Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Winner and a Confession!

Thank you to all who participated in Monday's giveaway! The prize is an autographed copy of Marja Meijer's book Grace of Giving. I'd encourage you to stop by Marja's blog, Fresh Insights on Ancient Truths, and read her thought-provoking posts.

Without further ado, the winner is...

Lily Robinson! Stop by Lily's delightful blog and be sure to congratulate her!

Confession time. I'm always on the lookout for facial creams that boast anti-aging properties. Not that I have anything against what I've been using. But the scenario goes something like this: I begin to wonder if maybe a different product on the market is THE miracle potion that will erase the pesky fine lines that seem determined to take up residence on my face. With thousands of creams out there, I do a good bit of research before buying anything. Recently, after doing my homework, I found a great deal on a reputable product with a little help from Amazon.

When the package arrived a few days later, I was eager to give the new cream a try. After one day, I noticed some flaky skin under my eyes. The following day I applied the cream to the delicate skin around my eyes and immediately felt a burn. Although I was following the directions, I knew the burning sensation couldn't be good! After re-washing my face, I studied my skin in the mirror. The picture wasn't pretty. The skin around my eyes was red and swollen. And to my horror, the fine lines were magnified many times over.

What I thought would improve my appearance, had caused big problems. Oh, if only I would have been satisfied with the lotion I'd originally been using!

Unfortunately, I often live life with this same type of mentality. Not completely satisfied. I get distracted from the person of God and His will for me, and get caught up in trying to find satisfaction elsewhere. As I move from person to thing, my frustration grows because lasting contentment cannot be found apart from Christ.

The Apostle Paul offers some wise advice to Timothy, "But godliness with contentment is great gain," (1 Timothy 6:6; KJV). I'd be wise to adopt this practice in my life. I can learn volumes from the life of Paul. He encountered extreme difficulties in his life, yet he allowed his experiences to teach him contentment:

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me, " (Philippians 4:11-13).

Paul learned contentment in life by submitting to Christ, who was then able to strengthen Paul to endure whatever lay ahead.

What about you? Are you constantly on the lookout for something to bring you satisfaction? Or can you say with the Apostle Paul, "...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content"? Let your relationship with Christ bring you lasting contentment!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for looking for contentment anywhere besides You. Thank You for the example of the Apostle Paul who learned to be satisfied in any situation because he relied on You. Help me to focus on You and Your will, knowing that godliness with contentment is great gain. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grace of Giving: An Author Interview and Book Giveaway!

A thief. Someone who steals. When I think of a thief, I think of someone who takes things - money, jewelry, household belongings, etc. But have you ever considered that the definition of a thief also includes anyone who steals an employer's time, a fellow man's joy, or tithes from God? Brings the definition a bit closer to home when viewed that way!

Author, Marja Meijers, discusses leaving the way of the thief behind, in the fourth book of her Ten Commandment Series, Grace of Giving. She shares insights on the way of the thief versus the way of the giver. In her own words, "Becoming givers and leaving the way of the thief behind seems difficult. It requires a change in attitude and, maybe even more so, a change of mind. We have to learn to focus on all the riches God shares with us and to no longer focus on our fear of lack...We have to stop regarding everything as our possessions...We can start by concentrating on the fact that whatever we give was God's already; that way giving becomes so much easier."

Grace of Giving turns the reader's attention to the ultimate example, Jesus Christ. By following the way of the Master, we can experience what He intended for us, an abundant life (John 10:10)!

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Marja Meijers!

Maria: Your background is fascinating. Tell us a bit about yourself:

Marja: I was born and raised in Holland, a very small country full of people who like to travel. For the last 25 years I have traveled all over the world with my husband to countries in Central and South America, the Middle East and South East Asia. In 2002, we received our green cards and since then we have been able to live and work in the US. We both have seasonal jobs, so we currently divide our time between Holland and California. We have all our family in Holland and we love to be there for spring and summer!
Maria: Give us a brief description of how you became a published author:

Marja: Although I have always loved writing, I never imagined I would one day write and publish a series of Bible-based books in English. During my prayer time, I received the idea for my first book Sacred Sabbath and it became the first one in a series about the Ten Commandments in the 21st century. After finishing my manuscript, I mailed it off to the first Christian publisher I could find on the internet, and they offered me a contract. My first book was published in 2006. Grace of Giving, is my fourth book!

Maria: How has your relationship with Jesus Christ impacted your writing?

Marja: Without Him I can't do anything! First of all, He gave me a love for His Word and He planted the desire in me to explain Biblical truths in a fresh and down to earth way. The book series was His idea! Truly, it would have never crossed my mind to write about the Law, if it wasn't for Him. I mean, there are hundreds of more attractive subjects...right? But when I decided to obey the unction I received, and I started writing, the Lord showed me how exciting His Word really is and how many treasures are hidden within, just waiting to be revealed. I also believe he uses my limited vocabulary and sometimes clumsy English to touch the heart of my readers. Second, His Holy Spirit helps me on a day to day basis by giving me revelation about the Word of God. Third, He is right there when I write, so I can talk with Him, ask questions, plead my case before Him and cry when needed.

Maria: Give us a glimpse into the fourth book of your Ten Commandments Series, Grace of Giving:

Marja: In the series the emphasis is not on obeying or keeping the law, but on fulfilling it in our daily lives. The Bible says that love is the fulfillment of the Law. In Grace of Giving, I explain how we can go from merely being obedient (do not steal) to fulfilling that commandment in love (give!).
Maria: What do you hope your readers glean from Grace of Giving?

Marja: I hope readers will truly realize that contentment is in giving, not in accumulating more stuff. Not just in giving money or time, but also in giving ourselves to God, our whole being: spirit, soul, and body. If we hold back in one of those areas we will hold back in other areas too, an ongoing battle. We are most true to the gospel when we are generous, because God is generous!

Maria: As an established author, what do you do to keep your writing fresh?

Marja: I read in order to improve my English, I write to improve my skill (blogs, articles, columns, plays) and I learn by listening to others. Most of all, I pray and ask God for fresh ideas and correction where needed. I would like to attend more conferences or seminars, but they always seem to be either on the East Coast, or too expensive or just for fiction writers...

Maria: What goals do you have for the future?

Marja: This spring I will have my first book published in Holland, something I am really excited about. I am working on the other books in the series, as well as on a series of practical Bible studies based on my blog posts. I have many ideas and plans, but I have to finish the Ten Commandments series first! I am also a free-lance text writer for a company in Holland that focuses on talent-development. We are planning to launch the web community this spring. As a moderator and editor, I will have plenty of work to do!

Maria: When can we anticipate the next book in your series?

Marja: I have the fifth manuscript written in draft form. It is based on the last of the Ten Commandments; do not covet...From the moment I submit it to the publisher, it takes more than a year for it to be released. It will be released in 2012.

Maria: Share some lessons you've learned on your journey as a writer:

Marja: As a writer, I've learned to-

*not let disappointment, rejection, discouragement and failure stop me
*fight procrastination, doubt, and fear
*accept criticism as well as praise
*to believe in my own work, or no one will!

Maria: What words of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers?

Marja: Hmmmmmmm. We can never share enough wisdom, can we? Here we go:

1)Count the cost before you start! Are you willing to sacrifice what it takes to get where you want to be?
2)Don't ever think about giving up once you've started!
3)Learn to focus on your current work, because distraction will always try to find you.
4)Put God first in everything you do and don't forget to pray before you write!

My personal creed is: do unto others what you want them to do unto you! You cannot expect people to visit your blog and read your books and write reviews if you are not willing to do the same for others. Never forget to help others to reach their goals. As a Christian, I realize more than ever, that I depend on the Lord to guide and direct me. It is not just my talent that comes from Him, but also my joy, my perseverance and my hope for the future!

Maria: Thank you so much for joining us, Marja! Good news! If you're interested in winning a signed copy of Marja's book, Grace of Giving:

• Leave a comment to this post, include your email address in the following format: morgan(dot) maria(dot)i(at)gmail(dot)com. Entries without an email address are not eligible.

• Receive an extra entry by becoming a follower, or by reminding me that you're already a follower.

• Receive a bonus entry by posting about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook and/or Twitter. Please be sure and let me know you did so in your comment.

• This is open to US residents only. My sincere apology to those followers outside the US.

• Deadline to enter is midnight Eastern Standard Time, Wednesday, February 16, 2010. Winner to be announced in Thursday's post. The winner will be notified via email

You're welcome to address any questions about Marja's book to:

(Note - Some of the opinions expressed in this book are not necessarily my beliefs.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happiness Is...

"Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens." Familiar words from the timeless song, My Favorite Things. Some of my favorite things include a fire in the fireplace on a cold winter's night, a free book to download to my Kindle, and wonderful friends. All of these things make me happy and put a smile on my face!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of receiving an award from my sweet, blogger friend, Karen Lange of Write Now: the Ten Bloggers That Make Me Happy Award. Thanks Karen! (Take a moment to stop by Karen's informative blog where she discusses the adventurous writing life and encourages you to join in on the conversation!)

To pass this award along to only ten of my fellow bloggers is extremely challenging! All of you are so deserving. But in order to stay true to the rules, I'd like to present the Ten Bloggers That Make Me Happy Award to the following (in alphabetical order by first name):

Cherie Hill of Journal of Faith - An inspirational writer, Cherie is a published author and the founder of Her blog is all about sharing her spiritual journey in order to strengthen the reader's faith and joy in the Lord.

Diana Ferguson of To Everything a Season - Diana's blog focuses on faith, family, friends and fun. Her topics are many and varied and always a joy to read. I've snagged more than one great recipe off of her website!

Glenda Childers of Gg - Notes on the Journey - Glenda's background is fascinating. She was led to Christ by none other than Elisabeth Elliot! She describes her site as, "a practical blog with stories, pictures, lessons and recipes from my life as a Christian woman."

Julie Sanders of Come Have a Peace - Julie's lovely blog has some great features including Marriage Mondays, and Tasty Tuesdays. Her heart for the Lord is evident from the godly advice that permeates her site.

Marja Meijers of Fresh Insights on Ancient Truths - Marja's passion for the Savior radiates from her blog that presents the truths of the Bible in a fresh, down-to-earth style. She's a published author who can speak 5 languages!

Noreen (a.k.a. NanaNor) of Life Blessings - Nana Nor isn't shy to share that she's a daughter of the King! Her blog is all about giving praise to the Lord for the many blessings of life. Even through difficulties, her site offers encouragement.

Susan J. Reinhardt of Christian Writer Reader Connection - Susan does a good job of articulating her mission: Honoring my Heavenly Father by encouraging connections between His kids. Her blog is a delightful mix of analogies that speak to the heart, and book reviews that have you heading out to the nearest book store.

Susan Panzica of Eternity Cafe - Susan has a passion to encourage and equip women of faith in their walk with the Savior, to live, love and serve to the fullest. Her posts do exactly that!

Tammi Yates of A Vessel in the Potter's Hands - Tammi is an incredibly talented pianist who also has a love for sharing the truths of God's Word through her writing. Her blog shares the lessons the Lord is teaching her in the "shaping process."

Terri Tiffany of Terri Tiffany Inspirational Writer - Terri's blog is a place where she shares "the ups and downs on the road to publication." Without sugarcoating the difficulties we writers face - each blog entry offers hope and encouragement.

Congratulations, ladies! Your blogs bring joy to my day!

Psalm 144:15b ...yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.

What makes you happy? Leave me a comment. I'd love to share in your joy!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for being such a good God. Your Word reminds me that you 'load me with benefits' on a daily basis (Ps. 68:19)! Thank You for the friends You've brought into my life. I praise You for who You are! In Jesus' name, Amen.

*Be sure to stop by Monday, February 14th for an interview with Marja Meijers, and an opportunity to win her book, Grace of Giving!

Monday, February 7, 2011

While I'm Waiting

We waited in traffic. And as we eased our way into the restaurant parking lot, we realized we would have to wait awhile longer before we'd be seated. The lobby was crowded to capacity. With pager in hand, we retreated to a small space meant to corral highchairs. The four by eight foot area was plenty big enough and gave us a bit of breathing room away from the crowd. A healthy 45-minute wait stood between us and dinner.

Waiters and waitresses passed by, trays laden with mouth-watering appetizers, entrees and desserts. Baskets of biscuits and fresh salads tantalized us as we settled down to wait. One compassionate waiter praised us for choosing such a clever spot, and offered to bring us some water while we continued to monitor our pager. What a guy! The water was a welcome distraction for our rumbling stomachs.

Finally, the pager lit up and began vibrating. Our table was ready! We stepped out of our waiting area and wove our way through the throng of people. A hostess seated us at a cozy table for two. It was our turn to enjoy a delicious meal. A much-anticipated dinner finally became a reality. And the wait made it memorable!

Life is full of waiting. I remember anxiously awaiting my graduation from high school, only to realize that I had four more years of college to get through. With college diploma in hand, I eagerly waited for the perfect job offer. Then I could hardly wait to get married. And nine months gave us lots of time to wait before our baby girl was born.

It's important to look forward to the future, but just as important to savor each moment. Moses, the servant of God, put it this way, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom," (Psalm 90:12; KJV). Realize each day is a gift from God. In the midst of anticipating my future, I need to be mindful that, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it," (Psalm 118:24). Each day brings fresh opportunities to serve others and point them to a loving God. I think about the waiter who so graciously offered to bring us water. He was busy waiting on other guests, yet he noticed us and took the time to serve us, making our time more enjoyable.

Waiting. Something I'm not good at. But necessary to help me develop patience and a servant-attitude. David, a man after God's own heart, penned these encouraging words, "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord," (Psalm 27:14). Today, I choose to serve my Savior by using times of waiting as opportunities to reach out to others who need to know Him!

Are you faced with a time of waiting? Do you see the value in it? Will you choose to enjoy each day, knowing that God desires to use you to reach others?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for times of waiting in my life. Forgive me when I rush through life, not fully appreciating each moment You give me. Thank You for the opportunity to serve You! Help my eyes to be open to those You'd have me serve while I'm waiting. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Clever Trick

I was excited. There, in the back of my freezer was an apple pie I had forgotten all about. The perfect complement to the chicken and dumplings, and fruit salad I had prepared for dinner. The pie would be even better with a scoop of ice cream, I reasoned. I pulled on my coat and dashed to the car in the pouring rain. I left the store with not one, but two containers of ice cream. A logical decision since there was a special - two for five dollars. Good deal, right?

After dinner, I thought about my day. Not as productive as I would have liked it to be. I was stressed knowing I'd added more work to the remainder of the week. Frustration set in about mid-afternoon, and I recognized a familiar pattern. I began grazing - you know, a few chips here, a handful of trail mix there, and the piece de resistance, a peanut butter snack bar. All to be followed by dinner and apple pie al a mode - with two flavors of ice cream. I was more than full, and still just as stressed.

Funny to think that Satan tempted Eve with food. What a clever trick used by the enemy. Distracting Eve, so she would not focus on the truth. Look at the serpent's deceptive scheme, "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (Genesis 3:1; KJV). Casting doubt, was followed by a lie, "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil," (Genesis 3:5).

A familiar story. Eve thought about what the serpent said. It sounded like the truth - God probably WAS trying to prevent them from enjoying this fruit. It sure looked good! What would be the harm of just taking a bite? Eve made her choice. And Adam followed close behind.

The enemy has tripped me up using this same pattern. The reality of the other day serves as a good reminder. Because I had scheduled my day loosely, I got distracted by news and websites that became counterproductive. I lost track of time and realized there was no way I could catch up without taking away from family time. I could feel the tension mounting as I looked at the rest of the week, realizing I'd most likely have to table some things till the next week. Stress kicked the door open a crack. The enemy saw his opportunity, and made his move.

Feeling disappointed and frustrated, I reached for what I thought would make me feel better - food. Unfortunately, after grazing and then eating dinner, the truth was that I felt worse. I still had all the same things to accomplish, and now I had to work out harder because of my poor choices. I had never thought of myself as an emotional eater. The truth stung.

Refreshing myself with the truth goes a long way toward keeping me on track. The Apostle Paul shares wise counsel, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," (Romans 12:2).

Can you imagine Jesus being tempted with food? Remember when He was in the wilderness and the devil tempted Him there? Jesus had just come off a forty day fast and was hungry. The enemy was there to greet Him. "And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread," (Matthew 4:3). Jesus shares a wonderful truth, "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, " (Matthew 4:4). A revolutionary truth to set me free from emotional eating! Identify why I feel compelled to eat, and take that emotion to the Lord. Realize food only offers a distraction and doesn't solve the problem. Discover what His Word has to say about it and begin living victoriously.

Are you an emotional eater? Can you identify the emotion that turns you to food most often (anger, stress, boredom, guilt, etc.)? Will you allow God and His Word to minister true healing to you today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for the truth of Your Word. It's quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. When emotions get the better of me, help me to be quick to turn to You and Your Word for lasting answers - rather than turning to food. Thank You for Your victorious example. In Jesus' name, Amen.