Thursday, September 27, 2012

Do You Know the Author?

A celebrity was coming to our town. Terry Kay - the writer who was named a 2012 Author of the Year by the Georgia Writers Association (GWA), was scheduled to speak and host a book signing just minutes from my house.  The Forsyth County Public Library and LiteracyForsyth teamed up to feature Kay's book, "To Dance with the White Dog," as part of this year's Forsyth Reads Together program.

What a fantastic opportunity to meet an award-winning author! Kay's website further reinforced my decision to attend, "A celebrated Georgia writer, Kay was inducted into the Georgia Hall of Fame in 2006. He has also received the Townsend Award, the Lindberg Award, the Appalachian Heritage Award, and in 2009 was selected for the Governor's Award in the Humanities. Three of his novels - "To Dance with the White Dog," "The Runaway" and "The Valley of Light" - have been produced as Hallmark Hall of Fame movies."

I turned into the crowded parking lot. After buying a copy of "To Dance with the White Dog," I found a seat among the couple hundred people who were in attendance. Terry Kay would speak following a brief reception. For a man who never intended to write a book, his career as an author has been prolific.

I was more than willing to stand in the long line to have Mr. Kay sign the book I had purchased. And I was richly rewarded. A true Southern gentleman, somehow he knew I was a fellow writer. As I read the inscription in my book, I couldn't help but smile, "For Maria Morgan - A maker of words - Terry Kay."

Although the opportunity to meet such a well-known author doesn't come along often, I was reminded of  all the occasions I have to meet with another Author. The divine Author - the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). On a daily basis, He invites me into His presence.
His words are clear, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus," (Philippians 4:6-7; KJV).

He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and yet He still has time for me. He bids me to come boldly into His presence (Hebrews 4:16). This Creator of the universe, loves me unconditionally and has a plan for my life(Romans 5:8; Romans 8:29).

Are you acquainted with this Author? You don't need to schedule an appointment, or wait for Him to visit your town, You can get to know Him today (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10; 10:13). What step will you take to develop a relationship with Him?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunity to know You and to share my burdens and requests with You. Help me not to take it for granted. Draw me closer to You today. In Jesus' name, Amen.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Each Step of the Way

I got impatient. With a number of outdoor tasks begging for my attention, I had grandiose ideas of tackling all of them by dinner time. First things first, I needed to wash my car. As I got started, I realized it might take a little longer than I had originally expected.

A quick lunch was followed by a trip to the garage in search of clippers for my next project. Some shrubs and jasmine were long overdue for a trim - in fact, they had begun taking over a portion of the driveway and yard. Tentative at first, I began trimming in earnest as I figured out how to thin and shape each plant.

Midway into the task, I glanced up in alarm as my husband, Steve, came around the corner of the house. He had been weed-whacking, and something had gotten into his eye. Unsure whether he had been bitten by a bug, or was dealing with a piece of debris, I followed him into the house to help him flush out his eye.

We were unable to determine what was causing the irritation. With nothing more I could do for him, I headed back outside to finish my project - although I could feel my motivation slipping away. The sun was dipping below the treetops when I was finally finished with the trimming.

Although I had made progress, I looked around the yard at all the work that remained. The impatience I had experienced earlier in the day was replaced by discouragement. With both Steve and I working on the yard, it would still take a number of weeks before it would be finished.

I encountered a lightbulb moment: rather than concentrating solely on completing the entire project, I could focus on enjoying each step of the process. The choice was mine. Our yard served as a simple example of many other areas of my life. How often had I given in to impatience, only satisfied when I was done with something. By choosing to embrace each step of the way, I could experience joy along the journey.
The Lord likens life to a race, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," (Hebrews 12:1; KJV). How do I avoid becoming impatient and discouraged? By focusing on the Savior, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:2).

Does a project have to be completed in order for you to experience joy? Will you choose to relish each of life's moments today, so you can find joy along the journey?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for reminding me that I can run the race You've given me with patience. Help me choose to look to You each step of the way so I can experience joy on my journey. In Jesus' name, Amen.

*I'm hosting over at Living by Grace today. Come join in the discussion!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Don't Forget

I have to admit I'm forgetful. When life's challenges come knocking on my door, I get distracted. As I focus on the difficulties, my mind can't seem to recall the many ways I've been blessed.

Remember the prophet Elijah? He seemed to struggle with this same malady. Elijah had stood boldly for the Lord as he confronted King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. Humanly speaking, the odds were stacked against Elijah: 850 false prophets in opposition to 1 prophet of God. He asked a simple question of the crowd, "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him," (1 Kings 18:21; KJV). The response? Silence.

In order to prove that Jehovah was the true God, Elijah suggested a contest. Both Elijah and the prophets of Baal would prepare a bullock to sacrifice. Elijah's instructions were straightforward, "And call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God," (1 Kings 18:24).

Although the false prophets called out to Baal for hours, leaped up on the altar they had built, and followed their tradition of ceremonial cutting to illicit his response - none came. It was now Elijah's turn to call on the Lord. After repairing the altar of the Lord and preparing the evening sacrifice, Elijah had barrels of water poured over everything before calling on his God.

God answered in a miraculous way, "Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench," (1 Kings 18:38). Now the people were convinced that the God of Elijah was the true God, and they didn't hesitate to act on Elijah's command to kill the false prophets. The Lord had provided Elijah with a great victory.

But a valley often follows the mountaintop experience, and it was no different in Elijah's case. When King Ahab's wife found out that Elijah had slain the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the groves, she was determined to kill him.

This mighty prophet of the Lord, who had just witnessed a miracle of God, fled for his life. He got distracted by a threat from the evil queen and temporarily forgot God's amazing past provisions. Elijah was convinced he was the only prophet of God left, and he was ready to give up in complete defeat. When the Lord questioned him, the depth of Elijah's despair is evident, "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away,"(1 Kings 19:10).

Even this great man of God, had times of forgetfulness. God encouraged Elijah and told him there were still 7000 faithful prophets in Israel. With a renewed focus, Elijah returned to the work of God.

Do you struggle to remember God's goodness when difficulties surround you? What step will you take to recall His blessings today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your patience with me. I often forget Your goodness when I'm plagued by difficulties. Thank You for the story of Elijah. Help me to focus on who You are, and Your many blessings, as I read Your Word today. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Restored Relationships

The letter had been written. It was time for him to go home. When he had run away, he had no idea what the future would hold. He certainly hadn't entertained a single thought of returning to his master. But that was before he met Paul.

Something about the man drew him. Paul's physical appearance wasn't much, but his passion for Jesus Christ tugged at an empty place in Onesimus' heart. In spite of being imprisoned, Paul seemed to embody freedom. It didn't matter where Paul was, he chose to see each circumstance as an opportunity to share the gospel. When he was in jail, he spoke to the guards about the Lord. When he was on the streets, he took every occasion to communicate the good news of Christ.

Onesimus accepted Jesus' unconditional love for him, and had grown in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord in his brief time with the Apostle Paul - now it was time to return to Philemon. How would his master respond? Onesimus could only hope that forgiveness would be extended.

Paul had been kind enough to write a letter to his master. He urged Philemon to receive Onesimus, "For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord," (Philemon 1:15-16; KJV).

Paul had even encouraged Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would receive Paul himself. If Onesimus owed his master anything, Paul instructed him to put it on his account and he would repay it. Paul had done everything he could to initiate reconciliation between Philemon and Onesimus.

His days of running over, Onesimus headed home with a hopeful heart. He had learned much about reconciliation from his friend and mentor, Paul. When Onesimus recognized his sinfulness, Paul introduced him to the Savior who had already paid his sin debt. By placing his trust in Christ, Onesimus was reconciled to his Heavenly Father. Because of the letter Paul had written to Philemon, Onesimus believed his relationship with his earthly master could be restored as well.

Have you experienced reconciliation with your Heavenly Father as Onesimus did? Is there a broken relationship in your life that needs to be restored? What step will you take to begin the process of reconciliation today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for faithful men and women of God who are quick to share You no matter what their circumstances. Thank You for making a way that we can be reconciled to a holy God (John 3:16). Help us to mend relationships for Your honor and glory. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

*I'm hosting over at Living by Grace today. Come join in the discussion!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Interview with Accountant Lisa Thompson

She's the mother of three, and  part-time secretary at her church. Both she and her husband run small businesses. I was fortunate to catch up with this busy lady! And today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Lisa Thompson, owner and operator of Simply Accounting. Join me in welcoming Lisa!

Maria: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions, Lisa! Tell us a bit about yourself:

Lisa: I am originally from Louisville, KY, but my family and I moved to Georgia 16 years ago. We love the Cumming area and hope to be here for a very long time. My husband and I have three terrific kids and a great son-in-law. No grandkids as of yet! My husband, Parkey, has his own business, Financial Focus. He helps people learn to control their finances, so of course he is one of my clients (he does not pay well at all!).

My family loves the Lord and we are very dedicated to our church and enjoy the way the Lord has been working and has used us to minister and worship at Greater Heights Baptist Church and in our community.

Maria: I can testify to the fact that you have a wonderful family! I still remember having your oldest daughter, Kayla, in my Awana group when she was in junior high - and to think that she's married now. Time goes by quickly! How did you get started as an accountant?

Lisa: I worked for Belk Department Store in Cumming for about five years. I started on the sales floor as a part-time associate, and eventually moved into the office area as Human Resource Manager, thus starting my career as a payroll specialist and bookkeeper. In 2004, I began working for a construction company where I learned more of the skills needed to be able to start my own bookkeeping business.

Maria: It's so neat to see how the Lord equipped you for what you're doing today. What services do you offer at Simply Accounting? Are you accepting new clients?

Lisa: I focus on general accounting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll taxes and corporate taxes. And yes, I am excited about expanding my business to accept new clients.

Maria: That's good news! I've heard humorous stories of clients bringing their receipts to their accountant in shoe boxes. Has that ever happened to you? If not, share something funny that's happened in your accounting practice.

Lisa: My very first client was a man who owned a construction company. He was very unorganized. On my first day to go to work in his office, I realized that he had not opened his mail for eight weeks! He also had not kept very good records with his income and expenses, nor reconciled his bank accounts in at least two months. It was not funny at the time, but looking back, it was a challenge that showed me if I could survive my first client, then I could survive whatever future clients challenged me with.

Maria: Wow! I'm glad you can look back and see the humor in that job experience! On a more serious note, how has your relationship with Jesus Christ impacted your business?

Lisa: It has definitely made an impact. My relationship with Jesus Christ has made me strive to be an even more honest, hardworking, bookkeeper.

Maria: Fantastic! How has being an accountant helped with your personal record keeping?

Lisa: It has helped me realize how important it is to be budget-minded and to keep a very close eye on the income and expenses of a household. My family pays for everything with cash. No credit cards, no mortgage payments, etc. I thank the Lord for a godly husband who helps support me and encourages me in my business and household bookkeeping.

Maria: Good for you! I'm sure paying for things with cash helps you to avoid over-spending for things. What goals do you have for your company's future? Any personal goals you'd like to share?

Lisa: I would like to eventually see my business grow, and I know the Lord has plans for my future and the future of Simply Accounting in His hands.

Maria: Thanks for sharing. What words of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers?

Lisa: It is a very important thing to teach our children to learn basic accounting skills, teach them at an early age the importance of not spending what they do not have. So many adults do not learn that lesson early enough in life and it eventually effects what they do with their finances their entire lives.

Maria: Excellent advice! Thanks so much for giving us a peek into your business, Simply Accounting, and for sharing much wise counsel with us today. God bless you as you continue running your business according to His principles, and for His glory! 

Connect with Lisa:


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Out of the Zone

I took a step outside my comfort zone. Thursday through Sunday, I attended a writer's retreat in North Carolina. The plan? To get away and spend some quality time writing. The intimidating part? I didn't know anyone who was attending - but from start to finish, God's hand was on the entire adventure.

A new member of our local writer's critique group shared the four hour trip to Buladean with me. Our conversation touched on everything from writing to family. As we chatted about the upcoming weekend, we discussed the room arrangements. We were fairly certain two ladies would be assigned to a room.  I struggled to remember the last time I had shared a room with someone other than my husband.

The drive was scenic and wound through beautiful countryside. Stately mountains, a rushing stream, and beautiful wildflowers greeted us as we reached our destination. Within minutes, our hostess was there to greet us and we were escorted to the lodge.

Scripture verses were tastefully stenciled on the walls of many of the rooms and I noticed bookshelves lined with volumes of inspirational literature. A smile spread across my face - I liked this place!

Armed with our luggage, we were shown to our rooms. A gift basket, filled with everything a writer might need, had thoughtfully been placed on one of the beds in each room. What I heard next was music to my ears - we each had our own room! We wouldn't be sharing rooms after all.

From the first gathering at dinnertime, I could tell this would be a memorable weekend. A common bond greater than writing knit this group together - we were sisters in Christ. Our writing styles and genres were as different as our backgrounds, but each of us shared a common desire: to magnify the Lord with our talent.

Generous blocks of writing time were punctuated with fellowship around meals and times of prayer and Bible study. I was challenged and encouraged by this diverse group of women who wanted to point others to Christ with their writing. I was reminded of the wisdom Solomon shared in the book of Proverbs, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend," (Proverbs 27:17; KJV).

I made good headway on my writing project. But what had originally intimidated me - reaching out to women I didn't know - became the most valuable reward of the weekend. Each woman had life experiences that led her into a deeper walk with her Savior. I reflected on God's goodness in my own life, refocused on His presence, and drew closer to the One who had orchestrated this getaway in the first place.

I thank God for the new friendships formed and can say with the psalmist David, "Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord," (Psalm 150:1-2,6).

Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone?
Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, Thank You for challenging me to step out of my comfort zone. Help me to use the talents and abilities You've given me to magnify You. Thank You for friendships that develop because of the common bond we share in You. I praise You today for Your incredible goodness. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

*I'm hosting over at Living by Grace today. Come join in the discussion!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

An Interview with Missionary Wife and Blogger Heather Marks

In her own words, "I'm hopelessly in love with my best friend, Jonathan. I adore being a mom to my three children, Nathan, Anna, and Joshua. I enjoy life and love to laugh! I like trying new things and I love my Savior!" Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to this sweet, vivacious, young lady - Heather Marks. Pull up a chair and grab your hot beverage of choice and join me in welcoming her!

Maria: Great to have you with us today, Heather! Tell us a bit about yourself: 

Heather: I am the oldest of three born to fabulous Christian parents in Ohio. I attended a Christian school and an outstanding, vibrant church. Both of these had a tremendous impact on my decisions to follow Christ throughout my teenage years. I met Jonathan at college on a volleyball court. He says it was love at first sight, but I was too into the game to notice.J He wouldn’t let me overlook him for long. We married 3 weeks after graduation and it’s been an adventure ever since. God has blessed us with three amazing, healthy, and energetic children. We are living in Georgia, and we are so blessed to be members of Vision Baptist Church.

Maria:  Love the volleyball story! Did you always dream of being a missionary's wife?

Heather: I gave my life to the Lord during my church’s mission conference when I was 14. I didn’t have anything specific in mind, but always hoped that I could be a missionary’s wife.
Maria: Tell us where you'll be serving and what you're doing to prepare to get there:

Heather: We want to plant churches in Japan. To get there, we are on deputation. Deputation is more than just fundraising. The term comes from the word "deputize,"  like a deputy. It includes traveling to churches and presenting our ministry and burden for the Japanese people. We are seeking churches to partner with us in order to fulfill the Great Commission to go into all the world. We are their deputies assigned to work with them across the globe. This partnership is extended both through prayer and financial support.
Maria: Thanks for defining 'deputation' for us. What a neat opportunity for churches to partner with you to get the gospel all the way to Japan! What is included in the funding you're raising?

Heather: The money we raise will cover the expenses for our family’s needs as well as ministry needs.  Ministry needs would be things like literature distribution, outreach projects, a place for a church to meet, etc. Japan is one of the most expensive countries to live in, but we know God can provide.

Maria: So you're raising support not only for yourselves, but also for the church you will start. How much support have you raised so far?

Heather: We are praising the Lord for the 12% He has given us!

Maria: Fantastic! How can others partner with you in your ministry?

Heather: We would love to have your prayers! Also, we are praying that God will let us go on our survey trip within the next year. You can pray or give toward that goal. We are asking God to get us to Japan quickly! There are so many who need to hear of our precious Savior! Japan has over 127 million people, and fewer than 1% are born-again believers! The need is great!

Maria: Wow - that's a sobering statistic! Once you get to Japan, how long will it take for you to learn the language?
Heather: We will most likely be life-long students.J But, we will be spending the first two years in intense language study.

Maria: Love your positive outlook! What do your kids think about moving to a foreign country?

Heather: Nathan (5) is the only one who really seems to be affected so far, and he is very excited. He drew a picture of “Japanese letters” and read it to Jonathan and I in his own version of Japanese (gibberish). It was too cute!

Maria: How adorable! I'm sure you've got some deputation stories to tell. What is the funniest thing that's happened so far?

Heather: I actually devoted an entire post to that very topic! A few months before deputation, my husband asked me to let out his suit pants a bit. So, I went to a friend's house, and we worked on the pants together. There were 3 or 4 pair that needed alterations. Sewing is not my day job, so I asked my friend to do the first pair. She started on the slacks from his brown suit. (I must add that this chocolate colored suit was a hand-me-down from no one knows who and no one knows how old it is, but it fits and looks nice). So my friend showed me the process and I was surprised how simple it really was. 

Several weeks passed and we were at a meeting on a Sunday morning in early March. The pastor always stood out on the porch and welcomed everyone as they arrived. My husband decided he would join the pastor. It was a cool, breezy morning.

A few minutes later, he came in and told me that he was feeling a little drafty in his seat. I thought that was strange because we had just fixed his pants not too long ago. He turned around so I could take a look, and I could definitely see why he was feeling breezy! There was a giant hole in the seat of his brown suit pants!!! The stitching was so old (remember, this was that mysterious hand-me-down suit) that it shriveled away into dust and left a gaping seam (the new stitching my friend had put in was fine - the problem was a little further south of the waistband) Yikes!

We panicked! I thought, "Surely in a church filled with sweet elderly ladies, someone must have a safety pin!" I thought wrong. Tick tock. Tick tock. Time for the service to start!

My hubby was so nervous about his risque situation that he took baby steps all know, the kind where you don't really bend your knees. But he still did a great job preaching!

The lesson I learned from all this was to keep a sewing kit in the suitcase at all times! And now, we do. And one more in my purse!

Maria: That is hilarious! I wonder if anyone thought your husband walked funny! On a more serious note, what is the most important lesson God has taught you on deputation?
Heather: Complete, daily, unrelenting faith. It’s funny how we trust God for our eternity, but we have a hard time trusting Him for the immediate. Also, being ready to share Him at any moment, not just during a church service. I don’t feel like either of these “lessons” are specific for those on deputation. They are just God drawing me to Himself, and me learning to follow.

Maria: Definitely lessons we all need to learn! What words of wisdom would you like to share with our readers?
Heather: Don’t fear the path that lies ahead. Trust in Him with all your heart and He will direct your path.  Stay in His Word. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Above all, pursue Jesus. Actively, aggressively, constantly run with all that’s in you toward Him. Seek Him first and all the other things will be added.

Maria: Thanks for sharing those fantastic words of truth, Heather! It's been such a pleasure hosting you on Life Lessons! May God continue to bless you and your family as you raise your support and get to the field of Japan!

Take a few moments to leave a comment of encouragement for Heather and be sure to connect with her via Facebook, website, or her blogs:

Facebook page: Project Japan
Devotional blog:

*If you're interested in receiving email updates from the Marks, scheduling them to speak at your church or would like to make a financial contribution to their ministry, please visit their website,

A BIG congratulations to Talynn Lynn, blogger at Ink in the Book - winner of Katie Ganshert's debut novel Wildflowers from Winter

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What's Inside Matters Most

What do the following things have in common: new clothes, pens, and a calculator? They all point to a new school year, right?! I remember the excitement of going back to school. I have to admit that shopping for clothes was my personal favorite. Searching for the perfect pair of shoes was right up there, too. With each new year, I was determined to look my best, and yes, even to try my hardest.

As I look back on the years spent in school and college, I was interested in portraying the right image. Can anyone identify? I wanted to fit in and be accepted by my peers. Hours were spent making sure hair and make-up were just so. I put a premium on my outward appearance, not realizing the importance of what was on the inside.

The words of 1 Samuel put things in proper perspective, "But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart," (1 Samuel 16:7; KJV). God knows that what's really important is what's on the inside. He's quick to reveal the heart that's pleasing to Him, "...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," (Matthew 22:37-39).

A true friend demonstrates care and concern, is a good listener and provides encouragement when it's needed. A friend is honest - sharing the truth in love, even when it's not popular.  These characteristics are evident in the person who has true beauty - a beauty that is more than skin deep. When I realize it's not about me, but it's all about the Lord and loving others His way, I'm on the right track. Instead of trying to FIND the right friend, my job is to concentrate on cultivating the characteristics that allow me to BE a good friend!
A new school year, or even another day at the office, is the perfect opportunity to focus on the needs of others. Let God's Word guide you, "A friend loveth at all times..." (Proverbs 17:17).  And you'll be sure to point them to an all-sufficient Savior!

Do you tend to focus on outward appearance rather than what's on the inside? How can you be a better friend?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for reminding me that what's inside matters most. Help me to develop the characteristics of a true friend, and point others to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

*I'm hosting over at Living by Grace today. Come join in the discussion!