Drowning Out the Parenting Horror Stories

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Today’s guest post is by Suzanne Hadley Gosselin, a regular contributor to Thriving Family magazine and Boundless.org. She writes children’s resources for several publishers. After having three children in fewer than five years of marriage, Suzanne and her husband, Kevin, who is a children’s pastor, consider themselves on the family fast-track—a blessing they wouldn’t trade for anything. Gosselin is the author of the newly released, Expectant Parents: Preparing Together for the Journey of Parenthood available on Vyrso today!

When I was single, I received mixed reviews on marriage. There were some who seemed to truly enjoy matrimony. Others spoke of marriage as being “hard work” but worth the effort. Still others offered horror stories.

When Kevin and I were newly engaged, I remember one woman saying: “There will come a day when you will wake up and realize you hate the person lying in bed next to you. Just trust the Lord and keep going.”

Yikes.

While many people offered words of encouragement when Kevin and I were wed, others were quick to point out the freedoms we would lose and the adjustments we would have to make. I braced myself, thinking, Maybe marriage is going to be completely different than I’m expecting. Maybe it’s going to be . . .  gulp . . . horrible. (OK, so I didn’t really believe that or I wouldn’t have done it.) I was relieved to discover that I loved being married. Everything I loved about my relationship with Kevin before we tied the knot was just that much better as we shared our lives together on a deeper level.

Then came pregnancy. Almost from the moment I announced we were expecting, the horror stories surfaced again.

“Have fun now, because that’s all about to change.”

“Be prepared to see the worst in your husband.”

“That first week may be the worst of your life.”

Kevin and I were taken aback by all the naysayers. I’m sure they were simply trying to prepare us for a transition that can be difficult. And I am not meaning to downplay the reality that adjusting to having a child can be challenging. But at some point, Kevin and I agreed not to listen to the horror stories. Everyone’s experience is different. And, wouldn’t you know it, I saw the best come out of my husband, we still have fun, and the week after Josiah’s birth was warm and memorable, culminating with Christmas Day!

A few days after we arrived home from the hospital the reality of the change set in. The following morning, my brother-in-law was going to drive Kevin to the mechanic for a tune-up. It was a simple errand that just a week before I would have done. Now I felt like I couldn’t. I burst into tears — over driving to the mechanic! When I explained how I felt, Kevin said, “You can drive me. We can put Josiah in his car seat, and you can go! This being parents thing is what we make it.”

Though I let my brother-in-law do the errand, my husband’s words were comforting.

Things were going to change with a child; I knew that. But we didn’t have to be restricted by other people’s horror stories. How we moved forward as a couple and family was up to us. That is the joyous thing about life with our God; we are not doomed as we take the path He has for us. Each day is an adventure of His love and grace. So don’t believe the stories. Make your own.

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You can download Suzanne Hadley Gosselin’s newest ebook, Expectant Parents, today on Vyrso for just $9.74!

 

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Five Traits Found in a Good Leader

Five Traits of a Good Leader

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend some time with our friends at the Catalyst Conference, an annual conference focused on addressing topics specific to the next generation of leaders in the church. I’m really excited about the work they’re doing to make an impact and stir up excitement in the hearts of leaders. A ton of Vyrso authors spoke at the conference, including Mark Batterson, Andy Stanley, Christine Caine, Dr. Caroline Leaf, Tim Keller, Craig Groeschel, and many others. As Catalyst wraps up today, we’ll be ramping up our emphasis on leadership for the month of October. All month long we’ll be highlighting content, featuring titles, and sharing thoughts about leadership. We’ll emphasize what it means to be a leader in your home, workplace, and church. As I sat in Catalyst and listened to the amazing speakers, I couldn’t help but think of how important it is for leaders to focus on improving their skills and pursuing growth. With that in mind, I’ve outlined five traits that I believe make up a strong Christian leader. 

1. Availability

A good leader has to be available. To be a Christian leader, we first need to be willing to go wherever God tells us to go, even when it seems like a huge stretch. Sometimes this means traveling to West Africa to work with relief efforts fighting the spread of disease, but it can also mean staying right where you are located. One of the most challenging aspects of being available is being willing to do unpleasant and unseen work. If you’re not available, you’ll most likely miss the opportunity to learn something or to be a part of something bigger than yourself.

2. Rooted in the Bible

This one seems like a no-brainer. Without a firm foundation in Jesus and the Bible, the Christian leader will not be able to sustain growth. But how often do we overlook this trait and chalk it up as a daily task to check off? If we want to grow a church, business, or community, we need to get our encouragement from the Bible. We might sustain growth for a short season without this, but eventually our efforts will crumble.

3. Open to change

To be a change-maker you need to be willing to be changed first. We all have shortcomings and weaknesses, and good leaders are willing to identify these points within themselves and make active changes before expecting others to do so.

4. Strives for progress

A leader loves progress, not only in their own lives but in the lives of the people around them, their surrounding community, and in the world. A leader loves seeing the effects of their work and the work of others. They rejoice at progress, even when they don’t get the credit or attention!

5. Courage

Finally, leadership takes courage—courage to take bold leaps and pursue things that are outside your comfort zones. Courage encompasses big and small acts and decisions. This could mean something as big as moving to a new country or as small as walking across the room to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Both situations take courage, and without it positive change and progress can be hard to come by.

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What is one trait you find essential in Christian leadership? We’d love to hear your thoughts— leave a comment below!

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Sneak Peek from The Way of Wisdom—Now Available!

The Way of Wisdom

Today’s post is an excerpt from Boyd Bailey’s newest devotional, The Way of Wisdom: A Journey Towards Spiritual Growth. This book of daily devotionals provides wisdom that is grounded in scripture and packed with practical guidance. Here are two excerpts from the ebook:

Comparison’s Crazy Cycle

When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:21-22

No one wins when comparison is the criteria for being valued. If people are the plumb line for a sense of success—then there are always those who are smarter, prettier, and richer. An unrealistic appraisal of others feeds a feeling of failure. On the other hand, pride puffs up with a subtle notion of superiority when it looks to others as a standard for living. Jesus smiles and says, “What is that to you?” Comparison is not a win for anyone. Yes, we can be inspired and instructed by a life that seeks to emulate the Lord, but we are not to idolize any individual. Of course, we are wise to learn from the mistakes of others, but not with a secret delight that believes we look better when the unfortunate look bad. Our discontent is compounded under the demanding nature of comparison. We cannot enjoy what we have for the allure of what we don’t have. Comparison kills contentment. It is a crazy cycle! “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.

When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

Related Readings: Proverbs 8:11; Ecclesiastes 4:5-6; Romans 12:15; James 3:14-16

Demolish Strongholds

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Strongholds are Satan’s attempt to strangle spiritual life out of the saints of God. The enemy is not slack in his attacks, indeed he is always on the prowl to pronounce judgment and dispense shame. Some of his strategic strongholds are pride, addiction, and self-absorption. He sucks in a susceptible heart and a wandering mind with alluring sin. The devil builds a faithless fortress and launches missiles of doubt with false ideologies. How do strongholds take hold and grow in our lives? Ironically, a strength can become a stronghold. Healthy confidence drifts into arrogance. The gift of discernment grows into a judgmental attitude. The discipline to work out regularly and eat right becomes an obsession that consumes every minute of our discretionary time. The goal to get ahead financially grows into greed and a sense of superiority. A strength can be a stronghold. Divine strongholds defeat Satan’s. Trust in the Lord tears down demonic strongholds and erects His faithful fortress over them.

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7, NKJV).

Related Readings: Psalm 9:9; 27:1; 37:39; Lamentations 2:2-5


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Do you have any examples of a way you’ve demolished a stronghold of the enemy or became more content? We’d love to hear your stories—share a comment below! If you haven’t had a chance yet, you can get your copy of Boyd Bailey’s The Way of Wisdom today on Vyrso for just $7.49!  

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Get the Newest Ebooks for Less with Pre-Orders

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This month on Vyrso we’re excited to announce that we have a number of pre-order titles available at discounts you’ll only see on Vyrso. We’ve lined up 25 of the best pre-order titles shipping in the next 5 months from authors like John Ortberg, Andy Stanley, Trip Lee, John C. Maxwell, David Platt, and more! I’d like to note that these aren’t titles that have been out for months or years, these titles will be the ebooks you’ll hear people talking about for the next six months. Titles like The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating, Jesus Swagger, and John C. Maxwell’s newest ebook The Leadership Handbook are all great reads that are sure to spark lasting conversation among your family, friends, and church. These discounts won’t last long—they’ll disappear on October 31, so make sure to reserve your ebook at the lowest price today! Unsure of how pre-ordering on Vyrso works? The process is simple—click pre-order, we’ll lock in the price, and once the product is ready to ship we’ll remind you that your credit card will be processed. Once the product ships, your ebook will automatically appear in your Vyrso app! Here are the 25 titles we’ve discounted, exclusively on Vyrso:

Pre-order your favorite or all 25 titles to lock in these discounted prices!

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Get a Free Devotional from Boyd Bailey!

The Way of Wisdom

Through October 1, get a free devotional sample from Boyd Bailey’s The Way of Wisdom: A Journey Towards Spiritual Growth.

Boyd Bailey has written some great devotionals that provide readers with wisdom, insight, and a starting point to build daily habits of prayer and reflection. Inspired by Proverbs 13:20, Boyd founded Wisdom Hunters, an Atlanta-based ministry group that publishes daily devotionals.

In his new devotional, The Way of Wisdom: A Journey Towards Spiritual Growth, readers will find daily devotionals that aim to sharpen discernment and provide insight into what God intends for our relationships with him and with others. Boyd writes day-by-day reminders as he touches on matters ranging from conflict resolution and forgiveness to navigating life’s transitions and working through uncertainties.

For a limited time, we’re giving away a sample from this new devotional for free on Vyrso.com. Simply head over to the product page, enter your email, and we’ll send you an email with your free devotional to download and keep. This sample devotional comes in .PDF format, which you can download and read on your computer or mobile device.

Want to read more? The Way of Wisdom: A Journey Towards Spiritual Growth, is available for pre-order on Vyrso and will go live on October 1. Vyrso pre-orders are simple—pre-order the ebook and once it goes live, the ebook will automatically appear in your Vyrso library. Don’t worry, you won’t be charged until the book goes live.

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Get your free devotional sample and pre-order the brand-new devotional from Boyd Bailey,  The Way of Wisdom: A Journey Towards Spiritual Growth.

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How to Entertain and Minister with Christian Fiction

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Today’s interview is with Miralee Ferrell author of Blowing on Dandelions, one of our featured titles in our 99-cent fiction sale.

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.

I had no plans to ever write for publication. In fact, I’d never written anything other than a journal, letters to friends, and term papers in high school and college. But God spoke to me through a pastor who prayed with me and told me he believed God was calling me to write—not just to write, but to be published. Even after having 10 books in print, it still amazes me that I’m published, but I’m to the point where I can’t imagine doing anything else. I truly love it and am so thankful He put my feet on this path.

How did you develop Blowing on Dandelions? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook?

God spoke to my heart about writing that one after an experience I had at a conference. I believe it will minister to many hurting women who’ve experienced a less-than-happy relationship with a mother or grown daughter, as well as bringing enjoyment to romance readers. Blowing on Dandelions was birthed as a result of an encounter with an emotionally damaged woman who’d been hurt many, many times over the years by her emotionally abusive mother. I decided to place it in a historical setting and bring a romance element into play, but the underlying theme of ‘relationship’ is clear through the entire story.

Tell us more about the heroine and hero of the ebook—what do you like most about them?

Katherine Galloway is a very strong woman—and a widow—raising two girls on her own while running a boardinghouse and keeping peace in her household among some rather mysterious and cantankerous boarders. She has a sweet and gentle spirit, even with her mother who is determined to set Katherine straight on nearly everything Katherine does.  The hero is Micah Jacobs, a widower with a teen-aged son. Micah lost his wife 18 months earlier and is determined to guard his heart from any future relationships—until he meets Katherine—and encounters challenges he never expected. I love Micah’s tender and gentle spirit with Katherine and even with Katherine’s mother, who isn’t receptive to his suit toward Katherine. Both Micah and Katherine are gentle but very strong people who know what they believe and what they want in life. I love that!

Where do you find your inspiration for your writing?

Honestly, I’m not sure how to answer that, as it varies almost daily. Definitely from the Lord, but at times it just bubbles and flows, while other times it seems as though I’m trying to tap into a dry spring. When that happens, I go for a walk by myself and pray, or think about my characters, or think about what’s troubling me in the book as I’m going to sleep. Oftentimes I’ll wake with an answer so apparent that I wonder why I didn’t see it before.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer?

When I first started it was coming up with new story ideas, as I truly didn’t see myself as a creative person. As that creativity grew and blossomed, the challenge became learning all the ropes of the publishing industry. Now, I’d have to say the biggest challenge is keeping my life balanced between my home and family, writing new work, all the publicity and marketing that I do behind the scenes, and the editing and polishing that goes on while I’m in the midst of a new story. It’s amazing how much work that must be done to succeed in this business.

You have a new ebook, Dreaming on Daisies, releasing on October 1. Tell us more about this new ebook!

This is actually book 4 in the Love Blossoms in Oregon series. All of the others are set in the boardinghouse owned by Katherine Galloway and her two young daughters. Dreaming on Daisies follows all the same characters as the first three books, but the setting is a ranch on the outside of Baker City, although a number of scenes still take place in the boardinghouse, and we continue to follow many of the same characters.

I love writing anything with an Old West feel, and this one fits that criteria. I believe readers will enjoy the ongoing growth and development of characters they’ve come to love by this point, and will especially enjoy the romance that takes place in this story.

What do you hope your readers take away from reading Blowing on Dandelions?

From the time I started writing I had one major goal and that was to minister to the hearts and lives of hurting women while (hopefully) offering a measure of entertainment to the rest of my reading audience. I’ve been involved in praying with and counseling women for years, and I feel that my writing is an extension of that ministry.

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You can stay up to date on all of Miralee’s upcoming titles on her blog, www.miraleeferrell.com. Be sure to get your copy of Blowing on Dandelions today before our 99-cent sale expires!

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Perseverance and Adventure: An Interview with Kate Lloyd

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Today we have the pleasure of interviewing author Kate Lloyd, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She spends time with family and friends in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the inspiration for her bestselling novels Leaving Lancaster and Pennsylvania Patchwork. Forever Amish is the third novel in the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.

You can get her first novel, A Portrait of Marguerite, for just 99 cents through September 26. 

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.  

When I was in college, an English professor told me I wrote well, but I paid little attention. In my twenties, I typed most of a romance novel on a lark, but never pushed it to completion because I got busy with life. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling. When our sons were young I made up tales and songs to entertain them.

How did A Portrait of Marguerite come about? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook?  

A Portrait of Marguerite began itself one morning while I was journaling. As I wrote, the characters sprang to life and the plot unraveled itself. I returned each morning to continue the fun. And I rewrote it ten times. Okay, it wasn’t all fun, but like Marguerite and all my favorite characters, I persevered.

Tell us about the heroine—what is your favorite quality about Marguerite?

I can relate to and admire Marguerite Carr’s determination to overcome her obstacles in spite of inner doubts. We all have them, those negative voices in our ears that are not from God.

You switched to writing Amish fiction. How does A Portrait of Marguerite differ from your later novels?

My passion is writing about challenging and entertaining relationships, plus a splash of romance. At first glance the Amish may seem to dwell at the opposite end of the spectrum from Marguerite, but they don’t. The Amish struggle with many of the same issues and in a manner I find fascinating.

Is there a particular message you want readers to gain when reading A Portrait of Marguerite

I know many who have allowed their childhood dreams to evaporate, be it an artistic endeavor or a relationship with God. It is never too late!

Tell us more about the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.

The Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy is composed of three novels: Leaving Lancaster, Pennsylvania Patchwork, and Forever Amish. I prayed and contemplated about writing an Amish novel. I wanted to honor the Amish, but stay true to my Christian beliefs. I think I accomplished my mission. Little did I know how much research would be required—not an easy task with people who aren’t allowed phones in the home or use the Internet, and are admonished to stay apart from the world. I traveled to Lancaster County, met Amish (we also have Mennonite relatives in the area), and continued to deepen and expand friendships. My journey has been exciting and rewarding.

What inspired you to write the trilogy?

I am fascinated with relationships and people in general. The story and characters for Leaving Lancaster leapt into action and off we went on an adventure. Often my characters lead and surprise me with their choices. One unexpected twist still catches me off-guard. Sometimes I’ll ponder an idea or word for days; occasionally the solution pops into my mind in the middle of the night or while walking. My brain is always at work.

Do you base any of your characters or storylines on people, places, or events from your own life? 

My first reaction is ‘no’, but I’m sure my own life experiences come into play. For instance, when writing about grief or exaltation, I reach into my memory to recall sad or euphoric times and use the emotions as a springboard. I became a Christian in my early thirties, an experience I incorporate in my novels. But the majority of my actual life is not similar to my characters’.

Do you have any new ebooks on the horizon?

I’m working on a new manuscript . . . always writing in my head and accumulating characters and their names. I’ll never grow weary of writing. I hope you enjoy stepping into my world of fiction!

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Through September 26, you can get Kate Lloyd’s A Portrait of Marguerite for just 99 cents as a part of our 99-cent fiction sale. Check out all of her ebooks on Vyrso, and explore the world of fiction she creates!

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Breaking Down Walls: An Interview with Joy Jordan-Lake

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The following interview is with Joy Jordan-Lake, author of Blue Hole Back Home, who has had an admittedly odd professional life including time working as a college professor, author, waitress, journalist, university chaplain, director of a homeless program, and head sailing instructor. 

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.

I was born in the inner city of Washington, D.C., but grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee. I was a pretty shy kid, and was sick a good bit in elementary school, so I read voraciously. Becoming a writer was absolutely the only thing I really wanted to do—though goodness knows, I’ve built in enough emergency back up jobs for the dry seasons (thus the Ph.D. in English Lit.) I feel fortunate that I do enjoy teaching a great deal, since it’s often helpful to bring in additional income.  Books meant so much to me, and so significantly shaped how I saw the world, the idea of trying to write books that created a world and characters and ideas for other people just seemed like a worthy thing to do with a life.

How did Blue Hole Back Home come about? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook? 

For Blue Hole Back Home, in paper and ebook form, the ideas came from my own hometown in the mountains of East Tennessee, and some events of racial violence that took place there. For the purposes of the novel, I conflated several events that actually happened about a year apart—including a riot in reaction to a racist court verdict, a cross-burning and a Ku Klux Klan road block—and put them in the same summer. Some of the characters were inspired by people from my hometown, but some were simply amalgamations of character traits I’ve found appealing or despicable or charming in the people around me. By taking actual events, I had a basic skeleton of an idea, and then felt free to fictionalize the narrative.

Tell us about the heroine. What is your favorite quality about Shelby?

Shelby Lenoir Maynard, known as Turtle to her friends, isn’t remarkably courageous or gorgeous or noble or possessing any of the traits of your typical heroine. But she has a basic stubbornness that she refuses to give in to the elements in her town who want to keep the world divided into “us” and “them.” As a pretty stubborn person myself, I guess I love the fact that sometimes this annoying and potentially ugly character trait can have its admirable side when its channeled into not giving up on situations or people.

Why did you decide to base the book in the summer of 1979?

This was around the time that several of the actual events, on which the book is drew its inspiration from, took place. Also it’s startling to a younger generation of readers, I’ve found, because it’s well past what we think of as the Civil Rights Era—it’s a time when things are supposed to be all peace and harmony on race relations, and the situation in the small-town South is far, far from that.

Do you base any of your characters or storylines on people, places, or events from your own life? If so, tell us more about the connections.

As I alluded to above, Blue Hole Back Home is, yes, inspired by some actual events in my own hometown. Interestingly, I don’t remember much talk about some of these events, including rioting over a terribly unfair, racially-biased court verdict, at that time—maybe because as teenagers, my friends and I were more focused on the next football game than the state of race relations and justice in the world. But since the book was published, I regularly hear from people who also recall various events around the KKK’s treatment of the Sri Lankan family who moved to our little town. It’s been fascinating to hear lots of different stories from folks who recall what they witnessed (such as a terrifying Klan rally back in the woods), or remember feeling like they didn’t know who to talk to about a frightening conversation they overheard. I think I’ve been haunted since age 16 by some of those events, and by my own inability to make sense of them for my Sri Lankan friend or for myself. I suppose when you’re haunted by something, that probably means it’s time to start writing about it.

What would you hope readers takeaway from Blue Hole Back Home?

Hmm, wonderful question. I hope the character Jimbo stays with them for a long time afterward, and what his ferocious hold on hope looks like. My faith tells me that hanging onto hope will look pretty foolish sometimes. Cynicism and skepticism look a lot more sophisticated, you know? I hope the book sort of turns the idea of foolishness on its head. I hope the story reminds us of the simple ways we let walls exist between groups of people, and the sometimes small, or sometimes enormously self-sacrificial acts that rock those walls and send them tumbling down.

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You can get Joy Jordan-Lake’s novel, Blue Hole Back Home on Vyrso for just 99 cents through Friday! Be sure to check-out all of our great fiction deals available for a limited time.

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Just Added to the 99-Cent Sale: Dekker, Peretti, and More!

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I love the pace of a good thriller, the suspense that an author builds, and how most of the ebooks end in a nice little bow at the end. But maybe the suspense/thriller category isn’t your cup of tea, and you’d rather enjoy the beautiful character development that is woven into a heart-warming romance novel. Whatever type of fiction you enjoy, I recommend perusing our wide selection of titles included in our 99-cent sale. You won’t want to miss out on these limited-time savings!

As we approach the end of the 99-cent fiction sale (September 26) I wanted to highlight a couple additional titles that we added late last week, including titles by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti.

Here are 5 new additions:

Showdown: A Paradise Novel by Ted Dekker
Welcome to Paradise, a sleepy town that quickly becomes energized with the talk of a black-cloaked man who promises to grant any unfulfilled dream—he is irresistible. Seems like bliss, but is it? Is hell about to break loose in Paradise?

Heaven’s Wager by Ted Dekker
Kent Anthony is a brilliant software engineer who is living the ideal life, with thoughts far away from theft and murder. He’s left his past far behind, or so he thinks.

Brink of Death by Brandilyn Collins
Annie Kingston moved to Grove Landing for safety and quiet, but she quickly comes face to face with evil when her neighbor Lisa Willet is killed. Asked to question the daughter of the deceased, Erin Willet, Annie finds herself begging God, whom she doesn’t believe in, for help. Join Annie and Erin as they travel to the brink of death trying to find the real killer.

Thunder in the Morning Calm by Don Brown
Former Navy JAG officer and action officer in the Pentagon, Don Brown pens an action-packed thriller that is full of credible and compelling details. Join Lieutenant Commander ‘Gunner’ McCormick as he assembles a three-man commando squad on a suicide mission into North Korea to search for his long lost grandfather rumored to be held in a secret prison camp.

Hangman’s Curse by Frank Peretti
Frank Peretti introduces Nate Springfield, his wife Sarah, and their two children Elijah and Elisha as a part of the Veritas Project team. The family travels the country aiding the FBI in busting drug rings and solving mysteries. In Hangman’s Curse, the family goes undercover in a small town high school—where a mysterious curse has turned several football players into lunatics.

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If you haven’t been keeping up with our posts about the sale, I recommend reading our post outlining 5 ebooks to read this fall, Creston Mapes’ post on The Power of Story, and Michelle Griep’s post on Addiction.  There are only a few days left to take advantage of these huge savings so make sure to get them today before time runs out!

What is your favorite type of fiction to read?

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What If God Doesn’t Want You to Be Responsible?

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Today’s guest post is written by Allison Vesterfelt, a writer, speaker, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage.

I used to think the most important thing I could do to please God would be to live a safe, responsible life; where “responsible” meant I went to college, got good grades, secured a well-paying job, put plenty of money in my 401(k) and in savings.

I stayed in my hometown, close to my family. I went to church nearby, every Sunday. I had a predictable schedule and a predictable income so there would be no major surprises.

The problem was, at the end of this all, I was really unhappy.

During this season, while I was working a job that didn’t use my skills and wondering how on earth I had gotten there, I re-read the story of the Rich Young Ruler. I grew up in the church, so I’ve read this story at least a hundred times in my 31 years, but for some reason, this time, I read it very differently.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it basically goes like this: A young man comes to Jesus and says (I’m paraphrasing here), “Okay, I’ve done all the stuff I’m supposed to do to get to heaven. I’ve followed all of the rules. I’ve been really responsible. But what am I missing?” Jesus tells the young man:

“Sell all of your things and give them to the poor. Then come follow me.”

When I had read this story before, I had always thought about it as a story for rich people and since I didn’t see myself as a “rich person,” I figured it wasn’t a story for me. “Good thing I’m not so attached to money,” I had told myself.

But this time, when I read the story, it fell on different ears.

This time I identified with the rich young man. I felt like I was coming to Jesus saying,

“Okay, Jesus. I’ve done all the things I’m supposed to do to get to heaven. I’ve gotten good grades and have a good credit score and I pay all my bills. But I still feel like something is missing. I’m not experiencing the abundant life you promised.”

“Everything just feels empty…”

And as far as I could tell, Jesus was telling me the same thing he told the rich young man. He was saying, “the way to heaven is this: let go of everything. Give it all away. I am the answer.”

So is Jesus telling us to be irresponsible?

Was God telling me to quit the job I was working? Was He telling me to sell all of my stuff and give it to the poor? Was he telling me I should go spend all the money I had hoarded away in my savings account?

Not necessarily.

But it’s easy for us to say this passage is just a metaphor—that God would never ask us to sell everything we own to get to heaven. But here’s the thing: Jesus did ask this rich young man to sell everything. He didn’t just ask him to let go of something. He asked him to let go of everything important to him.

What would it look like for you to let go of what is most important?

For me, this meant letting go of my idea of responsibility.

For so long, I thought responsibility would “save” me. I figured it would protect me from anything bad and keep me comfortable. But in that season, God confronted me with the notion that my idea of “responsibility” was also keeping me from heaven. Not “heaven” as in the place you go when you die, but “heaven” as in the Kingdom of Heaven, already coming to being, here on earth.

I think God wants us to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a good job or 401(k) or a good credit score.

But at the same time, I wonder: what would it look like for us to be good stewards of our souls? Does “responsibility” have to be about money and status, or can it be about rest, relationship and creative talents? Do we have to work better, faster, harder and longer to build a “responsible” life, or can less actually be more?

For me, the answer has been an unequivocal yes.

And answering that question for myself has helped me find freedom the Rich Young Ruler didn’t find that day when he met Jesus. I hope he found it later, but that day, he walked away, sad, because he was so attached to his earthly treasures, he wasn’t willing to give them up for heavenly realities.

For me, this has meant quitting jobs, even when it didn’t necessarily make financial sense to do so. It has also meant, at times, working jobs I didn’t love, for a season, because I felt God leading me to do it. It has meant letting go of friendships, letting go of expectations, letting go of physical stuff.

It has meant resting more and worrying less.

And while it hasn’t been perfect, I’m learning “responsibility” (or at least my idea of it) isn’t everything. I’m learning to trust. I’m uncovering heaven.

 ***

Allison Vesterfelt is a writer, speaker, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage. You can find her online at AllisonVesterfelt.com.

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