Freedom, Focus and Joy in Philippians

By Lisa Worthey Smith

Which book of the Bible is my favorite? The one I am studying at the time! No matter how many times I have read or studied any book or section of His Word, God always presents a new and fresh application for my life at that moment. There is one book that I tend to re-read pretty often.

Freedom

Philippians is the first book of the Bible that I studied in-depth, so it has an extra special place in my heart. With threads of joy woven throughout, it is the favorite of many and a great place to spend some time.

God spoke to me in the very first chapter (verse 6) about His faithfulness – “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” At the time I was struggling with not being good enough, perhaps even failing in my responsibilities and He gave me this personal note of freedom right there in the first verses!

Then, in the third chapter all the success and failures of the past and present, simply vanished when I looked at Paul’s comment about his own resume’. He was so proud of his righteous, law-abiding resume’ until he met Christ. Then he threw out his “righteousness” in exchange for righteousness from God through faith! While I knew that in theory, it became very real to me when Paul explained his experience. That’s part of the beauty of Philippians. Paul used his life as a relatable example.

I realized that my life was more than what I cooked for dinner, my job description, my parenting efforts, how my hair looked, what my house was like, my clothes, or any other goal of perfection I may have sought before. Any reward for those goals would be short-lived and of little lasting value. My mission became to walk in a manner worthy of what Christ did for me, to share that good news with all those around me, no matter where I was.

Focus

Paul finished that passage with an encouragement to press on. If his life was a race toward a goal, the finish line was heaven, and he was diligently reaching out toward that finish line. Not to end his life quickly, but to live it in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel 1:27” No distractions, no detours, no slacking off, but moving forward toward heaven, remembering that Christ paid my sin debt so that I could gain entrance.

Like Paul, during the study of Philippians, I determined that my life focus would be to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel that Christ paid for my entrance into heaven. Every aspect of my life simplified when I took on this “eternal perspective.”

Then, there are those days…you know the ones I mean…the days when worry, and dread, and even fear, creep into my heart and mind and I get bogged down, and even wallow (think pig in muddy pit) in discouragement, robbed of all joy.

Paul knew about those days too. In the fourth chapter he reminds us to

1 – Give it to Him  – “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

2 – He will guard your heart and mind“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

3 – Remember His goodness “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Paul’s remedy for the battle in our mind? Get out of the muddy pit, give it to God, and get focused.

Joy

Peace with God (and of God) allowed Paul to retain his joy – not just peace, but joy – in all circumstances, even while he was in prison and likely to die soon. His freedom and focus allowed him to keep his eternal perspective so that he could look death in the face and proclaim…“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Philippians 2:17

So, you and I can rejoice and press on today and all our remaining days, to encourage others to find freedom, and focus, and joy, in their race to the finish line!

“Brethren… one thing I do:

forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 Philippians 3:14

Click to tweet: Philippians has threads of joy woven throughout. #Bible #Faith

Writing prompt – The words that changed my heart, and direction of my life….


Lisa Worthey Smith

Lisa is a long-time Bible study leader and author of Oscar the Extraordinary Hummingbird (voted in the 50 Indie Books Worth Reading for 2016), a non-fiction account of a severely injured hummingbird she rehabilitated, and her own time of suffering. It includes a Study Guide with lessons on suffering in the life of a Christian.

Her newest work, The Wisdom Tree, scheduled to be released fall 2017, is the parable of an olive tree planted in the Garden of Gethsemane for a special purpose during the time of Jesus. He is fed nutrients (Scripture) by his wise worm-friend, Herm, and tenderly cared for by the Master of the garden. There are questions about our relationship with God and basic Christianity at the end of each chapter with Scripture answers in a Study Guide at the end – suitable for book clubs, homeschool, small group study, or personal growth.

Lisa, her husband, and their 21 pounds of cuteness wrapped in a Schnauzer suit, live in north Alabama.

 

 

3 Questions Wednesday with Nadine C. Keels

With her lifelong passion for life-enriching fiction, author Nadine C. Keels enjoys reading and writing everything from short stories to novels. With great pleasure, we welcome her to 3 Questions Wednesday!

First question–

What inspires you?

Nadine: Life, literature, and visual and performing arts inspire me constantly. The human experience is a fascinating story all by itself, and when it’s expressed through writing, acting, music, and dance, it becomes all the more amazing. Life influences art, and art influences life.

Life influences art and likewise. I like that! 🙂 Now…

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Nadine: Garnet red! Not too dark, but a deep red that symbolizes passion and a depth of flavor. I’m quite a passionate soul, and I try to get as much as possible out of an experience. Like, don’t expect me to just nibble at a meal and leave chunks of food behind on the plate. I’m going to eat it all, use my last bit of cheesy bread to soak up the rest of the pasta sauce, and afterward, I’m still going to be thinking about the meal and what I got out of it. And, hey, that meal just might influence the next scene I weave into a book.

Food and meal times make great settings for any novel. And I love red also.  Last question…

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Nadine: When I was a child, I thought for a while that I wanted to be a singer. I think I’ve always had a decent voice, but it was probably the thought of glamor and accolades I was more interested in than the actual singing part. Around the age of eleven or so was when I took a look at all the library books I kept checking out and all the pages full of original tales I’d penned, and I caught a clue: I was much more in love with stories than with vocals. And I still am to this day—though I’ve no aversion to enjoying the vocals of folks who’ve really got glorious pipes.

Me either. Thanks so much for stopping in! 

Click to tweet: Fun interview with Nadine C. Keels. #amreading #fiction

Readers, would you like to win a PDF copy of Nadine’s book, Yella’s Prayers? If so, leave a comment below and you will be entered.


Yella’s Prayers

She awoke with a gasp, sitting up. “God? Was that You?”

A pivotal year awaits Bless, a young woman who hides her passion: her music. She’s not exactly friends with T’meal, a talented athlete who won’t explain why he’s passed up the chance of a lifetime. Nor is Bless too close to Lamall, a boisterous playboy with a broken private life that’s spiraling out of control.

But Bless knows she’s meant to help these two young men. She can’t deny the Voice that told her so.

A coming of age story of compassion, the awakening of love, and knowing when it’s time to step out of the shadows and shine.


Nadine. A French name, meaning, “hope.”

With her lifelong passion for life-enriching fiction, Nadine C. Keels enjoys reading and writing everything from short stories to novels. Her fiction works include Love Unfeigned and The Movement of Crowns Series, and select pieces of her lyrical poetry can be found on her spoken word album, Hope. Lyricized. As the founder of Prismatic Prospects, her communication company, Nadine has served as editor for a number of titles, and through her writing, from her books to her blog posts, she aims to help spark hope, inspiration, and genius in as many as she is privileged to reach.

Author Website: https://prismaticprospects.wordpress.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nadine-C.-Keels/e/B004GBK6QM

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FaithHopeBookLove/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nadinekeels

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/nadine_keels

Genesis – Back to the Beginning

By Tammy Trail

Our family was never big on going to church. We did attend a local Lutheran church down the street  for an occasional Sunday School class, or Vacation Bible School during the summer breaks. I learned about Jesus through this sporadic exposure to the Bible.

In 1994, when I worked as a paraprofessional at a local grade school, I was invited by a small group of teachers to join their Bible study group. Just like all things that are meant to happen for a reason, it changed my life and set me on my path of true healing.

Our first study was a survey of the Old Testament. My love of history and genealogy made the book of Genesis my favorite Old Testament book. Granted there are parts of this narrative that have always made me scratch my head, but what great stories of  God’s promises to his  people.

Examples of incredible faith are found in the pages of this book. Of course, Creation is the main story everyone remembers from the book of Genesis, but you’ll also find plenty of heroes and heroines. This is the beginning history of God’s chosen people, the Hebrew nation.

The story of Abraham and Sarah is a great testament of faith, and obedience. What an adventure God sent them on, and all the while he blessed them with wealth, knowledge, protection, and wisdom. Noah is a favorite of my grandsons now. I asked my four-year-old grandson, Kayden why he thought it was good to remember Noah. He didn’t know, so I told him that Noah listened to God and did what God told him. That is why we remember Noah. Kayden told me he wants to listen to God too. Yep, I’m starting them young!

Who could forget the story of Jacob? His story reminds me of the soap operas on daytime television not so long ago, the exception being that God was involved with Jacob’s life. Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph, had an equally amazing story to tell. God’s fingerprints were all over this young man from the very beginning. He had set a plan in motion from the time Joseph was born. I especially like Josephs’ story.

Everyone usually associates Joseph with his coat of many colors gifted to him by his father, Jacob. Like Joseph, my life growing up was not all roses and sunshine, and having excuses to hold grudges or unforgiveness was understandable. God had other plans for me, just like he did for Joseph. Forgiveness can be a learned experience, and blessings may come out of following God’s plan for it.

 I have continued to learn from studying my Bible. I confess I don’t do it as much as I should these days, but I will always be grateful for the invitation to attend that first small group Bible study. It set me on a good path.

Click to tweet: A small group Bible study changed my life and set me on my path of true healing. #Bible #smallgroups

Writing Prompt: Fanny Mae wanted to stay home on this rainy, chilly day. Her only reason to go out was she didn’t want to get behind in the Bible study of …………

The Layering Psalmist

By Gail Johnson

This month’s theme was a hard one! I really had to work to pin it down to just one. After a long process of elimination, I realized Psalms is my favorite. I believe it has to do with the musician and the writer in me. From the first to the last chapter you find characterization, plot, setting, description, conflict, goal, and motivation. Sounds like a writing series! Let’s take a quick look at David’s writing.

Characterization

I love characterization! It is one of my favorite things about writing. Like any relationship, characterization takes work. We learn a person by becoming familiar with them. The more we know about a person, the more we like or dislike them. And we definitely want our readers to like or dislike our characters. Right? When we offer a description of our character’s emotions, the reader is more likely to empathize with him.

desert-279862_1280In Psalm 63, David declares. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.”

Can you feel David’s anguish? I can.

But what if he’d said, “I’m thirsty.” Or what if he’d declared, “I long for you, Lord.”

Not much to see, is there? That’s the difference between showing and telling.

Now imagine your character is on the lam, thirsty, and unable to find water. How are you going to describe the scene to make me want to help him find a stream of clear running water? Think about that for a moment while we talk about the next technique.

Setting

Another way we get to know our characters is through their surroundings. The setting is just as important as characterization. Setting anchors the reader. Nothing jolts a reader from a story faster than trying to figure out where the characters are.

nature-2396309_1280In Psalm 23, David compares himself to a sheep and the Lord to a Shepherd. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

One word can make all the difference in the world! The word green thrusts me into a meadow. I can visualize the green fields with rolling hills and a beautiful lake. How about you?

Again, David could’ve said, “He makes me lie down?” Or “He makes me rest.”

The first thought that comes to mind is where. Lie down where? Rest where? As a reader, I’ve no place to put the sheep. It could be in a field, in the middle of a road, a pen, or even a barn. That poor sheep needs a place to rest!

Now that you’ve had time to think, where did your character find his sip of water? Where will he stay the night? Abandoned farmhouse? A ritzy hotel? Or a cave in the side of a mountain? Each setting will tell a different story.

How does he know that?

Have you ever asked that question while reading a story? I have.

David was a shepherd, a warrior, and a king. He drew from that well of experience when penning his psalms. One of the ways our characters come to life is through their understanding. Who are they? What is their profession? When does their story take place? Where do they live? How are they connected to those around them?

nature-1626479_1280These are simple questions that must be answered if our characters are to be believable. David’s knowledge of sheep and shepherds, warriors and battlefields, and kings and castles, give him credibility with his reader.

As a writer, David’s writing helps me to see the different ways I can layer a story to make my characters come to life.

Now it’s your turn.

Click to tweet: Characterization takes work but, for a writer, is necessary. #Psalms #amwriting

Writing Prompt

Imagine your character is a little boy trying to convince his mother of his thirst. What could he say to convince his mom to buy a coke?

 

 

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3 Questions Wednesday with Robin E. Mason

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday! Today’s interview is with former Crew Member, Robin E. Mason.

Hi, Robin! It’s great to hear from you 🙂

Question: What inspires you?

Robin: Morning coffee. LOL Truly though, what doesn’t inspire me? Holy Spirit is my Muse, and I can find inspiration anytime, anywhere. He’s funny like that, whispers at random times, random moments.

 I guess many people would say coffee. 🙂

Just for fun–You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Robin: Amethyst Rose. Amethyst is my birthstone and royal purple is my favorite color. My grandfather bought an amethyst ring in 1919 (!) and it’s now mine. It is a) an unusual setting, and b) a rare pink amethyst. It is my most cherished possession.

Wow. Sounds like a beautiful heirloom. 

Final Question–As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Robin: Which year? I remember wanting to be an actress early on. I’ve done some acting and love it! I wanted to be an Interior Designer—and have earned my degree in that. But the stories have always been chattering in my head, I just didn’t know they were trying to get out in book form! LOL

Click to Tweet:  Fun author interview and giveaway with Robin E. Mason. #WriterWednesday #amwriting

Thank you so much  for visiting 3 Questions Wednesday.

Since The Long Shadows of Summer hasn’t released yet, Robin is offering one of her other books for a giveaway, winners choice. So leave a comment for your chance to win…


 The Long Shadows of Summer

The southern town of Saisons lies at the crossroads between North and South, progressive and genteel antebellum life. Between East and West, between history and heritage, and new frontiers. Downton Abbey meets Gone With the Wind.

It’s 1912, in a world where slavery is dying and women’s rights are rising, and four young women who once shared a bond—and experienced a tragedy—question their own truths.

Mercedes has always been an avid reader and devours each new Sherlock Holmes mystery as soon as she gets her hands on them. When one of her friends comes to her, Mercedes vows to keep Simone’s secrets and uncover the truth.

But as Mercedes plays detective to her friends’ questions, she discovers something far more shocking—she herself is not who she thought she was.


Robin E. Mason

I’ve always had voices—er, stories in my head. I once said I should write them all down so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me!

I have been writing since 1995, and began working in earnest on my debut novel, Tessa in 2013.  Meanwhile, I cranked out a few dozen poems, made countless notes for story ideas, and earned my BFA in Interior Design.  I lived with depression for many years, and the inherent feelings of worthlessness and invisibility; I didn’t want to be who I was and struggled with my own identity for many years.  My characters face many of these same demons.

I write stories of identity conflict. My characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I really?” For all who have ever wondered who you are or why you’re here, my stories will touch you in a very real—maybe too real—and a very deep way. I know, I write from experience.

I have three novels published, the unsavory heritage series. Tessa, Clara Bess, and Cissy are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. I also have several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. I am currently working on The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, Book Two in my new series, Seasons. It releases in November, following The Long Shadows of Summer, which releases in August. Books 3 and 4 in the series will be out in 2018.

http://robinemason.com
http://robinsnest212.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robin-E-Mason-Author-Artist/224223274404877
http://www.amazon.com/Robin-E.-Mason/e/B00MR5IQ9S
https://twitter.com/amythyst212
http://www.pinterest.com/amythyst212/
https://plus.google.com/u/0/108929134414473292325
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7808042.Robin_E_Mason

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