Friday, August 18, 2017

A Blocked Fuel Tank

A Blocked Fuel Line

By Ray Hawkins

The lawnmower coughed, spluttered, stopped. Outwardly there was no sign of a problem. It had petrol, oil and a new spark plug. No amount of cord pulling could get it going. So, I had to do some investigation. The problem? Pebbles in the fuel tank! Young grandchildren had been at work.

Sometimes our spiritual life experiences pebbles in its fuel tank. Outwardly everything seems okay to the casual observer. Inwardly, there is a realisation that we are at a standstill. What is now required is an investigation of the cause. There is a tendency to say “I’ll pray about it” and go blithely on our way, ‘pebble’ untouched. Then we can fall into the trap of blaming the Devil for our problems. Sure, he’ll take advantage but let’s accept our own accountability.

Some pebbles we may need to recognise and remove are: greed, jealousy, self-righteousness, un-forgiveness, lust, apathy and hurt feelings. Cleaning the spiritual fuel-line requires acknowledging the existence of the pebbles; Admitting their presence before the Lord; Asking the Creator/Redeemer for a cleansing and then get moving.

The spiritual and relational ‘unblocking’ that have to be undertaken usually take time and honesty underpinned by an act of the will. When undertaken, God does a beautiful and complete overhaul. He renews us for the tasks He has chosen and the joy of His service returns.

Praise His Name.

Writer of Biblically themed   31 day devotions.
Latest one is ‘The Warrior Lord’sTriumph.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Christmas in August? Or Victorian England?

Christmas in August

Guest Post 
Michelle Griep

What’s not to love about Christmas? 

The lights. The singing. And of course the food!

But do you really want to think about all that during the heat of summer? Personally, I’d rather slap on some flip flops and fire up the grill.

But last August I got a request from my publisher to come up with a Christmas series that would incorporate Charles Dickens in some way. You better believe I kicked off those flip flops, grabbed a scarf, and settled down with a hot cup of tea to ponder what to do.

I’ve always loved Dickens. His characters are memorable. Scrooge, anyone? And his settings are vivid. Charles Dickens used to walk the streets of London late at night just to get the feel of the city. So, I knew I’d have to come up with some intriguing characters in order to keep the story Dickenesque.

The other thing about Dickens is that he brought Christmas to life by describing festivities such as caroling or Christmas dinners. Victorian holiday traditions needed to be woven in to the tale as well, then.

Last, but not least, a mix of what I like to call “what if” needed to be blended in. Dickens always made his readers wonder, so that important element needed to be a big part of the story.

And so, coming your way on September 1st, I give to you Book I in the Once Upon a Dickens’ Christmas titled 12 Days at Bleakly Manor. Here’s a blurb:

A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home may bring danger...and love?

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of five hundred pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancĂ©, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Pour a cup of tea and settle in for Book 1 of the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series--a page-turning Victorian-era holiday tale--by Michelle Griep, a reader and critic favorite. Available for a special pre-order price at Amazon.


Michelle Griep has been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayola® crayons. She is the author of historical romances: The Captured Bride, The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, and Gallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan
If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at or or stalk her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Glory Revealed

Hidden Corners of Glory
By Michelle De Bruin

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2:11

This story of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana has always interested me. Mostly because of what the story says, but even more because of what is left unsaid. Each time I read it, I ask another question. My list has become quite long: How did Jesus know when the time was right to start doing miracles? How did the water turn into wine? Did Jesus pronounce a blessing over it, like the pastor at communion, or did he stir it? Maybe his shadow falling over the clear, deep pools of still water reflecting the evening sunlight was enough to change it. Or like the mud paste he used to heal the blind man, did he spit in it? Oh, goodness. If I was in the family hosting this party, trying to impress our friends and relatives, I would certainly hope not.

No one knows how the water actually changed into wine. Neither does anyone seem to know the names of the bridal couple or why Jesus responded to his mother the way he did.

The unspoken message in John 2 is about expectation. The wedding guests expected to drink their fill of wine at their host’s expense. Mary expected Jesus to heed her request to bring peace. Jesus expected to be able to wait a little longer until his glory became known. This clash of motives plays out in the humble home of a local village family. Money probably ran a little short for this middle class Galilean family, as it does for all of us from time to time. The guests kept on enjoying the feast, and the wine supply was starting to dwindle. Running out of wine at a Jewish wedding was the worst insult to both the host and the guests. The host would feel humiliation over his inability to provide adequately for the celebration. The guests would have felt disrespected. This outcome would have branded the wedding couple with a reputation they’d never live down. Lawsuits may even be brought against them.

Mary saw this situation brewing under the surface of the simple surroundings and the merrymaking. Something must be done, but what and by who? Seated across the banquet table from her was the only one she ever needed–her son, Jesus. I like to imagine that over the years, Mary probably witnessed Jesus settling disputes among his siblings, offering a solution, speaking comfort, making peace. She says to him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus puts her off with the statement, “My hour has not yet come.”

Mary seems to ignore him. In full confidence and faith, she turns to the servants and tells them, “Do whatever he tells you.”

If I was Jesus, I would have rolled my eyes at my presumptuous mother. But since he is perfect and I am not, he probably handled the situation much better. Jesus gives instructions to fill the stone jars with water, draw some out, and take it to the master of the party. Somewhere between the words leaving Jesus’ mouth and the liquid reaching the master’s mouth, the water had changed into wine.

Jesus’ glory was revealed. In a common family living in an obscure town, glory shone. During a large, crowded celebration, glory sneaked in. While saving simple people from disaster, glory quietly spread in the form of kindness and understanding.

Like Mary’s life, the lives of this wedding couple, and the lives of the small town guests, our lives are filled with the simple, the common, the crowded, and sometimes, the disastrous. Jesus is present with the soothing word of comfort. He provides when our resources run out He makes peace in situations that seem to have no happy ending. This is when his glory shines. He reveals himself in subtle, miraculous ways that we would miss if it wasn’t for his glory shining on them.

Michelle De Bruin is the Spiritual Services Facilitator for an organization that provides services for people with both mental and physical disabilities. In this role, she plans and leads retreats, teaches Bible studies, offers care during times of grief, and writes devotions. Michelle lives with her husband and two teenage sons in Iowa. She's recently completed the manuscript for a historical romance drawn from her local history and family heritage. The story explores the themes of discerning the call to ministry, growing through grief, and discovering true love. 

Where to find Michelle:


Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Puzzles of Life

Nothing Stays the Same!

Guest blogger post from Lillian Duncan

“I write Christian suspense and mystery.”

That was my answer when people asked me what I wrote, but in life, nothing stays the same. And that’s true with my soon-to-be-released book—Puzzle House (Harbourlight Books, October 2017).

Puzzle House is a different sort of book than I usually write, but that makes sense. I’ve been living a different sort of life for more than five years. My life was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with brain tumors and a genetic condition known as Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) in 2012.

During these past several years, I’ve come to understand that nothing can be taken for granted. Except for God and his faithfulness. God has been there with me—every step of the way on this journey I didn’t want to take.

In many ways PUZZLE HOUSE is the book I didn’t want to write because had I never been diagnosed with the brain tumors, I would never have written this particular story. Since Puzzle House has a much deeper spiritual theme than most of my books, I decided for the first time to write a companion devotional book to go along with my novel—Devotions from Puzzle House.

Nothing stays the same.

Here’s the blurb for Devotions from Puzzle House:

Life isn’t a box of candy, it’s a puzzle—lots of pieces and lots of confusion, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If we do life with God, we can create a beautiful picture with our life, the one God planned for us. So how do we put that puzzle together out of the chaos?

With God, of course.

This book is called Devotions from Puzzle House, but what exactly is Puzzle House? No, it’s not a place but a novel I’ve written. I call Puzzle House the book I never wanted to write! I would never have written it if I hadn’t developed bilateral brain tumors because of a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2).

It’s been a difficult journey, but God has been and continues to be my strength and my comfort and so I’ve written these devotions to share some of the pieces that have helped me create my life’s puzzle.

Even though Puzzle House is most definitely fiction, these devotions are biblically based and therefore as real as it gets!

God bless!

SPECIAL NOTE: for the next few days, Devotions from Puzzle House is FREE on Amazon. Yes, you read it right—FREE! But you better hurry because nothing stays the same—and that’s true with the FREE price as well!

HURRY on over to Amazon get your free copy!

 Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.

Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at or She also has a devotional blog at

Friday, August 4, 2017

I Cry Out to the Lord

I Cry Out to the Lord

A devotional by Susan Karsten

"You are a shield around me, O Lord, my Glorious One, who lifts up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud and He answers me from His holy hill."    (an excerpt from Psalm 3, ESV)

Don’t be alarmed at me crying out…just in prayer! “Just” — that’s an understatement. As one of God’s children, I have access to my Heavenly Father at all times.

While jogging this morning, thoughts whirling, I started calling God’s name. My mind settled and little things started coming into notice. Little things – is not our God a God of the little and the big?

The inside of my right knee stopped twinging. My meager 1-2 mile run could continue apace.

I saw a charming sight. A small boy, in his shade-dappled yard, throwing a ball to himself, and whacking it. Practicing his hitting. He looked surprised when I gave him a little round of applause as I chugged past.

My bandanna, the one I had folded into a makeshift headband to keep my hair out of my face, slipped down over my left ear. Phffft! A large bug hit the bandanna, right over my ear. Just think of the horror if the bandanna hadn’t fallen over my ear. A large bug would have gone into my ear – a direct hit. Praise God for slipping bandannas. Is anything left to chance? I wonder at that.

I reached home looking forward to one of my favorite household tasks, hanging laundry on a line. Wow! I have a dryer and a clothesline – I am blessed.

Info on my new release: A Match for Melissa

Susan Karsten here, happy to announce that my first novel, “A Match for Melissa”, has been published by Pelican Book Group! It was released to the public on July 7, and is available on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble’s website.

 Here’s an excerpt from a recent review:

The author did her homework. “A Match for Melissa” is chock full of details on life in rural England and upper class London. The characters are delightful. Unless they are bad. (The bad ones are really wonderfully bad.) Melissa is an intelligent woman with an independent bent to her nature who still functions inside the strict rules of protocol for her class. Her father, also independent, but with greater latitude and freedom than a woman, is in charge not only of the family fortune but also the choice of Melissa’s future husband. Much of the tension comes from wondering when Melissa will be able to be matched with the man she really loves."

So, please give my book a look! Thanks, Susan Karsten

Connect with Susan on her website, and Facebook.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bratwurst and Bridges

Bratwurst & Bridges: A Look at What Goes Into a Story and why it was written
by Susan M. Baganz

I wrote Bratwurst & Bridges two years ago. Before it released I read it again and was surprised at how much of myself was in this book. The story resonates more with me now than ever before.

I’ve been in ministry in paid and unpaid positions for years and it seemed too coincidental that as my book released I would find ministry and life to become overwhelmingly challenging. I’ve shed Dan and Skye’s tears in real life over the burdens I’ve had to carry over choices I’ve made. Even good choices have consequences and not all of them are always pleasant. So was it prophetic or is it a spiritual battle that ensued as this book was about to come out to be read by others? I don’t really need to know the answer to that. I only need to cling to Jesus and to the family I have in the body of Christ, the church.

That’s why this is the Orchard Hill Romance series. Orchard Hill is a fictional church loosely based on the churches I’ve been a part of that have been so instrumental in my spiritual and emotional growth. Every book in the series: Pesto & Potholes, Salsa & Speed Bumps, Feta & Freeways, Root Beer & Roadblocks and now Bratwurst & Bridges, take place with the church
being a touchstone for growth and support through the trials and joys of life. Each story stands on its own but characters from previous novels do appear in later ones.

For many people, the church is not a safe place and I read articles all the time about the reasons people don’t want to go to church or excuses for why the church isn’t all it should be. But the church is more than a worship style or charismatic pastor. The church is the people who attend, who seek to follow and honor God and grow in their faith—not just in spiritual knowledge either, but emotionally. If we grow in one and not the other, we are not going to have the impact on the world that God desires. Not that he can’t use us in our brokenness. All my stories prove that is false. Sometimes God uses us most in our broken places. He never wants us to stay stuck there though but shine a light for others who come along behind us, limping and bleeding from the slings and arrows life on a sinful world throws our way.

My hope and prayer is that those who read these books, no matter where they are in their walk of faith, or even if they don’t believe in God, would see the broken beauty of the church and the power of God at work in and through her members. I pray they would be encouraged, comforted and challenged to persevere in their own journey of growth in becoming more like Christ and find a healthy church to be a part of.

I think Paul summarizes the idea of our collective and individual growth in maturity in Colossians 1:9b-12: “…we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” [

My hope and prayer is that my books will have an eternal impact on those who read them—spiritually and emotionally as they grow more to be who God created them to be. It’s what I pray for my children as well. My heart is in all my books, and I hope you find some of your own there too.
            ~Susan M. Baganz

About Susan
Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Editor with Pelican Book Group’s imprint: Prism Book Group, specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.
Susan speaks, teaches and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She serves behind-the-scenes in various capacities at her church. Her favorite pastimes are lazy ones—snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

Click on the book cover image above to view or purchase Susan's book.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Hidden from His Goodness

Hidden from His Goodness

a Devotion, by Lynne Tagawa

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and His truth endures to all generations.—Ps 100:5

Maybe you know someone whose child was born with a severe heart defect. Or a girlfriend whose marriage is in tatters. Maybe that someone is you. Has the goodness of God dimmed before your eyes? Or have you decided that God is, in fact, a liar?

I don’t think it’s good enough to make the observation that most children are born healthy. It’s not good enough to say that while your marriage may be shattered, at least you have your health. Or your 401(k).

In fact, I never really cared for the hymn, “Count Your Blessings.” It’s true that we should be thankful. That’s actually a command of God. But the idea of counting your blessings as a means of cheering yourself up sounds like positive thinking philosophy, not Christianity. We give thanks to a worthy God because of Who He is and what He has done. Thanksgiving is an act of worship, not a self-help strategy.

Millennia ago, a man named Job did everything right. He managed his property well. He raised his kids properly—and prayed for them all the time, which was especially necessary now that they were grown and out of the house. He worshiped God, and in the book of Job chapter one we find that God considered Job to be “righteous.”

Then God allows Satan to take it all away—we would say that tragedy strikes. Job’s sons and daughters are killed. His goods are stolen. Some weird sort of disease afflicts him, his wife loses any trust in God, and his so-called friends heap blame on him, telling him that it’s all because he sinned somehow.

Job is crushed. He wishes he could die. But instead of cursing God (his wife’s advice) he simply complains.  It’s as if he’s in a pitch-black room—but there’s a crack of light showing under a door, and he faces it. Clumsily, he turns to the only one Who has answers. Sandwiched in between his groaning we catch amazing glimpses of faith:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God . . .Job 19:25-26

We all know the end of the story. After learning some huge lessons about the sovereignty of His Creator and his own unworthiness, Job is restored. But we still might come away with the question: is the God Who did this to Job really good?

Perhaps we confuse our own idea of what is “good” with the biblical definition. To us, we have “good” days and “bad” days. We define them by how well things go for us. It’s a totally self-centered definition.

Here’s God’s definition, found in Exodus 33:19, as the Lord speaks to Moses:

Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

In this passage we see the Lord revealing Himself in a special way to Moses. He speaks of His “goodness”—but the passage seems to focus on the majesty and sovereignty of God. How is this related?

In many passages of Scripture speaking of the goodness of God, we find his mercy mentioned. They are intimately connected. But what is mercy? Something deserved? No, of course not. Job learned that. After seeing the glory of God, he describes himself as “vile.” He realizes afresh that it’s all of mercy—and grace.

Moses was actually hidden in a cleft of a rock while God’s “goodness” passed before him, for his own protection. A full exposure would have killed him. Wow.

When “bad” things happen, it’s okay to feel bad, like Job. The fact that others suffered before us doesn’t mean we are to be stoic about it. They felt it. Christ felt it. But it’s also a time for worship. Even if all you can do is groan to God.

Lynne Tagawa is an educator, author, and editor. The author of Sam Houston’s Republic, she lives in Texas with her husband.

Website: Line Upon Line