sunshine after a day of rain.

After a few turns, I was headed due west again and, as a matter of habit, glanced in my rear view mirrors. That's when I saw it. A huge bank of black clouds behind me. You know, when I was under that bank, nearer our house, I couldn't tell I was under black clouds--they seemed gray. But the view from farther away showed them clearly--big, menacing black storm clouds hovered over my neighborhood.

Immediately God showed me something profound. I've been going through a season of pain. (You'll find clues reading through earlier blog posts.) And right now, though I know it's difficult, I can't really discern how difficult, how dark. One day I'll see it very clearly. But I believe God is protecting me from the "truth" of how bad this season actually is. Instead of taking my hand to point out the devastation of difficulty, He's taking my hand and drawing me toward that sunny place up ahead. He's walking through this with me.

And that was the good news--I'm not alone and I'm going forward. I won't be staying in this dark, painful place. I will come through this. The Bible often says that things "come to pass." You can pick up anywhere in, say, Abraham's story or one of the king's lives, and you'll probably see the phrase "And it came to pass that..." Well, this trial, this painful season in my life (just like the one in yours) has COME TO PASS. It hasn't come to stay.

So, how will I respond? This week was hard as more truth came to light about this painful season. (God only gives us what we can handle and who would know that better than Him?) And it made me stagger back. But then, my trip last night, coupled with a chapter in the gospels that spoke directly to me about Jesus healing people, gave me hope.

Never underestimate the power of hope.

There is a sunny, bright, pain free place up ahead, and I'm aiming myself directly for it. That's where I'm headed. I'm not staying here. I will hold God's hand and press into Him so He can comfort me.

And I will move forward in hope.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Guests: sisters Sharon and Laurie Lovejoy Autry

Welcome to another Father's Day-themed post. Today's visitors, Sharon Lovejoy Autry and Laurie Lovejoy Autry--sisters in ministry together for moms.

Here's a bit about them:

Laurie Lovejoy Hilliard and Sharon Lovejoy Autry are wives, moms, sisters and great friends. They are the founders of Mom and Loving It Ministries whose mission is to provide hope for families by encouraging and equipping moms.

After these sisters and their families toured 40 states speaking and singing to thousands of moms, they settled in the
North Texas area near their hometown of Whitesboro. They've been featured on numerous TV and radio shows and have written Mom and Loving It: Finding Contentment in REAL Life, and Hold You, Mommy: Moments with God for Moms on the Go. Their musical CD, Hold You, Mommy has encouraged thousands. Laurie and her husband Charles, have four children, Sharon and her husband Pat, have three.

This twosome inspires audiences at their
Mom and Loving It Conferences to move from simply enduring motherhood to enjoying it. Through their genuine hearts and relatable stories, moms are put at ease and challenged to be a "Mom and Loving It!"

To find out more about using their books as studies in your ladies group, having them for a conference or to sign up for a free monthly Mom-e-Moment visit them at

And now, their thoughts this Father's Day week:

No-Cost Big Reward Father's Day Gift Ideas

By: Sharon Lovejoy Autry and Laurie Lovejoy Autry

There we sat at dinner - a time that, in my mind, is supposed to be calm and non-stressful. (I've heard food digests better.) But, after a draining workday, little things can seem huge. The kids were planning yet another summer business endeavor which crawled all over my husband. He began lecturing the negatives of such an endeavor...point 1, point 2...I felt like we were in a business meeting. I must have rolled my eyes. I glanced at my daughter who wasn't listening to her father. She was looking at me. Her response to point 1 and 2: rolling her eyes.

Children do what we do . . . Boy, that's a scary thought for me. How do you treat your husband? Do you respect him with your words, actions, attitudes, eyes? I struggle sometimes when I feel so justified in my disrespect. Can you relate? I think the best thing we as moms can do to help our children to respect their dad is to treat him with respect ourselves. Here are some Father's Day (and everyday) tips to help our children respect their fathers:
  1. A compliment a day goes a long way! Brag on your husband in front of your children (and in front of him).
  2. Show me the love! Let your children know how much you love their daddy. Show affection in front of your children. They may say, "Yuck!" but it provides much-needed security for their lives.
  3. Instead of being put-out -Pray! Include your children in praying for dad's job, leadership, etc.
  4. Give him grace . . . Show him grace even when he doesn't deserve it . . . remember, neither do we. Nehemiah 9:17b says "But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love."
  5. Phone Manners. Next time you are in the middle of something and your husband calls you on the phone, be aware of your tone of voice, are you respectful? . . . little ears may be listening and learning.
  6. "Daddy's Home!" Be as excited to see your husband when he comes home from work as your children are! Make yourself stop what you are doing to greet him.
  7. Choose your battles -When you think your husband is being unfair (and it's a battle you need to fight) talk to your husband in private; listen first and speak last. Psalm 141:3 "Set a guard over my mouth O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips."

    Try these no-cost (big rewards) Father's Day gift ideas and see if it proves to be the gift that truly keeps on giving!

    Happy Father's Day weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guest Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

Please welcome my good friend Cynthia Ruchti as she shares some poignant thoughts in honor of Father's Day.

Meeting Daddy

Cynthia Ruchti

Amy was six weeks pregnant when her husband’s army unit deployed to Iraq for eighteen months. I felt my friend’s pain deep in my bones, aching with a brand of grief reserved only for times like that. Caring for her two young children and their home would be stress enough for her without the added demands and challenges of a new baby on the way. Concern for her husband’s safety would mask every remotely joyful moment. The wonder of labor and delivery lay shrouded in loneliness. And the child would be many months old before meeting his or her daddy for the first time.

Change a few details and backtrack more than fifty years and that was my story.

My father served with the Marines during the Korean Conflict. Four days after I was born, his unit shipped out, leaving my mom and me to fend for ourselves for the next thirteen months. When relating my personal history, I have to start with that. It shaped my beginnings. I lived my first thirteen months seven thousand miles away from the dad who loved me and wasn’t allowed to hold me until I was already walking and capable of squirming out of his arms.

He’d read magazines during Mom’s labor. Fathers weren’t welcome in the delivery room in those days. He saw his first glimpses of me through the nursery window. Then he obediently reported for duty aboard the ship that would take him far from us and into the arms of daily danger.

In an era before the invention of camcorders, camera phones, and e-mail, my mother and father had only air mail letters to connect their hearts. Letters and scalloped-edged black and white photos.

As the firstborn child, my photo album bulged, all the more so since still pictures offered my dad his only tangible evidence that I was alive, growing, and as happy as a child can be without her father.

Mom would have sent him a lock of my hair from my first haircut if I’d had any to spare. When I learned to blow kisses, she’d “collect” some in an envelope to send to him. An amateur artist, Daddy sketched cartoonish scenes from his Marine unit—jeeps and tents and enlisted men and helicopters. Even before I understood a word she said, my mom read those letters to me over and over again. They were my lullabies. She showed me his picture and talked about what a wonderful daddy I had.

Mom wanted me to know who he was and what he was like before he came home. From the stories they’ve told, both of my parents were nervous about that first meeting. They worried I’d be frightened of the stranger who was my father. He’d survived the war, but my fearing or resisting him would have killed him, they said.

To compound the concern, I was just at that age when a toddler begins to fear strangers. Somebody would smile at me in church and I’d start screaming.

But my mom had prepared me well. The pictures. The letters. Her gentle words about how much that smiling man in the pictures loved me. I’m told that when he finally came home and walked through the front door, I looked up at my mom, pointed to the tall Marine and asked, “Daddy?” Mom nodded, her throat imploding on itself. Her nod was all the assurance I needed. The next minute I was in his arms, dodging his tears of gratitude that I’d accepted him.

I give my mother a lot of credit for the success of that first meeting. She had prepared me well, leaving nothing to chance. My toddler mind entertained no doubt that he cared about me. I knew that truth before he even got home from the war because of what my mother taught me about him.

If the Lord walked into the room in a few minutes, would the people around me recognize Him not by His beard or hair or flowing robes, but because of how I have described Him?

Would people meeting Him for the first time find the situation comfortable and reassuring because of how well I prepared them?

Am I constantly showing others snapshots of the Lord through the way I live and love, the things I say about Him, the things He said that I pass on to them?

Do I talk about Him frequently, with loving words, expressing how very much He loves even those who have not yet met Him?

Would His sudden presence seem intimidating and frightening, or more like a warm homecoming?

In light of how you and I act day to day, would others respond to His entrance into their lives this way:

“Oh, sure! I recognize Him. I've heard my neighbor talk about Him. I've seen my coworker act like that. I've heard those same affirming words coming out of my brother-in-law's mouth. I've seen examples of what He's like. His amazing love and generosity and compassion and caring don't surprise me at all. They are just what I expected from what my friend shared about Him. I heard that His touch brings healing. I heard that He can help make sense out of the questions that trouble me. I didn't need more of an introduction than the one my friend already gave me. I’d recognize Jesus a mile away.”

Pictures and reflections and stories and evidence still lack the wonder of that first face-to-face encounter. As I Corinthians 13:12 (KJV) reminds us, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Cynthia Ruchti writes stories of “hope that glows in the dark.” The drama/devotional radio broadcast Cynthia writes and produces—The Heartbeat of the Home—airs on 16 radio stations and two cable/digital television stations. Cynthia is editor of the ministry’s Backyard Friends magazine. She also serves as current president of American Christian Fiction Writers. Her debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home—releases in spring 2010 with Abingdon Press. Cynthia's website.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Gift from Dad on his Birthday

Yesterday my dad celebrated a birthday clear across the country. Almost 10 p.m. his time I gave him a call.

I'd been having a difficult day, but it was great to hear his voice.

He started the conversation by singing happy birthday to himself. Not "Hello" or "How are you?" just "Happy birthday to me," etc. Funny!

Then we launched into a favorite story from the last time we'd seen each other.

Our family is a group of "laughers." I know -- not a real word. But we are known for our laughter. Ask my daughters. They gaze at us with sincere, bemused puzzlement whenever we get together and the original family of six starts laughing. Tears stream down our faces. Shared memories, shared shenanigans. One time, my brother visited and three of us siblings laughed for three hours. The rest of my "now" family just shook their heads and eventually left us to our tears. These are pure times of joy.

And how I needed that yesterday. So as we recalled this incident, and with no one to see me uproariously undignified, I gave in to the belly laughs and let the tears run down my face. So freeing. Like medicine.

It's the gift Dad gave me on his birthday. Thanking God for him today.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Do You Want?

So, this morning as I was pouring out my frustrations before God, listing my grievances about something (can't remember now even what it was), I stopped. Not because I shouldn't complain before God, but because that's what I do--list my complaints and then stop when I run out. (I know, I know. Not. Good.) Anyway, as I continued to collect laundry (multi-tasking, you see) I heard Him say, "Ask for what you want."

And Jesus stood and commanded him to be brought to Him.
And when he had come near,
He asked him, saying, What do you desire
that I should do to you?
(Luke 18:40-41a)

Do you ever list your prayer requests, but then not take the time to specifically name what you'd like to see happen, how you'd like the problem to be resolved? Granted, we don't always know the best course of action. Sometimes the wisest prayer is "God, please help." But I got the feeling this morning that God would inspire the answer. I just needed to voice what I wanted, which, as He inspired my prayer, would be praying His will.

God is glorified in answering specific prayers.

Yesterday morning, my preschooler couldn't find a certain toy. She has a collection of play foods--plastic toys. She had her peas, pineapple, chicken and a plate (I think), but wanted the block of pretend chocolate. So, I called her to stand close to me. Then, I told her to pray to Jesus, who knows where everything is, and then go search. "Pray He'll take you right to where it is and that you'll find it." She said, "Would you do it?" So, together we prayed. Then, she happily went off to search some more while I asked God to show up and manifest Himself by directing her search. Guess what? Moments later, I hear: Oh, great! I found it. (In one of her toy crates, inside a canvas bag I haven't seen in quite a while.)

God had answered our specific prayer. So, I called her close again, and we thanked God with overflowing joy. I love when God gets personal. How gracious He is to listen.

Since hearing that Sharon Hinck starts her day praying through a Psalm, I've been keeping a journal. Today's focus was Psalm 18 (again). Read it! It's a fantastic portrayal of God coming to the rescue of His beloved. Love how passionate He is. Love how He hears our prayers and answers.

I Believe in Passion

That got your attention, I imagine. :) Here's what I mean. I believe God is a passionate God. His passion drew Him to the cross. Jesus died for you because He was desperate for a relationship with you and because He is a merciful God who alone held the solution for your otherwise insurmountable problem (sin-induced distance from God). I'm so glad He did. I love when He demonstrates His passion for people.

And I believe He gives us a taste of passion in our relationships. A mother who would die for her children. A father who would die for his family. A brother's love. The bond of sisters. A husband and wife who love each other with abandon, cherishing, respecting.

This week, I've had Christian romance author Julie Lessman as a guest at Net's Book Notes. She writes passionate fiction. I respect her and her calling. Click over and read our interview.

If you leave a comment over there, you'll be entered in our drawing for your choice of her books, autographed. (Daughters of Boston series--A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, or A Passion Denied).

I'll hold the drawing late tonight (6/11). Please leave your email address: name (at) wherever (dot) com. Here's the link again:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Longing for Jesus

A couple of months ago a traveling drama troop visited our church with their play about the last days of Jesus' earthly life. We saw a fictionalized account of some of the Biblical characters--their questions about who Jesus was and how they wrestled with the evidence. One of the characters was Malchus who lost his ear to Peter's sword when the guards went to arrest Jesus. Jesus healed him, on the spot. How Malchus help but believe Jesus was Who He said He was? A great play. As I watched with my family, I kept waiting and hoping one of the actors would come out, portraying Jesus. That we'd see an exchange with "Him" in the scene. But no one did. The play ended without even a glimpse.

Afterward one of the lead characters still dressed for his role, spoke to the gathering. He said, "How many of you were longing to see Jesus while you watched the play?" So many of us raised our hands. I could feel the hunger in my soul for even a portrayed glimpse of Him.

God is a passionate Bridegroom, holding back a glimpse of Himself (we can't see His face yet) to induce us to passionate longing for Him.

It's working.

Yesterday missionaries from the mid-west who work in Cambodia came to testify of how God is moving where they minister. One of them told us of a Buddhist monk who was searching for truth. (The missionary explained that's what they spend their lives doing.) He picked up a leaf and held it up to the light. He couldn't miss the design on the leaf and began to reason within himself: "If there's a design, there must be a designer." He then began to seek out Creator God--the designer who designed himself. He had a dream of a valley between mountains. One bearing the word "Buddhism" and the other "Christianity." God spoke to Him in the dream and told him to choose which mountain, which direction he should go in order to find God.

Not having any experience with Christianity, he turned toward the mountain marked "Buddhism" and started walking. He was going to find God. But every step he took caused the mountain to recede. He was never going to find God there. He said "I'm no dummy. I eventually decided to turn toward the other mountain." He had only taken two steps when he was lifted up by God to stand on top of the mountain of Christianity.

Buddhist monks dress in orange. The missionary explained they believe orange is a holy color. But the monk described seeing God as one who had long, brown hair and a white robe. He said, "His face shone like the sun."

As the missionary explained this monk's experience, someone behind me earnestly whispered, "He saw Jesus."

A tangible yearning stirred all around me. That longing to see Jesus awakened in me.

The Buddhist monk's life changed drastically that day. He saw Jesus.

Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me you have believed. Blessed are they who have not seen have believed." John 20:29

Seeing is believing, but Jesus often asks us to believe without seeing. But one day... We. Shall. See. Him.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leaning In


A man and his young daughter (6-8 years old) enter a convenience store/gas station where the man pulls a gun on the attendant to rob him. See the terror and unbelief, the sense of betrayal on the little girl's face who is looking at her daddy with stark shock.


An armored car employee shot and robbed. The attackers make off with one bag of money. One bag of money for a man's life. A life.

You've heard the saying "desperate times call for desperate measures," but I think they induce them. Are these people in their right minds as they carry out atrocities? No. They're desperate.

The LORD is near to the broken-hearted; and saves those who are of a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Where is Jesus as our economy flounders? As people lose jobs and homes? As stress heats up?

He's leaning in.

Toward the heartbroken family members who lost someone, a victim of murder. Leaning toward the jobless ones needing help. The homeless and the helpless, the poor and those in need (physically, financially, spiritually).

What does He ask?

Lean back.

Turn to Him. Ask for help. Embrace humility and seek Him. Read the Word of God (Bible). Start with the Gospel of John in the New Testament. Try the Psalms, then Proverbs and Ephesians. If you don't have a Bible, you can access Scriptures on-line at and/or go to a church and ask for one. Chances are they'll give you more than a free Bible.

It's time to lay down pride and ask for help.

Maybe you've never turned to God before. He's using your circumstances to draw you. Lean in. He can turn your life around. He can redeem your situation (take a bad situation and make it work out well). He wants to free you, and love you in a way you experience it personally, beyond the words "Jesus loves you" to an encounter with that powerful, life-changing love. It's personal.

Instead of relying on yourself as much, or waiting on someone else (a human or organization) to rescue you, learn to trust God to help you. He created the universe. He is able.

Do you need a job? He is able. A car? He is able. Healing? A relationship restored? He is able.

God designed His creation to rely upon Him, to need Him and go to Him for help. Sure there are things you can do on your own. But if, by the Spirit of God you use His wisdom, you will have greater success, peace, freedom, deeper healing.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7)

Remember that movie "While You Were Sleeping"?

There's a great quote in there about leaning. Jack tells Lucy she "leaned" when she hugged Joe Fusco, Jr. She asks him to clarify.

He says, "Hugging is different from leaning. Hugging involves arms and hands. Leaning is very different. Leaning is whole bodies moving in, like this. Leaning involves wanting and accepting. Leaning."

Jesus wants to have a bigger role in your life. We all need Him. We were created with a deep need for Him. He's leaning toward you.

Lean in.