Friday, December 6, 2019

Flashback Friday - When All We Have is All We Have - Martin Wiles

When All We Have is All We Have

When all we have is all we have, disappointment follows quickly.

Joni* made her pot of gold-selling real estate. A fine house, fine clothes, fine cars, and all the toys her heart desired. She even had her widowed father residing with her to help with the chores around the house and around town—until he met a lifelong friend who had also been widowed, fell in love, and married her. Now he was leaving town and possibly selling his home. Imagining his new wife might now or eventually inherit things she wanted, Joni took advantage of his absence and removed items from his house without his permission. She even confiscated some of his important papers and currency and carted them off to a lawyer for what she considered “safekeeping.” Her greedy nature and uncouth actions resulted in a relationship fracture with her father and his newly inherited family. She had no desire to befriend them. All she could see was her inheritance falling into the hands of strangers. Read more...

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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Reading Between the Lines - Sarah Lynn Phillips


See, I am doing a new thing…I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 NIV

For months, I eyed the quiet shelf in my office closet, the one holding a lifetime of journals and prayer notebooks arranged in order by date.

Over the years I'd moved them from place to place as I repurposed and rearranged, but seldom did I crack one open to read the chronicles within. In my quest to downsize, I’ve been motivated to spare my children the weight of it all. It's one thing to toss old catalogs and donate VHS documentaries and no-longer-relevant books. It's quite another to decide what to do with decades of handwritten stories. Stories about family, events, celebrations, school days, worries, fears, regrets, and life lessons.

Finally, I mustered the courage to pick up the first journal. I read page after written page and often caught myself smiling—like the time one of the girls danced around the house singing, “I can read! I can read!” Or when said daughter somehow got her head stuck in a chair at school. Another dressed up like Polly Pepper, and at Thanksgiving, a native American, complete with fringe and papoose.

I found the record of when we paid off our house and the season we harvested forty-nine quarts of strawberries. I noted the day when Patches the guinea pig died and how Daddy helped bury him in the garden under a stone painted yellow. I leafed through the celebratory stories of birthdays and end-of-the-school-year-parties, prayers, baptisms, swimming lessons, and family outings.

My eyes also traveled over pages of weary fatigue, frustration, busyness, uncertainty, and desperate prayers for wisdom and guidance. I found where I had scribbled, “God, where are you? I'm trying so hard. Why does it seem I will never be enough?” and where I’d prayed, “Please take care of my girls.” Tears filled my eyes as I laid the book down.

I mentioned my bittersweet experience to a friend who parroted back to me what she and I had talked about in times past. “What is true?” she reminded me. “Read your journals as an act of worship as you recall God's work in your life. Let go of the pages that are no longer beneficial.”

An act of worship. Letting go of the if onlys leaves room for us to read the grace of God between the lines. His unfailing presence. His steadfast love. His promise of redemption. He brought us through those days…the learning days…the growing days…all for His glory.

It's been good to review my life through my own pen. Humbling, really. Words have a way of representing a more accurate picture than a memory. I find myself worshiping God with a sweeter appreciation for His faithfulness—and for His readiness to listen to the broken, hopeful prayers of a mother's heart. 

Take time to do some reading between your life's lines. 


BIO: Sarah Lynn Phillips is a writer from Northeast Pennsylvania whose articles, devotions, and poems have appeared in numerous online and print publications. She has authored the award-winning book, Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story and a companion Leader’s Guide with reproducible study sheets. Her life story has had many wonderful chapters, but it has also taken some unexpected turns, including her family’s near-fatal car crash and, twelve years later, the passing of her husband, Barry. Sarah offers a vision of hope in the hard times through her writing and speaking. She has three adult daughters and three delightful grandsons. Reading, quilting, and tending her garden are among Sarah’s hobbies. 

Visit her blog at www.PennedWithoutInk.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Unpardonable Sin - Martin Wiles


Anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences. Mark 3:29 NLT

Mom pardoned everything … except for one question.

Mom worked hard, at home and at her outside-the-home job. I never knew a time while growing up that she didn’t work an outside job.

Mom tolerated any question we asked her … except one: “What are we having for supper?” We might see the meat lying in the sink or refrigerator, but what she planned to cook with it we never knew. Dad kept his mouth shut. He knew what side Mom buttered his bread on. But we three boys enjoyed devilling Mom. We’d ask the question, which would immediately send Mom into a tailspin and intensify the bad mood normally already attacking her.

Mom’s normal response? “You’ll know when I get it ready.” We never figured out why Mom hated the question … and none of us ever asked. In our house, asking the question equated to the unpardonable sin.

Jesus also spoke of an unpardonable sin—one of a different variety. The religious leaders accused Him of casting out demons by Satan’s power. Jesus told them that attributing the works of God to Satan was unforgivable. Every other sin God would forgive—but not this one.

The church and theologians have given various definitions of the unpardonable sin throughout Christian history—among them suicide and divorce. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Scarlett Letter, provides a good example. Poor Hester Prynne makes the mistake of cheating on her husband with the preacher and must wear a scarlet letter on her breast for the remainder of her life.

With suicide, the argument is that one doesn’t have a chance to confess—regardless of whether they are a believer or unbeliever.

In truth, the only unpardonable sin is unbelief, which encompassed the root of the accusation the religious leaders made against Jesus. They simply didn’t believe His claim of Messiahship.

Rather than living in fear over whether we’ve committed the unpardonable sin, which we haven’t if we believe in Christ, we should take comfort in knowing God wills to forgive any mess up we make—as long as we ask. The danger is in not asking. We are never beyond receiving God’s forgiveness as long as we have breath in our bodies.

No matter what you’ve done, God’s forgiveness is only one statement away: “God, please forgive me.”

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your unending forgiveness.




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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Throwback Tuesday - Talk Really Isn’t Cheap - Martin Wiles

Talk Really Isn’t Cheap

What I say may very well cost me and others a great deal.

“Talk is cheap” is an idiom that expresses one's doubt over a particular course of action. Husband to wife: “One day I’m going to buy you a brand new dishwasher.” Three years later when he makes that statement, the wife responds, “Talk is cheap.” Boss to an employee: “Hopefully, this will be the year I’ll be able to give you a promotion and raise.” Two years later when he coughs up the remark, the employee mutters under his breath, “Talk is cheap.” For years now, I’ve been telling my wife that I’ll actually buy her a diamond you can see without using a magnifying glass. So far, my talk has been cheap—though not intentionally. When actions don’t follow repeated promises, the talk becomes cheap. Only when the promise is fulfilled do the words spoken carry value. Read more...

Tweetable: How much weight do your words carry?


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Monday, December 2, 2019

Author Interview with Carol Heilman


Today, Love Lines from God welcomes author, Carol Heilman. Carol is also hosting a two-set book giveaway of her Agnes Hopper series. To enter, see the instructions at the end of the interview.

Carol, tell us when you decided to become a writer? In other words, what made you actually sit down and write something?

Twenty or so years ago when I was fifty-something, I tagged along with my husband to his work-related conference in Asheville, North Carolina. One afternoon, I wandered downtown and discovered a bookstore—along with libraries, they are always my happy place. A book on creative writing caught my eye. An hour later, I had purchased the book and hurried back to our hotel to try out some of the exercises. One ten-minute lesson took my breath away. I was hooked. Now I can’t imagine my life without writing.

Every writer is eventually asked this question, but where do your ideas come from?

This is a tough one. The kernel usually begins with ordinary encounters with people, overheard conversations, or observations on the street or in an airport—even in the church. When my mother and dad moved into an assisted-living facility, they shared some of their experiences about coping with the changes in their lives. Some stories were sad, but they found things to laugh about too.

Why do you write what you do?

I’ve always had a heart for the neglected or ignored in our society—the ones who often have no voice such as seniors, the homeless, and the incarcerated.

What is the hardest thing about the creative process of writing?

Overcoming doubts and fears. 

If you’re a Christian, what are the challenges you believe Christian writers face now and in the future?

How to make the Good News real without preaching or using words common only to Christian circles.

If you would, please tell us what was the hardest thing about writing your last book? How long does it typically take you to finish your books?

Chasing too many rabbits. Now I’m revising and rewriting and trying to follow a logical sequence of events. From beginning to publication, it takes at least two years. I’m terribly slow.

Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.

Understanding social media and how it works, mastering a synopsis, and book promotion.

On the flip side, what excites you the most about the creative process?

Dropping into the fictional world of my characters and spending some time there. In my books, Agnes and her friends (or enemies) are as real to me as a next-door neighbor or someone I’ve known since childhood.

What are you reading now, and who are a few of your favorite authors and why?

Hush by Leanna Sain. It’s a murder mystery, and I’ll have to say it has given me nightmares. She is an excellent writer. I recently finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. I grew up in Kentucky near the setting for this book. It touched my heart.

Some of my favorite authors include: James Still, a writer of Appalachian literature, including River of Earth (He always wrote the truth while showing respect for people going through hard times) and Clyde Edgerton, author of Walking Across Egypt. This is the first time I realized an old woman could be a funny character in a book.

Can you give the readers the buy links for your books?


Can you also provide the readers with your social media links so they can follow you?

Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar
Agnes Hopper Bets on Murder
Author Page: amazon.com/author/carolheilman
Facebook www.facebook.com/carolgheilman
Twitter: twitter.com/CarolHeilman

To enter the dual-set book giveaway, share this blog post on a social media platform and tell us in a comment that you have done so. Or, just comment on the post. Names entered through midnight on December 9, 2019, will qualify for the giveaway. Please include a contact email so we can notify you if you are the winner.

Carol Heilman, a coal miner's daughter, married her high school sweetheart, a farmer's son. She began writing family stories, especially about her dad's Appalachian humor, for newspapers and magazines. One day her mother said, "We don't have any secrets anymore!" Carol's book series, Agnes Hopper Shakes up Sweetbriar and Agnes Hopper Bets on Murder, was inspired by her mother's spunky spirit and her dad's humor. Carol and her husband of fifty-plus years have relocated from the mountains of North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina. They love to play cards, go antiquing, hike, and visit grandsons on the east and west coasts.




Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Spice of Variety - Martin Wiles


For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Colossians 1:16 NLT

Fog and low clouds enveloped our destination, giving it the proper atmosphere for the filming of a horror movie.

My wife and I set out for a day trip to Balsam Mountain, North Carolina. We planned to visit the primitive campground atop the mountain, perhaps as a future camping spot, and to drive the 18-mile gravel road back to Cherokee. Since hot temps had dominated our area, we looked forward to the cool temps the area boasted about—never getting over 70 degrees.

What greeted us was eerier yet more beautiful than we had imagined. Only a few people camped at the primitive sites which were soaked from the heavy fog and dew. A sign warned us we had entered bear habitat. We didn’t know whether this secluded area would be a good spot to take our young grandsons camping or not.

After scouting out the campsite, we began our trek down the gravel road. Rocks and rain-washed gulleys littered our path. We worried whether or not my wife’s small car would make it. But the road said one way. No turning back.

Though most wildflowers had bloomed out, many still shone their colors in this high-elevation area. Only four other people traveled the road with us. Like us, they were in no hurry. We made frequent stops to take pictures of wildflowers, odd-colored mushrooms, waterfalls, and old bridges. We had entered a rain forest, just not a tropical one.

Four hours later—and 800 pictures later—we exited the gravel road safely and made our way to Cherokee where we enjoyed a picnic lunch.

According to Paul, Christ created everything we can and cannot see. The beauty of the area we traversed reminded us of the statement’s truth. We marveled—and were humbled.

I’ve learned I can’t box God in. Just when I think I have Him figured out, He’ll do something differently. Traditions can’t define or confine Him, nor can my limited understanding. We couldn’t understand how the climate could be so radically different when we were only three hours away from our home.

God is sovereign, which comforts me. The beauty of the world He created and controls staggers my imagination, as does the fact that He saves all who call on Him.

Learn to enjoy the variety God has placed in the world. Don’t try to box Him in by your limited understandings and traditions.

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving us a world of variety to experience and enjoy.




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Friday, November 29, 2019

Flashback Friday - Life’s Tests - Martin Wiles

Life’s Tests

We called him the “grocery list” professor—and for good reason.

My theology and pastoral ministries professor was the most graceful but difficult college professor I had. Classes were fun and often off-topic, but he spared no expense on tests. Each question contained multiple answers. Some were only one word. Others were phrases or entire sentences. Hundreds of items required memorization to pass his tests. Fortunately, I had a good memory and performed well, but doing so required days of repeating the answers over and over until they were ingrained into my short term memory. My one consolation was that I only had to endure one semester. Read more...

Tweetable: How do you handle life's tests?


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