Monday, July 15, 2019

Be Still - Martin Wiles

Be still and know that I’m God. Psalm 46:10 NLT

Finally, I found peace.

Teaching sixty plus middle school students can tax anyone’s nerves, no matter how proficient a teacher you are. I, and they, anticipated spring break. Their attention spans had diminished more than normal. Things easily distracted them—and me.

And then there was the matter of having resigned one of my two full-time jobs. The people had spoken, silently, and sometimes not so silently. I knew my time to go had come, but knowing and doing didn’t stop the anxiety.

We needed a getaway—and we had planned one long before I planned to resign. My wife had purchased a large tent. One big enough to accommodate our full-size blow-up mattress along with all the other stuff she planned to take. My brother planned to come along. He needed a break too.

We made arrangements for someone to watch the grandboys, and Easter Sunday we headed for Devil’s Fork Campground in the mountains of Upstate South Carolina. When we pulled into our camping spot, I knew the next few days would relax us. From our spot, we could look out over Lake Jocassee. And that’s what we did for the few hours after our arrival.

“I’m more relaxed than I’ve been in a long time,” my wife remarked as we parked our bodies in our camp chairs. I shared her opinion, in spite of our tenuous life situation. The first night relaxed us even more. We listened as coyotes howled, Canadian geese honked, and Whippoorwills whippored.

Like the psalmist, our trip taught us once again to remain still and know God is God—regardless of our situation.

I’ve learned taking time to stay still before God is essential for my spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health. But I sometimes get busy and forget. I tend to my physical health, my teaching responsibilities, and my writing details with great accountability—yet sometimes forget to consciously include God in the mix. 

Often, it takes my wife, or someone else, to remind me to be more aware of His presence with me and His guidance over my life. As my wife had to on our camping trip. I could have easily found something else to do during spring break, but I needed to be still and know God was God.

When life gets hectic, or even when it’s not, be still and let God be God.

Prayer: Father, forgive us for the time we forget to be still before you.

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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Flashback Friday (on Saturday) - An Honest Appraisal - Martin Wiles

An Honest Appraisal

I’m not what I once was, but neither am I what I’ll one day be.

John Newton is well-known for his soul searching song, “Amazing Grace.” While many suppose he wrote the song immediately after his conversion, such isn’t the case. Newton continued as a slave trader for some ten years after his conversion, and it wasn’t until 25 years later that the lyrics spilled from his pen. In a pamphlet published in 1788, he wrote, “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” Later as his memory began to fade, he said, “I remember two things. That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.” Read more...

Tweetable: What does an honest appraisal of your life reveal?

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Author Interview with Jennifer Hallmnark

Today, Love Lines from God welcomes author and writer, Jennifer Hallmark. 

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

Jennifer: Seems like I’ve been writing since elementary school. But in 2006, after years of occasional dabbling, I took a writing class and joined a local writing group. I was suddenly accountable to someone and my career began.

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

Jennifer: Ideas are truly everywhere, but the idea for my first published novel, Jessie’s Hope, came from a writing prompt with three phrases I had to use: wedding dress designer, faded coveralls, and dusty baseball cap. Writing prompts are so important to me for ideas that in 2012 my friends, Betty Thomason Owens and Christina Rich, joined me in starting a blog for writers now called Inspired Prompt.

Why do you write what you do?

Jennifer: I write Southern fiction because it comes completely natural to me. I’ve lived most of my life in rural Alabama in farming country, and I love the freedom and artistic expression of fiction. I blog because I enjoy the challenge of organizing and writing articles. It feeds the analytical side of me.

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

Jennifer: For me, it’s finding uninterrupted time to lose myself in my work. I can write articles anywhere, but fiction requires more concentration for me.

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

Jennifer: I believe the challenge is being sensitive during a day and time that is becoming more worldly and resistant to preaching of any kind. In the future, the challenge could easily be harsher persecution of people trying to spread the gospel including writers.

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?

Jennifer: Wow. It’s hard to say. My first two books, Jessie’s Hope and a fantasy book I’m still editing took me years because I was penning the words while learning to write for the industry. I am now editing a sequel to Jessie’s Hope, and it probably took me eighteen months. I’m getting faster all the time.

Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.

  •    Time between selling a book to a traditional publisher and seeing it in print.
  •    The distance I have to drive to writer’s conferences.
  •    The number of scams and people who offer services and overcharge or underdeliver.

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

Jennifer: I love when I get in the flow, and the words come faster than I can put them on paper. There’s nothing like finding the right word or phrase to complete a thought. When someone reads words I write and it touches their heart, it is so gratifying.

What are you reading at the moment, and who are a few of your favorite authors and why?

Jennifer: I am binge reading Agatha Christie mysteries at the moment from the online library. My granddaughter wanted me to read Wonder, so I just finished and loved it. For non-fiction, I’m reading The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. As far as favorite authors, I love James L. Rubart, Eva Marie Everson, and Alice Wisler. I read tons of books from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction: Christie, Allingham, Sayers, Marsh, and others.

Jennifer, can you give us the buy links for Jessie’s Hope?
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas-

Jennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction and her website, Alabama-Inspired Fiction, and the group blog, Inspired Prompt, she co-founded, focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers. She has published 200+ internet articles and interviews as well as short stories in several magazines. She has also co-authored three book compilations. 
Jennifer sold her first novel to Firefly Southern fiction (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), and it was released in June, 2019. She also signed with Cyle Young of the Hartline Literary Agency. Jennifer sends out a monthly newsletter, which you can subscribe to here. 
Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max. When she isn't babysitting or gardening, you can find her at her desk writing fiction or working on one of her two blogs. She also loves reading detective fiction from the Golden Age and viewing movies like LOTR or Star Wars. Sometimes you can even catch her watching American Ninja Warrior.
You can follow Jennifer at the following sites:

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Helping Hands - Martin Wiles

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10 NLT

“Many hands make light work.” And it did for us.

Middle School field day. An annual event middle school teachers didn’t care for. While it gave us a day out of class, most of us would have rather taught. We once had the event in late spring, just before school let out. By then, the weather in the South had turned steamy, and we spent a miserable day in the hot sun with no shade to be found. Although our lead teacher planned the event, we had to help execute it.

Then a miracle came along. One of the football and baseball coaches came on board as a teacher. He knew how to deal with the rambunctious boys because he coached them. Our lead teacher came up with a brainstorm: let him plan and execute field day. We would be his helpers. The headmaster had also hired another younger male teacher. The two would make a great team to head up field day.

We teachers now view field day through different lenses. The coach prepares a schedule and executes it. His voice booms, and the kids listen to him. The remainder of us teachers sit on the sideline and enjoy watching the kids burn their calories while we do nothing but supervise. His helping hands have changed our perspective on field day. Now we look at it as a day of relaxation.

The coach has discovered his gift. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t become a head coach somewhere one day. But for now, he uses his helping hands to follow Peter’s advice.

God gives His children many talents and at least one spiritual gift. No one can say, “I have nothing to serve others with.” Our responsibility is to discover our gift and talents and then use them in God’s service. How this coach discovered his, I’m not sure. Probably through his love for sports. Then one thing led to another. He also majored in history. The two seem to go together—at least in small private schools.

When we study God’s Word, take advantage of opportunities to serve and listen to others, God will show us our gifts. Then He will give us ample chances to use them for His glory and to advance His Kingdom.

Are you using your hands to help?

Prayer: Father, show us what You want us to use our hands for.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Testing the Limits - Martin Wiles

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 NLT

My warnings were numerous; they didn’t listen.

I could identify. When I was their age, I had no interest in school either. These two boys topped my antics, though. I didn’t talk in class; I just daydreamed or slept. Nor did I ignore the teacher’s warnings to be quiet.
One day, my patience wore thin. I told them to see me after class. After talking with them, I informed them they’d serve Lunch-n-Learn. They had their excuses and speeches prepared. “Dad will kill me,” one said. “He’ll take everything away from me.” The other said nothing. He was already in trouble. His mom had scheduled a conference call with another teacher on the same day.

The first launched into a speech I’d heard before. “Move me,” he said, “just don’t give me Lunch-n-Learn.” When I showed him the desk up front—the one isolated from everyone else in the class—he offered to sit in other desks, just not that one. “That one, or detention,” I said. He took the offer and stomped out.

The psalmist knew people who tested the limits as these two boys did. At times, he was one of those people. He had fallen into various sins and watched others who had as well. Yet, he had also experienced God’s patience.

Like these two scamps, I was a rebel for many years. I knew better than to do the sinful things I did. My parents raised me right—and my grandparents reinforced their rules. I rebelled anyway. Doing so seemed more fun. I tested their limits, which parroted God’s limits.

But God showed me patience. He could have punished me in numerous ways, but He let me go my own stubborn way. When I finally got around to asking forgiveness for my sins and failures, He forgave immediately. No acts of penance needed other than my acknowledgment. And He gave me many second chances along the way as I rebelled.

God’s patience and forgiveness didn’t mean the absence of consequences. Sin naturally involves those—sooner or later. I paid the piper in a variety of ways, but doing that had nothing to do with God’s forgiveness. He offered it willingly, even though I tested His limits.

Obedience to God is healthier than testing His limits, but when you fail, He’s always willing to forgive, pick you up, and give you another chance.

Prayer: Father, thank You for forgiving us when we fail to live up to Your standards.

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